MUMBAI: Mumbai is a wonderful city for eating out. There’s history. There’s tradition. There’s luxury hotels with cool international cuisine and icy air-conditioning. And there’s also street food, though some foreign visitors are wary.
But where do Indian chefs like to eat? We asked some of the biggest names in Indian gastronomy for their favourite places and dishes, from cheap snacks to fine gastronomy.
Here are their picks.
This is the new restaurant of chef Alex Sanchez, who previously won countless fans and a large following at the Table in Mumbai. Here, in a cool bar with a high ceiling, he serves an eclectic menu of things he likes to cook. Those things include great pizzas and a quirky dish of corn “ribs,” dusted with spices and served with green garlic aioli. “I went there twice in the opening week and the simplicity blew me away,” says Hussain Shahzad of O Pedro restaurant in Mumbai. “The corn ribs are an amazing bar snack.”123 Nagindas Master Road, Kala Ghoda, Fort; +91 22226 47700; www.americanobombay.com
This street-food stall behind the Taj Mahal Palace hotel traces its history to 1946. It’s a destination and late at night Tulloch Road is jammed with people lining up for the seekh kebabs, many with the food laid out on their car bonnets. Popular dishes include mutton seekh kabab. “It’s very good: It’s an institution,” says Vivek Singh, of London’s Cinnamon Club. “The kebabs are awesome,” says Surender Mohan, of London’s Jamavar. A third London-based chef, Sriram Aylur of Quilon, visits whenever he is in Mumbai.Tulloch Road, Behind Hotel Taj Mahal, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, 400039; +91 99671 14179.
This fashionable restaurant and bar is a favorite of many chefs, who enjoy the modern cooking of traditional regional dishes as well as the buzz. (The culinary director and co-founder is Floyd Cardoz, who worked for Danny Meyer in New York, and learned much about hospitality along the way.) “I like the rustic way they serve the food: It’s a modern take and it’s a cool place,” says Rohit Ghai of Kutir, in London. “I love it: They are so innovative,” says Ravinder Bhogal of Jikoni, whose favorite dish is Beetroot & Topli Paneer. Quilon’s Aylur says, “They take a simple dish and give it a twist. I find it very exciting.”Kamala Mills, SB Road, Lower Parel, 400013; +91 22 4966 6666; thebombaycanteen.com
Britannia & Co
This grand old Parsi cafe was an inspiration for Dishoom restaurant in London. “It was built in the early twenties by George Wittet, the architect who also built the Gateway of India,” according to Dishoom. Jamavar’s Mohan, whose other London restaurant is Bombay Bustle, recommends the berry pulao (spiced rice with currant-like dried berries) and “a fine rendition of Bombay duck.” Harneet Baweja, of Gunpowder, London, is another fan: “It’s a place you go to every day.”16 Wakefield House, Sprott Road, Ballard Estate, Fort, 400038; +91 22 2261 5264.
Jai Hind Lunch Home
This inexpensive seafood restaurant is a favorite of chef Cyrus Todiwala of Cafe Spice Namaste in London, who particularly enjoys the Clam Sukka with coconut; and the Bombay Duck at the Bandra West outlet. “I love the way they do their seafood,” he says. “It’s very fresh and light, with the right amount of pungency, and amazing flavors. It’s super casual and very busy. You might have to queue.” Gunpowder’s Baweja is another fan of the Clam Sukka, enjoying the dry masala style. (He favors the Lower Parel location.)7/8 B, Madhav Bhavan, Opposite Kamala Mills, Lower Parel, 400013; +91 22 2493 0010; jaihindlunchhome.com
Mahesh Lunch Home
This seafood restaurant, founded in 1977, serves the Mangalorean cuisine of South India, known for its fish curries and the use of coconut and curry leaves. (There are now four outlets in Mumbai alone.) “It’s a seafood place for locals, an institution,” says Cinnamon Club’s Singh. “It’s informal and not too expensive, and the food is very acceptable.” Jikoni’s Bhogal says: “It’s really good coastal food.” Chef Karam Sethi of Gymkhana and other JKS Restaurants in London, is a fan of the “classic” cooking.8-B, Cawasji Patel Street, Fort, 400001; +91 22 2287 0938; www.maheshlunchhome.com
This Goan bar and restaurant in northern Mumbai is fashionable and buzzy, with creative cocktails and cooking. Bar snacks such as burrata salad with slow-roasted winter carrots, pumpkin-seed granola & toasted chilli oil set the standard. O Pedro is the pick of the restaurateur and writer Camellia Panjabi, who says, “It’s a playful restaurant from the founders of Bombay Canteen.” She enjoys the modern Goan cooking and the cocktails. Panjabi’s restaurants include Chutney Mary and Masala Zone in London.Unit No. 2, Plot No. C-68 Jet Airways – Godrej BKC, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra (E), 400051; +91 22 2653 4700; opedromumbai.com
Sea Lounge at the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal Palace opened in 1903 and is a beautiful landmark in Mumbai. The afternoon tea at the Sea Lounge is not to be missed, according to Quilon’s Sriram, who particularly recommends the Bhel Puri (puffed rice, crispies, potatoes, onion and chillies) and the Pani Puri. “It is a whole great experience,” he says, recommending the breakfast, too.Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Apollo Bunder, 400001; +91 22 6665 3285.
