Mumbai has seen a spate of restaurant openings over the last couple of months. There is Rahul Akerkar’s Qualia, Dirty Buns by the team behind celeb-favourite Bastian, and The Boston Butt, India’s first charcuterie and smokery. Add another impressive newcomer to this buzzing scene – YOUnion, owned by the Massive Restaurants Group, the guys behind Masala Library, Farzi Café, and Kode. As we sat down to review YOUnion, we found that as with its predecessors, we could once again expect a different dining experience here.
I’ll get to the food in a bit but first things first – this place is an opulent blast of fresh air. The seductively tropical interiors feature artificial foliage cascading down the ceiling, graffiti strewn walls, magic mirrors, metal art installations, a hugely Instagramable gold cage, and neon everywhere. There’s also an air hockey table should you wish a change of scene.
Begin with the shots. There are over 200 varieties that start at Rs 50 and go all the way up to Rs 500. Papaya-infused rum, jasmine gin, chilli vodka, mango margarita, banana daiquiri…these all as well as the cocktails come in cheeky glassware custom-made in England (think cactus, hearts, skeletons, cupcakes, etc). Order the Stormtrooper and it comes riding in a helmet-shaped glass, while a champagne vodka cocktail arrives in a stiletto-shaped glass. So fun. The staff seem to possess the soul and the expertise of a bartender and are keen to advise. Teetotallers will find comfort in the 50 kinds of coffees served all through the day.
Now the food. The menu is a round-up of comfort food and popular bar nibbles rendered with uncommon grace and stunning execution. The usual suspects are on hand: Spiced chickpeas, chilli chicken, butter garlic prawns, tortilla chips, onion rings, etc. My starter, a punchy, spicy mutton boti accompanied by glisteningly inviting toast was a knockout marriage of comfort and precision. Just as satisfying were the panko fried mussels topped with spicy peanut sauce and plonked on Himalayan pink salt.
The star of the menu is undoubtedly the robustly meaty burgers. Go for the tenderloin one to know what I mean. The double patty, slathered in melted cheddar, raw vegetables, bacon, and adorned with a sunny side up can barely be contained within a toasted brioche bun. It’s dirty and drippy, and the spicy sriracha mayo seals the deal. Chunky fries, hot and generously sprinkled in spice powder, makes a cameo too.
Few dishes are as splendidly simple and gloriously delicious as Maggi in a bowl. YOUnion has an entire section dedicated to this guilty pleasure. My vote goes to the shiitake mushroom Maggi awash with truffle oil. It is homely and satisfying, with a deep flavour of truffles. There is something obscene about eating kheema ghotala in such elegant surroundings, but that’s precisely what makes it so much fun (although be warned, the wait can be a long one). It’s spicy, slightly salty and endlessly addictive. Wash it down with a chilled beer. The accompanying pav is dreamily buttery, too.
The service on busy day can be chaotic. Especially on a Sunday afternoon when the place is packed…every table taken, every barstool claimed. So despite the initial outpouring of attention, mid-meal we felt ignored. Eventually, I had no choice but to raise my hand and keep it raised like an eager school girl until the manager, Soloman Maxwell came over and welcomed my question.
Desserts include waffles, pancakes, gluten-free chocolate fudge with salted caramel ice cream, and carrot cake. But it’s the tiramisu that will hound your dreams. Superbly moist and boozy they could provide comfort if the last train home had been cancelled.
There are too many restaurants these days where you can spend your money and time. But YOUnion feels more like a good first date: Fun enough to want to do it again.
Where: D-Wing, Ground Floor, Kamala Mills, Near Radio Mirchi Office, Tulsi Pipe Rd, Lower Parel, Mumbai 400013.
Tel: +91 84339 42801, +91 84339 42802
Opening Hours: 12:00 pm to 1:30 am
Recommended dishes: Tenderloin burger, ghee roast mutton boti with toast, Maggi with shitake mushroom and truffle oil, Kheema ghotala and tiramisu.
Price: Rs 2,000 for two
Noise Level: Moderate
Service: Can get chaotic when busy
All images: Courtesy YOUunion