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Chef Manuel Olveira’s La Panthera is a slice of Europe in Mumbai’s BKC

After La Loca Maria, the husband-wife duo ventures into a modern European space with La Panthera and its opulent interiors.
La Panthera

In the heart of Mumbai’s financial hub of Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) is a massive black door that transports you into another world. Entering La Panthera is like stepping into a chic, elegant, dazzling, and old-world European living room in a manor.

Known for the award-winning Spanish restaurant—La Loca MariaChef Manuel Olveira and his wife Mickee Tuljapurkar are back with their latest venture—La Panthera, a modern European restaurant. If you have gone to La Loca Maria in Bandra, you will notice that the husband-wife duo is not cutting corners on the interiors. However, you may notice some similarities, but La Panthera is much more opulent with its dazzling brass chandeliers, velvet curtains, textured walls, and grandiose arches. Despite being a 100-seater, the space has an intimate vibe to it. “Our design vision for La Panthera,” says Tuljapurkar, “was to capture that soulful longing for old-world European charm and we were inspired by the ambiance of a chic living room in a European manor.” Designed by architect Rohit Bhoite, the space exudes “pizzaz” with a 21-foot marble and wood bar, and a gold and green embossed panther at the reception. La Panthera also boasts a 15-foot artwork titled “The Beast Within” which captures your eye with its larger-than-life appearance in the 3,600 sq ft space.

La Panthera

(from left to right) Chef Manuel Olveira and the gold and green panther motif at the reception. Photos: La Panthera

With La Panthera, Chef Olveira isn’t bound by labels like Spanish, French, Italian, or Greek. “Our menu embraces timeless European classics while playfully dancing with contemporary culinary techniques. Our ethos has always been simple, refined cooking where we let the ingredients shine. Elegant plating is the signature touch, and exceptional taste reigns supreme,” he says.

Rapid Review

As a vegetarian, I thought the menu ratio would be similar to La Loca Maria but, I was pleasantly surprised. “We are going beyond European food because at La Loca [Maria],” says Chef Olveira, “I was limited but here we can cook more. The menu at La Loca Maria is around 35% veg and here it is 50% veg.”

At the spot where I was seated, I could watch Chef Olveira with his team intently working on service. The rectangular glass window acted as a portal into the kitchen madness and how methodically everyone worked. The restaurant’s wood-fired oven with its name embossed on the brick was also in my line of vision, and I thoroughly enjoyed the peep into their workspace.

The Great

La Panthera

(from left to right) Neapolitan pizzas, baked brie. Photo: La Panthera

Something we noticed in Chef Olveira’s menu for the first time was Neapolitan pizzas. He admits that introducing them to this menu was “hard to come up with, especially for vegetarians but pizzas were the first ones to come through,” he says proudly. Fresh off the wood-fired oven, came Burrata Di Bufala (₹850) on the table which had basil pesto, burrata di bufala, sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, and parmesan. Thanks to the 48-hour-long fermented dough, the pizza was light and airy. I was just talking about the lovely leoparding on the pizza when the waiter arrived with two dips. “To have it with your crust,” I was told and that checked a box for me I didn’t know existed. As someone who loves the crust, dipping it in a variety of dips was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the night. The Baked Brie with caramelised onions, mushrooms, spicy almond brittle, and truffle oil (₹650) was a highlight from the hot tapas menu. A soft warm wheel of brie cheese with the perfect amount of truffle oil, a slight sweetness from the caramelised onions, and the almond brittle crunch were enough to devour the entire plate within minutes! Chef Olveira shares how this particular dish was part of a special truffle menu at La Loca Maria and now found its permanent space at La Panthera.

The vegetarian version of the carpaccio had roasted beetroot, braised onions, arugula, wasabi, and a crispy filo pastry (₹650). “We went to Greece and had a carpaccio which had a filo pastry and I loved it!” exclaims Chef Olveira. “My wife insisted that I do a veg one and you won’t believe it but is appreciated by non-vegetarian folks as well.” The thin, crispy filo pastry had a crumbly texture, and pairing the sweetness of the beets with a slight hint of wasabi, with parmesan cheese on top was indeed a flavour bomb. However, there are high chance that those who are not fans of beetroot might find it overpowering but we loved that it sat atop the filo pastry.

The Good

La Panthera

(from left to right) The Scamorza Arancini, La Panthera Profiterole. Photos: La Panthera

The Scamorza Arancini (₹590) had a good scamorza cheese pull inside soft, melt-in-the-mouth balls with a tasty tomato sauce. Standard textbook perfect is how I would describe it. The Double Happiness (₹950) was a spicy, sour version of the margarita with bell pepper-infused silver tequila, orange liqueur, gooseberry cordial, and citrus. For those who prefer sour cocktails, opt for this one. It was not disappointing, but for me, it was a tad bit too sour. However, Roll the Dice (₹975) had mezcal, bitter bianco, lavender nectar, citrus, and orange blossom. I thought it would have a bitter taste due to citrus and bitter bianco but I was surprised with its floral, smokey, and sweeter taste than what I had expected. The La Panthera Profiterole (₹950) with hazelnut mousse, vanilla ice cream, and warm chocolate sauce was a comfort on a plate. However, the best way to have it was a spoonful of the profiterole with the mousse, the ice cream with the warm chocolate sauce was the perfect bite. Having the profiterole as is was a tad bit chewy and not as light and airy, the way a choux pastry usually is.

The Miss

La Panthera

(from left to right) The Cacio e Pepe, Tiramisu La Panthera Way

The Cacio e Pepe (₹750) which is essentially spaghetti with Pecorino Romano cheese and black peppercorns, in my opinion, is similar to an Aglio-e-olio—easy to make and comfort food. What didn’t make it to the cut for us was the slightly excessive use of truffle oil in the pasta. Besides a strong whiff of truffle from the minute the plate was placed on the table to trying a bite, it seemed to overpower this otherwise simple and classic pasta dish. The second dessert—Tiramisu La Panthera Way (₹750)—was a deconstructed tiramisu. The coffee ice cream was something that stood out, however, overall, I felt it was a little difficult to eat the tiramisu in its deconstructed way. I would rather prefer it being a cup or the authentic way of it being layered.