ITC Maratha (Sheraton) hotel, Vile Parle East, Mumbai, 400099, India

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This is one of three serious Indian restaurants in the ITC Sheraton hotel, in this case specializing in cooking from the southern states of India (Andrha Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala). There is a lengthy a la carte menu, but we went for one of four tasting menus, in this case the seafood menu (R3550). A vegetarian set menu was priced much lower at R1550. The wine list has choices such as Grovers Sauvignon Blanc at R570, 2005 Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon (R1050) and 2006 Louis Latour Ardeche Chardoonnay for R600. However I stuck to beer.

We began with three miniature dosas, one made with lentils, one with coconut and one rather odd sweet one made with banana and cashew nuts (12/20). Better was Dakshin Yera, deep fried prawns marinated with ginger, garlic, red chillies and cardamom; the prawns were cooked a fraction long but the spice mix was excellent (13/20). Better still was pomfret, which had been filleted, marinated and then fried; the spices again were in excellent balance, and the fish was beautifully cooked, the overall effect being wonderful (17/20).

A series of other dishes were then brought together, thali style. The weakest was a stew of assorted vegetables simmered in coconut milk, which was lukewarm in temperature and rather unexciting (12/20). Nandu puffu was crab meat tossed with ginger, onions, garlic and grated coconut, with fennel and mustard providing additional spices. The crab meat had been carefully sifted to remove any pieces of shell, and the crab itself was fresh, the spices lifting the dish (15/20). Ladyfish is a small white fish that was deep-fried whole, and was pleasant if unexciting (13/20). Prawns cooked with onion, ginger, garlic, grated coconut, mustard and fennel was excellent, the prawns very tender (15/20). Best of all were lobster tails cooked in a spicy tomato-based sauce, the lobster meat beautifully cooked and ultra-tender; indeed this was some of the most tender lobster I have eaten (17/20). The dishes were served with soft appam bread (14/20), and fantastic paratha, which had just the right balance of being grease-free yet not dried out (16/20. By this time I was pretty full, but tasted some almond halwa dessert, which was very pleasant though not memorable (12/20).

Service was excellent; when I praised the Pomfret dish I was immediately asked whether I would like some more, which was a nice gesture. Overall this was a superb meal, with several dishes at an extremely high standard. Indeed the cooking here was better than any of the restaurants I encountered when actually travelling around the south of India. The bill for two was a fairly hefty R8,222 (£90).

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