Category Archives: Reviews

An assortment of hidden gems

The entire concept of treasure is based on it being hard to find. No one will know much of it, or talk much of it, or encourage you to go ahead and look for it. It requires a brazen heart, a soldier’s spirit and the will of an adventurer, then, to find good food in a city filled with good food. Except this food is the sort that not many others know about.

The joints we want to cover are niche in their appeal, small and cosy, usually frequented only by the junta who live or walk around it. However, we are of the opinion that they have delicious food. Food good enough to make intra-city pilgrimages for. At least here, every bite is real.

1. Cafe New York: From the outside, it looks rather run down. It’s not fancy in the least, but largely well kept. This tiny hole in the wall can still seat about 40, and is an Irani that happens to be doing well. They serve alcohol for cheap, and apart from that, their food is largely exquisite. A meal here is likely to set you back less than 200 rupees, and we recommend the Akuri on Toast, the Fried Chicken Nuggets and a song of your choice on their jukebox.

Address: Dabholkar Building, 44, Hughes Road.
Serves all meals.
Average meal for 2: 400 Rupees (without alcohol).

2. Bespoke Cafe: With a name like that, Bespoke Cafe makes you pay attention. And indeed we did, as we walked into their little manly den of unoccupied brilliance. This cafe is nestled inside a luxury clothing store, and somehow,  very pocket friendly. The menu has Pastas, Burgers, Sadwiches, Salads and Desserts.

The place is known for being unknown, despite having high leather armchairs, good service and a tenderloin burger that is easily the best value we’ve had for our money. If only they were open for longer hours.

Address: Level 1 of The Collective, Palladium,
High Street Phoenix.
Open from 12 PM to 8 PM.
Average meal for 2: 500 rupees.

3. Dakshinayan: The average vegetarian restaurant is as common as a hurried commuter at a railway station. however, that is where all the similarities end between the average joint and Dakshinayan. The food is purely south-Indian, and authentic at that. No bastardized masala, no soda infused dosa sough.

The Rasam is at par with the Matunga stronghold of south-Indian eateries. Other stellar options are the Masala Idli, the Rawa Dosa and most of the picks of their menu.

Address: 183, Teen Batti Road, Walkeshwar,
Malabar Hill.
Open from 12:30 PM – 3:30 PM for lunch, 7:30 PM – 11:00 PM for dinner.
Average meal for 2: 300 Rupees.

Sarvesh Talreja

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Le Pain Quotidien: A Review

Belgian chain ‘Le Pain Quotidien’ has opened up its local branch for about a year now, and business is good. The restaurant, divided over 2 levels, is usually spread out over one.

We ventured into LPQ one morning, and it wasn’t a truly fine one until we left. The space is understated and classy, with a charming European touch. The light shades of wood on the tables provide a subtle contrast with more caramel shade found on the walls. The staircase leading upstairs is a sight, as is the chandelier atop.

Translating to ‘The Daily Bread’, the name of this restaurant seems like an apt practical joke, as nothing here is pocket friendly, but everything is well worth the money. Our order was a three egg omelette with ham and cheese, an espresso and a dark chocolate waffle.

The staff was well spoken and courteous, and tend to pick up fast on what you might want. They suggested a portion of the fresh chocolate eclairs, which they said were fresh out of the oven. We relented.

The crowd was interesting. One would expect to see many of the rich ‘SoBo’ sort, but there was a surprisingly high amount of backpackers. They sat on their small tables, and seemed to be planning their activities for the day from Lonely Planets, Time Out Mumbai for travellers, and other such publications. It was a rather interesting mix.

The food arrived at a slow pace, but in such a pretty restaurant, we aren’t complaining. The dark chocolate waffle came with a small side of fruits, and the omelette with some vegetables. The espresso, though only a shot, came in a tall glass. It made me get a little creative and take this:

The Iced-Espresso Shot

The waffle was beyond ordinary. It was warm and soft, with the portion of sauce wafting over every crevice on the surface of the waffle. The omelette looked small and tasted perfect, filling me up rather unexpectedly. The espresso was nothing out of the ordinary, but the winner was the chocolate eclair. It was rather cheap compared to the other items on the menu. But being fresh out of the oven, it was delightfully creamy on the inside, with a generous covering of chocolate on the outside. It was the perfect ending to a superb meal.

