Mayura describes itself on its website as ‘sexy’, which is immediately intriguing as most Indian restaurants in Barcelona are anything but. Obviously, a restaurant can’t be ‘sexy’ anymore than an iPhone or a golf club—although that doesn’t stop marketing folk from continually trying to convince us otherwise—but I was interested to see what they would offer in the absence of Formica tables and old Bollywood videos.
In fairness, what restaurants tend to mean when they describe themselves as ‘sexy’ is: “We have low lighting and/or at least one striking design feature.” By these standards, Mayura is sexy indeed. Here, the light comes mainly from candles and soft lamps, a welcome change in a land where restaurants often have the wattage so high that a team of surgeons could rush in at any moment and start operating on the dining table. As for design features, there’s a chunky wooden cocktail bar with a little stream running underneath that gushes into a stone bowl, while colourful curtains and cushions brighten up the surrounding teak and wicker furniture. If you’re very wonderful you can go through the antique wooden Indian door into the VIP lounge where a large bed awaits, but the best bit of all is the toilets: the ladies get a wall covered in a 12-rung rack of sparkly Indian bangles (firmly padlocked to the wall), while the men get to pee as they gaze at Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai. It is all beautifully sourced and put together, and if it fails to succeed completely it is only because of the rather corporate feel of the space itself, which is high-ceilinged with huge windows—the end result being that the main space feels like an airport departure lounge in sari drag. For any sense of intimacy, it’s best to sit in the back section which is cosily cocooned in crushed red velvet.
The menu is a quick trot through the Indian canon, especially tandoor, with a few Euro stop-offs at vegetarian lasagne or duck confit. This did not bode well for the authenticity of the food, and my companion and I were fully expecting something bland and decidedly non-pukka. To our great surprise and relief it was actually one of the best Indian meals either of us have ever had in Barcelona—that, plus the sexy factor, must explain why the place is so packed that they have two sittings at weekends.
We started with some light and crispy pakora served with tamarind and minty yoghurt sauces, along with a truly killer hot sauce. To try the menu’s Euro side, we also shared a mousse-like avocado gazpacho served in a cosmopolitan cocktail glass with lemon grass sorbet, chopped peppers and onions. It was delicious, but so rich that after about five spoonfuls it felt like eating straight whipped cream—maybe a little more salt or something crunchy to dip might have helped.
For mains, I had four fat and juicy tandoor-cooked Malai prawns, which were each about the size of a croissant, while my companion had lamb Rogan Josh, which came with rice (properly cooked with ghee butter) and naan, and was melt-in-the-mouth tender and full of the flavours of fennel and caramelised onion. Everything was prettily presented on metal platters and so large that we were simply too full to order dessert, but the menu read well with interesting choices, such as gulab (milky dough balls) with rosewater and saffron syrup and several East-West fusion puds such as chocolate samosas or gajjar ka halwa with mascarpone ice cream.
In a coy little touch, the bill arrives in a small woven basket inside a silk drawstring bag so you have to open it up as if it were a surprise. Fortunately, it’s a nice one. The prices here are eminently reasonable—and in times like these, that’s the sexiest thing of all.
****Mayura; Girona 57. Tel. 93 481 4536. Open: Mon-Fri, 1pm-4pm, 8.30pm-midnight; Sat & Sun 8.30pm-midnight. Approximately €30 for three courses and drinks. Lunch menús: €9.90 & €10.90.