I’ve long been prejudiced against the Bayleaf. Overpriced with an over long menu, high-end aspirations and acutely mediocre food I’ve repeatedly declared this restaurant to be the embodiment of everything that’s wrong with Colombo dining.
So when, following a show at the Lionel Wendt, someone (my parents) suggested an Italian meal at the nearby Bayleaf I moaned, cited various previous disappointments and predicted an evening of limp pasta, corked wine and overcooked off-cuts of meat. However, as often happens with parents, I was overruled. So seated on the admittedly very pleasant verandah of a restaurant I make it a point to despise I made it my evening’s mission to complaining about everything.
The service was sloppy and haphazard - I had to ask three times for a glass of water. The thumping bass from the newly (well it's new to me) installed bar clashed utterly with the restaurant’s high-end pretensions. Worst of all, they’ve ruined their lovely colonial premise’s lawn by installing a hideous permanent wedding tent like space for events/extra seating.
At some point between my complaints and the waiters’ repeated failure to supply a jug of water the food arrived. I ordered seafood ravioli in arabiatta sauce (Rs. 1100). Seeing an unpromising mass of slimy ravioli I readied myself for the supreme satisfaction of being proved right. I prepared another list of complaints - the ravioli was sure to be overcooked and bland and the sauce insipid and ketchupy, with some trepidation I took a bite. I was bitterly disappointed. It tasted fine.
In fact it was actually quite tasty, the arabiatta sauce was rich with the correct amount of spice and the ravioli was fresh with a seafood tang. Desperate to find something to complain about I did note that the bechamel sauce that was supposed to be inside the ravioli had failed to materialize but to in honest it tasted perfectly decent regardless.
OK, but one swallow doesn’t make a summer, everyone gets lucky sometimes, perhaps the cook accidentally spilled the correct amount of tomato puree into the arabiatta. Looking up at my dining companions I scanned the table expecting looks of disappointment and signs of disgust but no, my mother was actively pleased with her Milanese Chicken (Rs 1300, the evening’s standout dish) while everyone else seemed satisfied.
On our table was spinach ravioli (Rs 900), beef tenderloin (Rs 1000), and taglioni verdi (Rs 900) and there were no complaints. Even the margherita pizza (Rs 850) fresh from the over tasted better than their delivery version of the same.
While it was a long way from fantastic I was forced to admit that it was a pretty reasonable meal. No worse than at scores of mid-range Italian places in various other parts of the world and crucially IT WASN’T TOO EXPENSIVE.
A few years ago Rs. 1000 for a dish seemed extravagant however as prices elsewhere have soared rates at the Bayleaf seem to have remained static. Rs 1000 for a plate of pasta or beef tenderloin seems like good value these days when you can pay as much for a mediocre rice and curry in surroundings that are a far cry from the Bayleaf’s Gregory’s Road mansion.
So after an evening with a decent bottle of wine and perfectly reasonable food in a lovely setting I am going to retract some of my previous criticism and apologize for my perhaps excessive bad mouthing of the Bayleaf (though honestly on the strength of past performances I think it was deserved).
Again I’m not saying I had an excellent Italian meal but it really wasn’t bad and the price was reasonable. I would go again, and not grudgingly.