In midst of sprawling 170-acre Oleander farm in Karjat, stands Saltt, a multi-cuisine restaurant and café that is in every sense what I seek from my weekend break. It is just about a 90-minute drive away from Mumbai, serves yummy food, has a great ambience –lots of green, a big space to wander around, and trees decorated with ferry lights that become great selfie spots.
The place also has a café, small petting zoo, which houses furry rabbits, hedgehogs, cockatoo and a couple of iguanas, a small vintage car collection, which has MF Hussain’s vintage Morris 8 and old Ambassadors, Fiats among others. They also have a play area for kids.
My husband and I went to the restaurant on Friday evening and were surprised to see couples, families, group of friends and even a TV celebrity there, considering that it has not even been a month since the place opened. “We have had people wanting to come in ever since we began construction around April last year,” says Aaliya Ahuja, 22-year-old Director of the restaurant, quickly clarifying that they got work done from in-house contractors that live on the farm.
Aaliya and her team haven’t launched any marketing or promotion campaign yet. Word-of-mouth publicity is working for them and the fact that people just want to get out of their homes and spend some time away from the city. It’s the lockdown effect.
Which is also responsible for the inception of the restaurant. Aaliya and her family, which owns and runs Flemingo Duty Free, lived on the farm for six months during the lockdown and finally found the time to initiate their passion project. “We are a family of foodies and have been thinking of opening a restaurant for a long time. Lockdown gave us an opportunity to finally get working on it,” says Aaliya. “Moreover, after living here for so long, I have realised how amazing it is to have a space like this and thought of opening a little bit of it to others as well.”
Saltt’s décor is Aaliya’s mother’s genius, the vintage car collection is of her father’s, the petting zoo is her brother’s passion and many dishes and recipes on the menu are Ahuja family’s favourites.
We started off with Mac & Cheese Arancini, roasted red pepper remoulade, parmesan crisps, pesto; melt-in-your-mouth Corn & English Cheddar Samoset; Malai Brocolli, my husband’s favourite, and must-try Bharwan Aloo ki Tikki. I loved the colourful, tangy, spicy and slightly sweet potato dumplings served with curd. It’s a very interesting take on modern chaat.
For mains, we first ordered wood oven Mushroom Chevre Pizza. Khowsuey, which, like always, I made way too spicy, yet wiped off the bowl. Peshawari Dal Makhani had to be great, coming from a Sikh family’s kitchen, though the Paneer Makhni was a little sweet for our liking. The winner in this section, however, was blue cheese naan. So unusual and hence interesting.
And now, the best part, the Sallted Caramel Mousse. This pretty looking dish with hints of Himalayan salt is soft, creamy, fluffy and oh so divine! I wish I had started my meal with the dessert so I could have finished the whole thing, but I couldn’t as I was too full with all the food.
Saltt also serves refreshing cold-pressed juices and botanical cocktails and mocktails. My favourite was Fruit and Herb, a blend of pineapple and fresh basil. And my husband thought his drink, ABC, a blend of cold press green apple, beetroot and carrot was better than his.
When you visit the place there will be 50 living rooms at the Oleander farm. “We have been getting many wedding events requests and realised that if we want to tap into that market, we will have to offer accommodation as well,” says Aliya while waving us goodbye.
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