Times, things and tastes change but this one’s from the ’90s. Many of these cherised spots have long been put to rest, some survive. A toast to all of them!
“I am a junkie.”
How many people you know will readily admit to that? Well, I do. I have a food fetish and if you too think of your salary every time you see moongphali, have a cast iron stomach and are the enterprising kind, this piece is dedicated to you. Or you can stick to your home-cooked DBRS (daal, bhaat, roti, subzi) and be happy, though dreadfully dreary.
It being July and the monsoons, have you been to Café Naaz near the Hanging Gardens? Drink a beer in a light drizzle while you languidly gaze at Bombay from the terrace. Or in a sudden burst of inspiration, grab a tissue and compose poetry. Lord! If mere thoughts can make me go near-beserk, imagine what would actually being there do? All this, for a cover charge of just five rupees!
If it’s really pouring, check out Gallops at the Mahalaxmi Race Course and have the spicy chilli-cheese toast and a cold coffee with ice cream, as you take in sheets of rain blinding your view of the verdant expanse, or make conversation with your companion du jour. Or head for Samovar at the Jehangir Art Gallery, which overlooks the vast gardens of the Museum, for their stuffed parathas with pudhina raita and chutney.
And if fish is not temporarily off your menu, Mahesh Lunch Home at Fort is your goal. You have a drink – or three – of course, but the real reason you’re there is for the steaming, succulent tandoori pomfret (or three!). Nothing like it. Or the the aloo chaat at The Silver Plate at Hotel Diplomat (behind The Taj), served complimentary with the drinks. Both courteously provide forks, but avoid, what are hands for? To borrow Col Sanders’ line, “it’s finger lickin’ good.”
Then there’s Café Mondegar of the decrepit jukebox and chilled draft beer fame on Colaba Causeway. For only a buck, you get Itsy Bitsy Yellow Polka Dot Bikini or Cocaine. Or Leopold, whose chicken tikka at 44 rupees a plate can’t be beaten. It’s probably the best known café among the seedier firangs on Bombay’s streets – and I believe is listed in the ‘must visit’ section of their tourist brochures. Whether it’s for the food or the ‘other attractions’ upstairs, I wouldn’t know.
There’s also Anand Ashram, located down a non-descript lane in Girgaum, for Malvani food. You wait in line for your turn and when it comes, you get to sit on your own small, private table. The solkadhi they serve is a digestive for their shellfish and the owners’ surliness. At Ballard Estate is Britannia, for Parsi patra ni macchi and awesomely authentic berry pulao, and George Restaurant opposite Horniman Circle for its biryani with pickles and onion on the side.
You know KC College? Well, just opposite, on the footpath outside the SOTC office is this guy and his cart with chhole-bhature. Or there’s the sukha (and teekha) bhel-wallah outside St Xavier’s College. There’s also Solly, who runs a pav bhaaji stall outside the Lop Stop at Haji Ali Circle. He’s lesser known then Sardar’s at Tardeo, but probably better tasting, especially when accompanied with garlic papad. There’s RR Plantain Leaf Andhra Restaurant at Navjivan Society, guaranteed to set your taste buds aflame but not leave you cold when faced with the bill.
If you’re at Dadar Station on the Central side, at an unearthly hour and your tummy’s rumbling, there’s a guy on a cart who makes egg-bhurji, with a chai-wallah situated next door to dip your pao in.
Now I’m not religious – I can identify more with Bakasura than Bajrang Bali – but I’m ay Babulnath pretty often. Close to The Bombay International School is this dosa-wallah, known for the way he flips the dosa onto your plate and his mmm-Mysore masala. If your’e at Little Gibbs Road, try this bhel puri-wallah who is the only one who doesn’t complain when you flick a few more puris to munch on while you wait. Whereas others invariably moan about the cost of each bite, he’s only too glad when you nibble for free, and that’s not only because he knows me!
Worli Sea Face, I know, can get crowded in the evenings. But near the entrance to the dairy is a Mafco booth, besides which are two sandwich-wallahs. The one closer to the booth has the most delectable toasted veg sandwiches, garnished with butter, sauce, chutney, masala and coal dust this side of Bombay 400016.
You might remember the now defunct Pastry Palace on Napeansea Road. In its place stands Papa’s, with new décor. But you still get the same chicken roomali, albeit at Rs.18 now, with the special mint chuntney. Bachelor’s on Chowpatty Seaface has strawberries with cream. And strawberries with cream and cream. And strawberries with cream and cream and cream… You get the idea? A parking spot there is harder to get!
So, gourmand, “bhukkad”, “haurat”, call me what you will. I say if you’re still reading without salivating, you’re probably impotent. In your tastebuds.