Shree Thaker Bhojanalay
This marvelous and inexpensive vegetarian restaurant is difficult to find. My driver had no clue (But it might become considerably easier soon as chef David Chang and actor Aziz Ansari filmed there recently.) You are served a tray of small Gujarati dishes and freshly made breads. The food is delicious and there are endless refills for about US$7. Chef Mohan is a fan: He describes it as Mumbai’s “most decadent thali,” and particularly enjoys the bread and the “ghee-laden, vegetarian cooking.”31 Dadiseth Agiyari Lane, Kalbadevi, 400002; +91 22 2208 8035
Some visitors worry about the hygiene of street food in India. Swati takes that food and serves it on bright yellow plates in the cleanest of rooms. You enjoy a number of plates, such as the pani puri, crispy pastry balls that you fill with lentils and tangy sauces. Asma Khan, recently featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table, is a particular fan of the Bhel Puri (chaat Indian snack.) “It is just incredible,” she says. “I am very fussy. There is a classic amount of chutney-to-crunch ratio and they get it exactly right. But those yellow plates are terrible. The owner must have lost a bet.” (Khan’s London restaurant is Darjeeling Express.) Chef Atul Kochhar of Kanishka restaurant in London is another fan. Chefs Ghai, Mohan and Sethi all name Swati among their favorite restaurants. (There are two outlets, each, in Mumbai and Ahmedabad.) Dalamal Tower, Free Press Journal Marg, Nariman Point, 400021; +91 22 6666-6880; www.swatisnacks.com
This eclectic restaurant has many fans for its modern global cuisine. “They set a trend to do really, really good continental food,” says Ravinder Bhogal, who recommends zucchini spaghetti with almonds and Parmesan; and boneless chicken wings fashioned into cubes with with a ginger glaze. “I love the atmosphere, too,” she says. (I went recently, after the departure of chef Alex Sanchez to Americano, and enjoyed an heirloom-tomato and grilled-strawberry salad with Belper Knolle cheese, basil and sunflower seeds.) Awards include a Best Restaurant in India accolade from Time Out.Kalapesi Trust Building, Below Hotel Suba Palace, Apollo Bunder Marg, Colaba, 400039; +91 22 2282 5000; thetable.in
This small restaurant in the Fort area of south Mumbai is arguably the most famous in the city, particularly for its garlic butter crab. “When you mention Bombay to anyone, the restaurant they will talk about is Trishna,” says Karam Sethi, who likes it so much he went into partnership to open a Trishna in London. “It’s the freshest seafood from the Arabian sea cooked simply but full of flavor and punch,” he says. Other chefs agree: “It’s not chi-chi but everyone goes there and you’ll always see someone there you know,” says Ravinder Bhogal, who is a particular fan of the neer dosa. Surender Mohan says: “If you’re a seafood lover, eating out in south Mumbai would be incomplete without visiting Trishna.”Near Rhythm House, Kala Ghoda, 400053; +91 22 2270 3214.