The ultimate banana leaf lunch at Mani's. Photo: Shirin Mehrotra
At my previous workplace – where we worked Saturdays too – the only driving force that would lead me out of bed on weekend was the promise of a leisurely lunch atMani’s Lunch Home.My office was close to the now shuttered eatery in Matunga East, giving us an opportunity to make a picnic out of our working Saturdays. The promise of the joy of lapping upsambharandgheedoused rice would keep us going till the lunch hour. And, with the meal came the pleasant staff, always urging to take an extra serving of rice, always dousing our rice with that extra spoonful ofgheelike a doting mother, and constantly asking if we needed something else like a gracious host.
And then our office moved and the good days of afternoon siesta were over. But, the idea of having Mani’s around was still comforting till the 14 year old restaurant shut a few months ago owing to the redevelopment work. While we were still mourning the loss of another iconic eatery, the news of Mani’s opening in Chembur started circulating and all was well again. I was especially happy because Chembur also tends to be my new habitat now. I trekked to the newly-opened, spic and span restaurant near Chembur Railway Station, a long queue awaiting me; demonetisation clearly hasn’t demoralised the hungry diners. The upgraded interiors – with tiled walls and tinted glass partitions dampened my spirit, but then I saw the familiar faces of the old staff and suddenly felt at home. The lunch service had limited and unlimited meal, I go for my favourite -unlimited served on a banana leaf.
Mani's has now relocated to Chembur. Photo: Shirin Mehrotra
A plantain leaf is spread in front of me on the table and food starts coming in step by step – pickle, papad, avial, poriyal, sambar, rasam, curd and two mounds of rice. I try saying no to chapati but quietly get to eating it like an obedient child after hearing, “dus minute khada reh ke garam gram chapatti banaya. Kha lo, achcha hai” (the cook spent 10 minutes making hot chapatis for you. Eat it, it’s nice). I know I am at a familiar place. Midway through my meal a bowl of hot potato and onion sabzi is dunked on my plate, no explanations. This is what I like about Mani’s, the unpretentious hospitality with which they feed you. Their request to you to eat more borderlines on ordering and you don’t mind at all. It results in full belly and fuller soul. I finish my soulful afternoon with a piece of Mysore pak – soft, and loaded with ghee, and a huge Cheshire grin on my face. If you’re on a cash crunch thanks to demonetisation, Mani’s Lunch Home is accepting payment via Paytm.
Address: Komal Building, Road No. 2, Near Chembur Station, Chembur East
Time: 7am – 11pm
Price: Rs 80 for limited meal, Rs 150 for unlimited meal, Rs 20/piece for Mysore pak
The author is a freelance food and travel writer and shares her stories onFoodchants. She is on a perpetual quest to learn about the history of regional food.