I live to eat and after years of stalking Mumbai foodies on the internet, I was delighted to find Mumbai as a gastronomic mecca, waiting to be explored by me! Armed with a huge list of places that I cobbled from various sites, personal recommendations and Instagram food lovers, I landed in Mumbai with a stomach as empty as the black hole, ready to suck all that the city had to offer on a plate (pun intended). And, I am pleased as punch to declare that I didn’t do too shabbily amidst all the sightseeing and zipping around during my 7 day stay in the city. I hit a few biggies, a couple of popular spots and some quiet cafes to make my dining experience as memorable as it could be. Of course, there were so many others that I missed, but that gives me all the more reason to return to this food haven. I do not want to sound like a pretentious foreigner, but Mumbai being my first stop In India and the fact that 14.5 years abroad has definitely changed my stomach fauna, I decided to take things easy and not indulge in street food. With this disclaimer now firmly in place, here is my version of eat, drink Mumbai! For a complete list of must visit attractions in Mumbai, here is my previous post -a guide to Mumbai.
I started off with a bang at the iconic Masala Library, Jigg’s Karla’s take on modern Indian cuisine, which has won accolades world wide. Stylish in presentation, heightened creativity in technique and bursting with an amalgamation of flavors from different parts of the country, every morsel was sheer delight for the senses. We had the chef’s tasting menu (non-vegetarian for me and vegetarian for my friend) and had three appetizers, two mains and a desert ensemble to finish. The chef was extremely generous and provided even more samples for us to taste, which left us so full, that we could barely walk and almost crawled out of the restaurant. Service was extremely good and the servers were knowledgable about the food served. I am still dreaming of that lovely lunch at Masala Library and can’t wait to return for a second outing.
(Featured below: Paan/betel nut leaf flavored cotton candy, left and mishti doi (thick, sweetened yoghurt) popsicle, right)
My Mumbai noshing pattern fell into a predictable cycle of light breakfasts, heavy lunches followed by light dinners. Dinners were quiet affairs at cute, cosy spots such as Silver Beach cafe, Juhu or Yoga house (excellent smoothies and salads), Dadar. With lunch as heavy as full Indian platters (shown below) at Chetna, I felt full for the longest time and therefore went for lighter fare in the evening. Chetna too was a stomach and heart satisfying affair where you can get vegetarian platters from western India, i.e. Gujrati or Rajasthani thalis (or a combination of two) that come with small portions of different curries, with endless refills. This also includes rotis (Indian flat bread), rice, drinks and dessert. Another great food coma inducing meal for day 2.
In between the biggies, I savored some very Mumbai flavors as we went around town to get a true feel of what kind of fuel keeps this city running. From the iconic Parsi cafe Britannia and Co. where I tried to decode the charm of the famous chicken berry pulao (that draws people from all over the globe) to the even more popular cafe Madras where piping hot idlis and dosas are wolfed down on communal tables amidst interesting banter with strangers, from K. Rustom’s icecream sandwich, Natural’s fruity ice cream flavors, the newly opened Juhu patisserie English Vinglish’s pastries and some sugary sweetness at Taj Mahal Palace’s iconic La patisserie, I sampled everything. We also stopped by the famous La Folie in Kala Ghoda, but as luck would have had it, they had run out of their pastries and so we left disappointed.
Next come the two biggies, Konkan cafe at the Taj President on Cuff Parade and Ziya, at the Oberoi Mumbai, Nariman point. Both places, on my not to be missed list, were surefire hits with their excellent food, ambiance and service. I could not get any photos at Konkan cafe due to the dim light (barring this wall decor piece below), but managed to snag some in Ziya. The coastal region of Konkan is known for its bounty of seafood and their distinct style of cooking using coconut, chilies, kokum and tamarind for those distinct sour, tangy and hot and spicy flavors. My fish wrapped in banana leaf hit it out of the park and I balanced the spice with fresh sugarcane juice. Ziya had exceptional food and service where I tried a tomato shorba (soup) spicy barramundi (fish) and finished off with a sampler of ice-creams in exotic flavors. Although we did not make prior reservations, we still got seats (lunch at Konkan cafe and dinner at Ziya) and were welcomed warmly by the staff. I have heard that the hospitality industry in India is a rough terrain, where unruly guests and customers make it a nightmare for the hotel staff to serve them. This is really saddening, because the kind of service, food and warmth that I enjoyed in Mumbai totally bowled me over. I cannot for my life understand the culture of being stingy in tipping (applicable to the richest of people who can afford to eat in these hotels) or misbehaving with people who serve your food, which is so prevalent in India. I grew up watching this and still see instances when I visit, although thankfully I did not encounter anything unsavory in Mumbai. Respect for someone’s work, no matter how big or small is key to earning respect in return. I will always cherish the fond memories of how warmly I was welcomed in all these establishments and the friendly smiles of everyone around me. I am grateful for their hospitality and never take this for granted, anywhere I go. Mini rant over, now over to more stories of gluttony!
A taste of Shikanji, traditional North Indian limeade, and a FUN meal at Bombay Canteen, which incorporates a kitschy decor and even more funky food were some of the other bits of my gastronomic tour of Mumbai. I absolutely adored Bombay canteen (“a cafe, a bar and Indian at heart”) with its fun, Indian take on world food, such as black rice and kokum infused ceviche or the sinful pao (bread) sliders. A nightmare to reach from Juhu or even park (its in Lower Parel in Kamala mills), but a great place to hang out with friends, Bombay canteen charmed me completely. Fun fact: A friendly server dutifully informed me that ceviche is raw fish (I guess that is still a new concept in India) which made me smile (if only he knew how many ceviches this pint sized monster had chomped down!). Also, a pit stop at the iconic Leopold cafe in Colaba where I had a pint of beer to chill out.
My last lunch in Mumbai was at Soam, the popular Gujarati/Rajasthani vegetarian restaurant serving amazing regional fare. What made the meal even more special was a mini-reunion where I got to see some of my school friends after 20 years (yes I am that old!). A perfect ending to my Mumbai visit, my friends made my day by taking time off their busy schedules to meet me.
Finally when all was eaten and drunk, we spent a quiet moment at the rooftop bar at Dome, overlooking Marine drive and the glistening string of lights along the coast , aka Queen’s necklace. It was a treat to see the panoramic view from the roof top in the dull orange hues of a beautiful winter sunset with dusk settling on Mumbai. A beautiful end to an amazing vacation, I will forever carry in my heart these memories of sights, sounds, flavors and love that Mumbai bestowed on me.