Ziya is the opposite of a wild gluttony without a soul. It is a restaurant with a statement – bold, glowing, elegant, smooth and proud to be counselled by the celebrated chef Vineet Bhatia, the first Indian chef to be awarded a Michelin star (in 2001 at London’s Zaika). Neither does it simply tick the box in the five-star requirements as it attracts diners from all over Mumbai.

What I mean is that Ziya is not a shy and conventional hotel restaurant in Asia, where most of its customers are lonely guests, groups of business associates or loud families (the most annoying are those with little kids that splash food around). I matured, away from the thrill of the food race, the ultimate goal of which is to tower up unthinkable combinations from an international buffet selection on one plate. No longer do I fancy a plate of sashimi mixed up with a sauce running from juicy beef steak, melting creamy brie into it and perhaps leaking on pickled gherkins. All-in-one! Yuck, how I could ever relish in a such unpalatable pursuit? Growing up from my paleo age, now I’d like to think that I am a cultured human being that likes to sit on the table at a restaurant and lets the servers spoil me. Except, I admit that I still eat chocolate in bed, sip juice from the glass bottle and lick my ice cream on the go.

Ziya at the Oberoi hotelModern interior

Dining here can be a romantic affair. In its tuned down ambiance focus your gaze on the Arabian sea flushing the shores of Mumbai, hold the hands of your loved one and savour together the impeccable symphony of flavours created by the indian chefs.

Indian breads and dips

On the other hand, the busy and trendy Nariman Point, where the Oberoi hotel with Ziya inside is located, invites to a dynamic  lunch or dinner out. In Particular, if you imbibe in watching the rattling chefs at work inside the windowed kitchen. It is like an Indian top chef show live in front of you. One can learn how to toss and throw a colossal naan bread in the process. To many witnesses it looks more like a Roman skilfully whirling a pizza. There is much more to Ziya than a piece of freshly baked naan as you will be served a wide selection of indian breads, chewy and crispy, accompanied by a holi festival-like coloured dips. The seaweed green is based on mint, while the flamingo pink is a blend of beetroot and yoghurt, so no worries about any artifice.

Indian Vegetarian tofu

The restaurant’s name is derived from the word diya, which means ‘glow, light, and splendour.’ The interiors have been designed to reflect this glory – with the golden glowing panels, doors and luxurious chairs, the ‘magic’ handmade carpets and ostentatious table ware.

The food is not the less subdued, flashing with flavours and original interpretations of classical indian fare.

Its brain is the London-based, now twice Michelin-starred, chef Bhatia who visits the restaurant throughout the year. His role is to supervise the chefs’ technical expertise, the recipes as well as presentation of the dishes. His innovative approach to indian cooking at his London restaurant was born here in Mumbai, so now he mingles between here and his growing global emporium of restaurants from Dubai to Geneva.

Indian Vegetarian brocoli dishMushroom Galauti

The menu is constantly evolving but it is overwhelmingly modern contemporary Indian with a wide-choice of vegetarian plates, that are exquisite. One could easily enjoy giving up meat with food so delicious as this.

A multi-course Gourmand tasting menu is on offer, but à la carte option allows for selecting one’s favourites. In love with in paneer prepared dishes or crazy about Chicken Tikka Masala? Then go for them, but at Zaika I would highly recommend to loosen your stereotypical self and go for the new, yet unexplored. Every single bite I had there was exquisite.

Fratelli Indian ChardonnayGuigal Cote-Rotie Syrah blend

The drinks selection is very good for Indian standards with an international wine list spanning from Australia, through India to France and the US. Finding Indian wines abroad is not always an easy task, therefore I went for a glass of Chardonnay made by Fratelli wines. Fratelli is one of the biggest wine producers in India making enjoyable wines from international varietals. This easy drinking fruity Chardonnay is a nice aperitif.

I tend to prefer red wine with Indian food though, so we went for a bottle of French, Rhone Valley blend from Côte-Rôtie by one of the most celebrated local producers E.Guigal. Its spicy Syrah character accompanies the fragrant indian spices very well.

Opening hours: Lunch: 12:30 pm – 2:45 pm; Dinner: 7:00 pm – 11:30 pm.

Address: The Oberoi Hotel, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400021, India.

Contact: Tel: +(91) 22 6632 5757

Visit: November 2013

Price: High (top Indian chef, one of the best Mumbai’s hotels, luxurious interiors = very expensive)