We will come back, though if we did often, we might not have money to buy lunch, dinner or even a vada pav. It’s definitely break worth breaking the bank for, but not daily, unless you’re one of the local Richie Rich.

Le Pain Quotidien: Dhanraj Mahal,
C. S. M. Road, Apollo Bunder.

– Sarvesh Talreja

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Cafe at the NCPA: A Review

After the opening of Amadeus, the Spanish and Levantine restaurant at NCPA, one longed to eat more than sandwiches there. However, the price of the food discouraged the frequent patrons of the theatre from eating there frequently.

Cue Café at the NCPA, also run by Farrokh Khambata. Housed on an artificial turf with an open kitchen, this windy corridor was previously under-utilised as the smoking area for Amadeus. The menu has a wide selection, cutting across cuisines. There are salads, burgers, sandwiches and wraps, all ideal for a snack. There are also Chinese set meals and kebabs, apart from a selection of mocktails and desserts.

We decided on the Chili Milli Mushrooms, the Vegetarian Khao Sueuy, a Chinese set meal with noodles and mushroom baby corn gravy which they agreed to add some broccoli to. We were pleasantly surprised at the recent addition of some Amadeus food on the menu to be served at the Café. Tempted, we ordered the Marisco De Rosa and the Wood Fired Young Chicken with Piri Sauce.

We happened to visit this place on a particularly windy Saturday evening, when the place was packed to its capacity. The smells from the open kitchen wafted across the lawn, making its presence felt without interfering, something that was also seen in the volume of ambient conversation.

The food didn’t take long to arrive, though we expected problems after our waiter couldn’t process our order at one go. The Chili Milli Mushroom was nicely done, the mushroom retaining its juicy texture with a tangy seasoning. The quantity, however, was for midgets. The Khao Sueuy was just like the one at Joss, of the same parent company. Served in a tall bowl, the quantity was hearty and the broth of perfect consistency and flavour.

The Chinese set meal was the real surprise. There is a stigma towards set meals, as they tend to be lower in price. This set meal, though easy on the pocket, packed in a superb blend of quality and quantity. The stars of the evening, however, remained the dishes off the Amadeus menu. The Marisco De Rosa was exceptional, with 4 toppings, 3 of them being exotic fish. The rice was soft and delicious, with tender chicken breast forming the last delectable topping. The Wood Fired Young Chicken came with a side of bread, and looked rather intimidating with its colour, but was gentle to eat.

The service being slightly off colour, we were suitably impressed. The ambience and the food were spot on, and the service could always improve. Maybe if we came back on a night that wasn’t a Saturday, things would be different.

Average meal for two: Rs. 1000

Cafe at the NCPA: Ahead of the Tata Theatre,
NCPA, Nariman Point.

Timings: 12 PM – 12 AM.

– Sarvesh Talreja 

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Saltwater Cafe: A Review

Saltwater Cafe is rather simple to find if you know Bandra. And by know Bandra, I mean were born and raised there. Now that the townie in me is done ranting, let’s talk of how marvellous it is. It stakes its claim as a great place to eat. Apart from a huge breakfast menu (pity it isn’t all day), they serve most things you would expect from an all day deli, be it salads with interesting meats, classic European mains, sandwiches or burgers.

When you walk in here, you will be greeted with a clean ambience of wood gently complementing the space created by the white surfaces. The place is designed to thrive in the sunlight that enters through its windows, but never seems to glare.

We were bowled over by their breakfast menu, which seemed to have most of our favourites on it. Eggs Benedict? Check! A choice of bagels? Check! Omelettes? Oh, absolutely! We decided to go with a portion each of Eggs Benedict (with ham, they also offer a choice of Norweigan Salmon) and a Spanish Omelette. A watermelon juice to wash it down appeared to be a good idea.

The delicious Eggs Benedict

They offer the newspapers of the day, something not common, though much appreciated. It is this sort of characteristic detail that makes one sit up and take notice. Water was served to us promptly and without being asked for, and the waiters were competitive and friendly. They were able to make suggestions without any hesitation, and that appeared very well-versed with their offerings.

