Despite being India?s fashion capital, Mumbai?s ?fine dining? culture leaves something to be desired. With only a few exceptions (The Table and Ellipsis come to mind), high end restaurants in India?s financial capital tend to be uninspired and profoundly mediocre with slow service, dull menus, and precious little to excite the tastebuds of diners who still think food trumps ambience when it comes to choosing a place to eat. Some people mistake this as evidence for a food scene lacking exuberance or quality, but they couldn?t be more wrong; dining at the city?s simplest canteens reveals a broad culinary world that will change your perception of what Indian food can mean. Here are some favorites:
Special Cutting, Main images: The Graphic Bee, Bootsnall
This unprepossessing landmark in the historic Fort district is beloved among true city residents but rarely visited by outsider. Simple dishes typical of Mumbai?s rapidly disappearing Irani Caf?s can still be sampled here at a style. Try the kheema pulao (scented rice with mincemeat) and, if you?re a little adventurous, bheja (brains) wrapped in fried egg.
Ali Chamber, N Master Road, GPO, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001, India, +91 22 2265 4181
Mohammed Ali Road, the main artery of Mumbai?s traditional Muslim district, is also a carnivore?s delight, and no restaurant along this raucous, crowded stretch is more celebrated than Noor Mohammedi (the M.F. Hussain sketch hanging over the cash machine, gifted by the artist himself, is proof positive). Try the nalli nihari, a richly spiced beef stew cooked overnight and topped with a generous helping bone marrow. Decadence rarely comes this cheap.
181, Wazir Building,Abdul Hakim Noor Mohammad Chowk, Bhendi Bazaar, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400003, India
This simple canteen is famous for its dosas, but is really just one of several great places around King?s Circle, Mumbai?s South Indian neighborhood. Caf? Mysore, around the corner, serves delicious idlis (steamed rice cakes) cooked in jackfruit leaves, while Shradha Bhavan, near the train station, offers up luscious upma, a subtly herbed rice dish usually eaten for breakfast.
Bhaudaji Rd, Kings Circle, Matunga, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400019, India, +91 22 2401 4419
Tucked away in Bandra East (not to be mistaken for the posh suburb across the highway that lends this canteen its name), this seafood restaurant serves spectacular renditions of Gomantak cuisine, a fiery, coconut-heavy style of cooking from the coast between Mumbai and Goa.
44/2179, Pranav Co Op Housing Society, Gandhi Nagar, Bandra East, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400051, India, +91 22 2645 3120