Walking into La Loca Maria, the bold colours from wall paintings catch the eye. A woman holding a wine glass is painted on the wall and represents Chef Manuel’s (the owner) mother, Maria — the first woman in her town to break archaic norms and start her own restaurant. She lived an unapologetic life and is the inspiration behind La Loca Maria, which translates to ‘The Mad Maria’. By Tara Choudhary

La Loca Maria is a 24-seater cafe in Bandra that occupies the spot previously held by bakery and patisserie, Birdy’s for the past 30 years. Started by Chef Manuel Olveira Seller, the newly-launched restaurant offers flavoursome burgers, tapas and other delicacies from chef’s personal favourites, garnered with Spanish and Mediterranean influences. Chef Manuel prides himself on the unique flavours and tastes he packs into his dishes, so one can taste the freshness of each homemade aspect, rather than using store-bought or processed produce.

Chef Manuel’s love for food and cooking has taken him from his hometown in Toledo, Spain to big cities across the globe such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and now Mumbai, where he has worked at Michelin-star restaurants and honed his craft. Chef Manuel has established his signature style of cooking by exploring classic flavours and adapting to the diverse cultures and energies around him. He chooses to focus on the rich textures of the produce in his dishes, which is rare in the culinary world today.

Upon being seated, given a warm welcome and big smiles, we were served tapas to begin with. The first thing that came out of the kitchen was the Beetroot Hummus with Pita Bread. Packed with flavour and light as air, we kept going back for more until we had polished the whole thing. The hummus had a slightly sweet, smoky flavour and the garnish of parsley and olive oil on top gave it a perfect finish. Next came a drink, called the Spicy Watermelon. This drink packed a punch by combining flavours of jalapeño with lemon and watermelon juice, which all balanced each other out. The combination of sweet and tangy made this a refreshing cooler. Then there was the BFF Carpaccio, which was thinly-sliced buffalo layered with truffle, parmesan and spicy aioli that had a unique and complex taste. There were many subtle details that added to the dish, which we greatly enjoyed too, such as tiny crunchy croutons, and some mixed leaves to top it off. The buffalo was melt-in-your-mouth and the off-beat flavours worked perfectly in sync. Definitely, a favourite at our table as we couldn’t stop raving about it the whole evening!

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Let us introduce you to the man of the hour @chefmanuelolveira. 🙌🏻 Having worked with Michelin star chefs such as Pepe Rodriguez Rey, Sergi Arola, Paco Perez and helming the position of Chef de Cuisine at Café Belge and Le Cirque at the Ritz Carlton in Dubai, he now looks forward to being a part of the culinary scene in Mumbai.👨🏻‍🍳What can you expect? @chefmanuelolveira prides himself for the unique flavours that he can pack into any dish he creates where one can taste the produce and not just the sauces. What's on the menu? Stay Tuned ⏰ . . . . . . . #LaLocaMaria #ChefManuelOlveira #NewChefInTown #OpeningSoon #FromSpainToIndia #MichelinStar #NewRestaurantInTown #MumbaiFoodie #Bandra #Tapas #Burgers #ComfortFood

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After this we were served the Asparagus Risotto, which was bright green in colour and looked delicious. It was cheesy because of the parmesan in it but not overpoweringly so, and the creaminess from the mascarpone made us salivate with every bite. The flavour of the asparagus itself was enhanced by the little pieces of asparagus that garnished the risotto. While taking a brief break from all this delicious food, we tried the Peach Iced Tea. All we can say is, while it may seem like a basic drink, La Loca sure knew how to do it right! With a perfect amount of sweetness and mint leaves for a nice touch, we were more than happy with their rendition of this popular drink. We then tried the Charred Octopus, which was pan-seared with paprika, arugula and mustard. It also had little pieces of potato to go along with it. Trying octopus for the first time, we were quite impressed with the outcome, as it was not chewy and had just the right amount of flavour, as well as an enjoyable texture.

As part of our main course, we tried the Sous Vide Chicken, which came with brown butter cauliflower and a red wine truffle jus, as well as a cauliflower puree. It was perfectly cooked and had a crispy skin but tender insides. The cauliflower pieces and puree added different textures for our palette and the amazing red wine just brought the whole dish together.

Lastly, we tried La Loca Tiramisu, which is their signature dessert. It was a deconstructed version of a normal tiramisu and was presented beautifully with different layers. It had mascarpone cream and foam as well as a delectable coffee meringue and coffee ice cream. We couldn’t help wanting to order another one of these because of how delectable it was, especially with the quenelle of coffee ice cream it had on the side to complete it! We were told the dish is non-alcoholic, and we honestly didn’t miss the boozy element tiramisus normally have because of how light, airy and well made this one was.

All in all, our experience at La Loca Maria was everything we imagined it would be and more and left us dying to return as soon as possible. The vibrant ambience, soul-satisfying food, and warm, friendly staff left us with no complaints. As they say nowadays, ’10/10 would recommend’ you try this cafe ASAP because their food is sure to drive your taste buds loca!

Timings: Monday to Sunday from 12:00 pm to 3:30 pm and 7:00 pm to 11:30 pm.

Address: Shop No. 5, Carlton Court, Corner of Turner Road Signal Between Citibank ATM and Cafe Coffee Day, Bandra West.

Tel No: +91 9324404335

Recommended: BFF Carpaccio, Beetroot Hummus, Spicy Watermelon, Asparagus Risotto, and La Loca Tiramisu.

Cost for two: Approximately INR 2,200

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