The Eggs Benedict was perfect. The eggs oozed of yellow goodness, and the ham was just enough. A little more would have been nice, but it seemed to be a perfect estimate. The Spanish Omlette was fluffy and delightful, with the ingredients working like clockwork. The watermelon juice, which we split into two, was fresh and tasty. We could taste the goodness of the poor sacrificed fruit in every sip we took.

We would never hesitate to come here for any meal of the day. A great staff with fine food is a good combination, and we want it around  for a long, long time.

Average meal for two: Rs. 1000, though our breakfast did cost less.

Saltwater Cafe: 87, Chapel Road,
Rose Minar Annexe, Bandra (W).

Timings: 8 AM to midnight.

– Sarvesh Talreja 

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Suzette diversifies

After a smashing success was met at their cosy Nariman Point outpost, Suzette opened another outlet at Pali Hill in Bandra. This outlet is bigger, with a cosy outdoor section. The treat, however, is that Suzette now has a new menu, comprising additions to the breakfast section, the crepes section and a new section of pasta salads being its highlights.

We decided to visit the Nariman Point branch during lunchtime, and were lucky enough not only to get a table, but to be sitting next to a duo of friends amusing us with their tales, as we couldn’t help but eavesdrop.

The Pasta Salad section looked interesting, despite having only 3 selections and some add-ons. We decided on a Ratatouille Salad from there, to be accompanied by a newly introduced Pays Crepe, the description of which mentioned caramelized onions, immediately tickling our sense of curiosity.

After a short wait of more eavesdropping than talking (it’s not that we are boring, but our neighbours were absolutely amusing, without even the slightest awareness of it), our server brought us our order.

The salad contained a lot more pasta than we had anticipated. The ratatouille dressing was delicious, once we moved past the lack of its encompassing presence. Due to this skewed proportion, we were left munching on pieces of fusilli more than we would have preferred.

The too much pasta, too little ratatouille salad

The star of this meal was undoubtedly the Pays Crepe. Apart from being generously slathered, the caramelized onions in a crepe were an absolute revelation. The chicken pieces were perfectly juicy and soft.

To wash it down, we went with the Tomato juice, because it’s impossible to not want to try a juice that contains Tabasco. The glass was nicely sized and filled with the consistent goodness of a gently spicy flavour, much of it courtesy the basil and Tabasco.

We know we’re going back, for the food, for the French music and for the fact that nowhere else in the city will you get caramelized onions wrapped inside of anything.

Average meal for two: Rs. 600

Suzette: Atlanta. Ground Floor,
Nariman Point, Mumbai.

Open: 8:30 AM to 10:30 PM

Sarvesh Talreja

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Restaurant Review: Chocolateria San Churro

Tucked away in the large glass building of Akruti Skypark in Breach Candy is a small joint that just spells happiness.

We’re talking about Chocolateria San Churro’s. You may be wondering, what a Chocolateria could mean. You’re probably thinking on the correct lines- in case you’re thinking of chocolate oozing out of shakes/desserts/anything possible. That is EXACTLY what San Churros is about. With a new branch opened at breach candy just recently; this underrated eatery is just the place you must visit when you feel like committing sin. Their menu is dessert. Of course, there are a few savoury sandwiches, but their highlight is chocolate dips served with churros. A long deep fried stick made of flour. San churros has a great variety on their menu, ranging from the regular cheesecakes and pastries to their signature desserts (and boy, they are signature!) to creamy, rich hot chocolates. They even have merchandise to take home; though it is a tad absurd to take back a mini chocolate fondue pot (of hardly 200ml) for 800INR. Their assortment of dips is milk, white and dark, all of which taste equally divine when had with churros- depending on your preference. With a beautiful grey and orange ambience, San Churro oozes with uniqueness. And let’s face it, chocolate will never go out of fashion.

