With Kamzor Kadi Kaun having taken a break on Star Plus, a dinner date with its anchor Neena Gupta was a most relaxing thing to do. For an actress who has straddled the entire spectrum of showbiz—from stage to films to TV—the meal had to be special and we couldn’t have settled for a better restaurant than the Maroush at the ITC Grand Maratha Sheraton, Mumbai.
We began by ordering Hummus (chickpea paste with sesame oil and lemon juice garnished with parika and chopped parsley), accompanied by some fine pitta bread which prompted Neena to ask the waiter if the bread was imported from Lebanon; it was not. I was also quick to order some Kibbeh. Although it was not on the menu, it was served without a murmur. Kibbeh are fried drum-shaped balls of pounded lamb with cracked wheat and filled with sauteed mince lamb and onions. The starters were heavenly and so was the Tabouleh (finely-chopped parsley with cracked wheat, tomatoes, spring onions dressed with olive oil and lemon) which was served to us just as we began discussing Neena’s future. She had reams of praise for Sushma Swaraj (God! how women like other women still beats me), who she had just met. We continued with this journey until the belly dance began. I was told by a not-so-shaken Neena that it was easy to do and she had to learn it while filming the famous Choli Ke Peechhe number. Apparently all you need to do is hold your breath for some time and then release it and jiggle you know what and it happens. Then the best part of the evening unfurled: the arrival of Shish Taouk (char grilled morsels of marinated chicken served with garlic sauce) for me and Fatayir Bil Sabanih (triangle-shaped pastries filled with with fresh green spinach, sauteed pine nuts, flavoured with cinnamon and summak) for Neena who has been a vegetarian all her life.
The belly dancer had just about begun to end her tryst with us and we were at the end of our meal. It was an evening of pure hedonism: great food, great music and a great belly dance. We left like deeply contented and overfed souls. Maroush is certainly a place to visit: with or without an actress since the experience in itself is immensely dramatic!