With La Panthera, Chef Manuel Olveira Makes New Magic From Classic European Cuisine

Expect both rustic and refined dishes in a glamorous setting.

Published On Mar 04, 2024 | Updated On Mar 08, 2024


Spanish chef Manuel Olveira became one of Mumbai’s most distinguished restaurateurs when he launched La Loca Maria in Bandra’s Turner Road (now in Pali Hill). At his newest venture La Panthera in BKC, he trains his sights on European classics using contemporary culinary techniques. 

La Panthera is decked up with miniature paintings, arresting murals and beautiful artworks

La Panthera feels more like a chic living room in a European home than a typical restaurant. Architect Rohit Bhoite has dressed it up with graceful arches, textured walls, ornate chandeliers and Victorian mirrors. The piece de resistance is a captivating 15-foot artwork titled ‘The Beast Within.’ But it’s the bar that is likely to be the first thing that most people will notice on entering the restaurant. 

Chef Manuel Olveira

Carved from marble and softly lit with lamps, it’s glamorous in an elegant sort of way. Elsewhere there are miniature paintings, arresting murals and beautiful artworks. Amidst all this is a show kitchen where Olveira flirts from dish to dish like a DJ with his records. You could still have a good time at La Panthera if you didn’t eat anything and just watched the theatre. Not many restaurants can give you this sort of spectacle. No wonder it’s packed in tighter than anchovies on a Wednesday night! 

The Beetroot Carpaccio

The food at La Panthera is fun, fresh and liberated from geographical boundaries. “It’s not Italian, Spanish or French but a little bit of everything. It’s mostly from my travels around the world. I like to put the things I loved eating,” says the chef. The best example of that is the Beetroot Carpaccio. It’s a dish inspired by Oliveira and his Indian wife Mickee Tuljapurkar's recent trip to Greece. Roasted beetroot slices find themselves on crispy filo pastry with Parmesan and wasabi for company. While the sweetness of the beet blunts the wasabi, the Parmesan shavings add a touch of umami to the party. The non-vegetarian version comes with thinly sliced tenderloin. 

The Stracciatella

The Stracciatella is served with poached pear and traditional Catalonian crystal bread. It’s shamelessly decadent and undeniably delicious. There is also a Tiradito using Hamachi. The fish is plunged into a pool of brilliantly invigorating pineapple leche de tigre. Crunch is provided by a sprinkling of tight little cucumber pearls that burst against the roof of your mouth. It tastes familiar (read Peruvian) but not completely. 

Tiradito de Hamachi

And while it’s difficult to find fault with the baked brie painted with caramelised onions and a murmur of truffle oil, the dish that made the deepest impression on me was the artfully arranged charred octopus with ‘Nduja pork sausage and potato. It has a tenderness and sweetness that can only come through patient simmering. Olveira composes his plates with an eye for colour and contrast. He keeps the stagecraft to a minimum, apart from brightening up the dishes with flowers, leaves and herbs. 

Raison D’Être

At La Panthera, it’s not just the kitchen that pays close attention to details, the bar does too. The liquid menu put together by Dwayne D’mello has 14 signature cocktails; while the Pisco-based Hurry Up Slowly is a thing of beauty, the mezcal and sherry spiked Raison D’Être has a slow-burning intensity. But it’s also smooth, nuanced and joyous. For INR 975 it should be. 

Chef Olveira uses Indian flour for his pizzas

Mains include sumptuous grilled chicken, hearty pasta and comforting risotto. But the dish that will really make people find second stomachs are the wood-fired pizzas. “I use Indian flour, not the imported one. I tried imported flour but didn’t like it. Pizzas made with Indian flour are pillowy and easy to digest,” says Olveira who gives his expertly charred pizzas an ego boost by dressing then up with cool toppings such as burrata, sundried tomato, wild mushrooms, charred balsamic grapes, calamari, roasted peppers and so on. All pizzas come with four types of dips to indulge the soothingly chewy edges. An all-pizza dinner would not be out of line here. 

Profiterole with hazelnut mousse and ice cream

Sadly, the desserts don’t hit their marks as often as the appetisers and the mains. I found the deconstructed tiramisu cloyingly sweet without the creaminess of the mascarpone or the punch of caffeine. Call me old fashioned, but I’d rather have a classic tiramisu than a daring interpretation. The profiteroles crowned with hazelnut mousse and vanilla ice cream though looks alluring on Instagram didn’t impress either. The choux pastry lacked the crackle and the warm chocolate sauce seemed a bit watery and tired. But not all dinners have to end on a sweet note. I’d happily return for the stellar tapas and smashing mains.

Address: Unit 1 & 2, INS Tower, G Block, BKC, Bandra East, Mumbai
Timing: 7pm-1.30am
Meal for two: INR 5,000 plus taxes

Photo: Featured Restaurant