We would recommend (and so would the waiter) the Berry Bizcocho [Rs 250]. It apparently does the best too. Possibly because of its just perfect combination of ingredients: Nuts, Chilled Custard, Milk Chocolate, Strawberries and Brownie bits. (The photo should explain better)

Their display of desserts was quite neat and orderly, unlike most bakeries that seem to think otherwise. With huge sofa-like chairs, San Churro naturally has a lounge like feel to it, with a very

In spite of the fact that a few things on their menu still aren’t available; like the fruit skewer we still love the place. Another thing that will probably hold you back is the lack of much of a fruit variety to dip with your chocolate. Say you aren’t so much of a chocolate person and would prefer to dip fruits into your chocolate rather than biscottis and brownies, there isn’t much of a variety except strawberries. Whatever happened to bananas and pineapples with chocolate? Especially because strawberries are seasonal in India, San Churro could do with this menu tweak.

All in all, there isn’t another place that satisfies your chocolate fondue cravings more. Or for that matter, liquid chocolate at all.

San Churro

101, Ackruti City Emerald
Bhulabhai Desai Road
Mahalakshmi, Mumbai.

A standard meal for 2 goes to approximately Rs. 1000 including the 10%service charge.

DISCLAIMER:  The photos of this post are owned solely by sanchurro.com. I have only copied them from there as most guest-taken photos end up looking unappetizing.

-Avanti Adivarekar

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Restaurant Review: Cafe Mangii Weekend Breakfast

We know weekends are meant to be sacrosanct, but you MUST at some point in your life get to Cafe Mangii on a Saturday/Sunday morning before 11:30am.

 

For just Rs 225 (Rs199 without taxes) you get an entire set menu where you can choose from a variety of options in 5 courses.

1. Fruit Juice.

2. Cereal

3. Bread with eggs/mushrooms/baked beans

4. Croissant/Danish

5. Pancakes/Waffles.

Sound too good to be true? It was. So much so, that we were so full with the first 3 courses, we just couldnt ask for the next 2. When was the last time you went to a place and couldnt to justice to the food? That too, so cheap!

Our Masala Omelette was perfectly done, with some good whole-wheat toast to accompany. Even the Ham and Cheese Omelette had a perfect amount of succulent ham.

The fruit juice luckily came without sugar, unlike most other places.

And the waffles were just to die for. They come with a tiny bowl of Pancake Syrup to accompany which we initially thought was a tad less. But, it turned out to be just the perfect amount.

Though the cereal came with room-temperature milk instead of cold, we loved the place.

We shall soon return to try their a la carte menu too.

-Avanti Adivarekar

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Cafe by the Beach: A Review

Café by the Beach is going to go down in Bombay restaurant history, as the restaurant with possibly the best view since the erstwhile Café Naaz. The chilly breeze and some nice sound from the ocean is reminiscent of the choicest Goan shacks, but go forewarned: there is no alcohol here.

A lovely ambience for a group

To make the most of the ambience, we suggest you get a seaside table, which requires a minimum billing of 500 rupees, which is not much more than the bill would be even otherwise. The mocktails are excellent, like the Genoese Peel (Rs. 195) we tasted, which was the most savoury bitter concoction we have consumed in quite some time.

The food is promising, though inconsistent. The Roast Chicken (Rs. 295) and Smoked Chicken Sandwiches (Rs. 295), for example were perfectly prepared, with good ingredients, and a sharp dressing. This was in contrast with the Mushroom Wrap (Rs. 195), which tasted much like well seasoned rubber. The mushroom tragedy continued through the Chicken and Mushroom Lasagne, which was much too bitter and small to be enjoyed (Rs. 395).

The service was inefficient, be it in terms of speed or knowledge of the dishes. Our waiter told us the mushrooms were all of the button variety, while they were actually a mix, like the Captain corrected him. They did, however, serve us with a smile, which is always welcome.

It could be difficult to read under the dim lights, barely ambient, but very beautiful. This luminescent aura apart, one can notice how the palm trees would provide complete shade, making this place an interesting bet even for the daytime, one we would dare to venture to even in the light of the impending summer. There is a dim buzz of conversation, but it doesn’t spiral out of control.

The view you can't refuse

The desserts were not disappointing, though we probably expected better because of the positive reinforcement from the beach. The Tiramisu (Rs. 195) was lacking in the fine texture one would expect it to possess. Some relief and closure was provided by the Chocolate Brulee, (Rs. 195) a interesting version of the Crème Brulee.

We would come back a million times for the view, but order with caution. And possibly carry a hip flask in our bags.

Average meal for two: Rs. 1000

Cafe by the Beach: H2O Water Sports,
Charni Road on Marine Drive,
Mumbai.

Open from: 1 PM – 3 PM, 7:30 PM to Midnight.

Sarvesh Talreja

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Book review: The Cocktail

Hello everyone.

Today I came across a beautiful treasure. It probably is the best cocktail guide ever.

Take a wild guess why – It happens to be separated glass wise. As in, which glass certain cocktails are to be served in, are the way the book is indexed. Who’d have thought of that?

The drawback is if you know exactly what cocktail you wanted to make and just needed the recipe, it may be hard to sift through. But then again, isn’t that what Google is for?

But this would by far be your loyal companion when you want to plan out a fancy evening party, provided you have all the liqueurs and glasses of course.

It is available for Rs 395 under the Parragon Books range

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-Avanti Adivarekar

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Yazdani Bakery or Sassanian?

Hello all!

As a first step into the blogging world for most of us, we thought we’d provide you with a comparison of 2 bakeries that have been South Mumbai’s backbones for quite a few years, but have slowly taken a back seat.

Covering Irani joints as haunts for delicious food is a cliché, but we believe that clichés can be comforting, much like the brun maska at either of these joints.

We decided to visit two of our favourite such haunts, and try and explain better why one seems to be thriving, while the other remains in shambles. Our contestants for this shootout are Yazdani, a three-generation old bakery at Fort and Sassanian Boulangerie at Metro, a restaurant in the same state of sanitation as a country liquor bar.

As we entered Sassanian, we got a definite unkempt vibe, reinforced by the empty soft drink bottles stacked up on our left. After we ordered, we glanced around appreciatively at the art-deco setting, but couldn’t help noticing a naked wire hanging overhead, and a fresh stain on every table (tea on ours). The waiter came back saying that it would take half an hour for a grilled sandwich, a reflection on the state of equipment there.

Our chai (Rs. 10) was crisp, but slightly watered down. It complemented the Mawa Cake (Rs. 12) as well as one would expect. The Club Sandwich (Rs. 70, gulp!), as recommended by the waiter, was a pleasant surprise with 2-tiers. It was filling and tasty, with perfectly peppered chicken.

On leaving, we couldn’t help but feel disappointed at seeing the grandeur this place must have once possessed. It was well past its prime, fading away like the seats on the well designed chairs.

Yazdani was a treasure, and like all treasures, was tricky to find. Located in a by-lane near the BSE, Yazdani provided a gentle visual relief, nestled between two standard-issue buildings.

Regular clientele kept the place occupied, as bread loaves were sold with briskness. The Bread Pudding (Rs. 22) was a generous helping of perfectly good sweetness, albeit slightly difficult to break into. The Carrot Cake (Rs. 18), was a tad crumbly, though enjoyable otherwise. The Mawa Cake (Rs. 16) was cutely sized and conventionally satisfying.

Yazdani Bakery Fort

Image Courtesy: wikipedia.org

What we left Yazdani with, was knowing that it was a place of historical reference. On a wall filled with memorabilia, a plaque proudly declared it to be a 2007 Urban Heritage Award Winner. This has worked out for them as an honour as well as a burden, as now the owners have to approach the Indian Heritage Society of Mumbai for even regular maintenance work. Mr Tirandaz, a co-owner of Yazdani told us how difficult it had been for him to continue with renovation or restoration work, because of the label.

Our verdict: Yazdani. Even though it takes ages to look for, it’s worth the hunt. Their small cozy outlet is haven to numerous bread lovers, brun maska lovers as well as the nearby situated working class who just want to grab a chai and snack. Sassanian on the other hand has an open kitchen which almost shows off its slight lack of hygiene. The waiters are generally most disinterested and have quite a dismal attitude with the customer. Not just more presentable and warm, Yazdani even has special Christmas cakes!

Disclaimer:
We don’t have photos but they shall be up ASAP.

We didn’t want to take any from elsewhere.

But, this link has come really good ones and an interesting article too:
http://www.cnngo.com/mumbai/eat/yazdani-bakery-old-school-bread-mumbai-417516

-Avanti Adivarekar & Sarvesh Talreja

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