Eating My Way Across Corporate Mumbai
Poha and sukha bhel near Hallmark Building at Bandra East. Photos: Kalyan Karmakar
After a nostalgic feature on the places I used to eat at during my Presidency College days in Kolkata, I thought a nice follow-up would be about the eateries I used to frequent during my early days in Mumbai.
I moved to Mumbai in 1997, and my job took me to an ad agency and various market research offices. As I begin to put down the list, I realise that some of the places I used to go to have shut down. However, the memories of those meals linger on.
Here are some places I used to visit chronologically, and as per the locations that I worked in.
Mhatre Pen Building, Dadar West: I worked here in two stints and there were no decent eating joints nearby during those days. There was a grimy place called Sharda that was infamous for lurid, techni-coloured, oil slicked vegetarian gravies. It has now become a Jai Hind outlet. During my first stint at the office, we used to call in from Oven Fresh at Shivaji Park. In the late 90s, the chicken salad sandwiches, egg salad sandwiches and the chicken wings of Oven Fresh seemed pretty novel. By the time I returned to this office, the place turned vegetarian and I never called for food from there again. But, it remained a popular place for us to order birthday and farewell cakes from. The puri bhaji on Thursday mornings at the office canteen was the only 'office canteen dish' I enjoyed over my years of working at various offices in the city.
Prawns fry at Highway Gomantak. Photo: Kalyan Karmakar
Nirmal Building, Nariman Point: I worked here in an ad agency, and there were a lot of lunch options close by. Across the road on the pavement there used to be a stall making pav bhaji (my favourite of the lot) during lunch time, a dosa stall where getting a dosa would take ages owing to a long queue, and Rajesh’s juice stall, which was famous for mango milk shakes in summer. All these street food joints have disappeared after Nariman Point was spruced up. Status was pretty popular too where the annexe outside the restaurant served dosas and korma parathas with unlimited sambar and chutney. Then there was a shack called Bay Bites by the sea. It was run by the same Parsi couple that ran Cafe Churchill in Colaba. They had a daily menu. The oddly-named Parsi wedding dish, Kashmiri mutton pulao dal was my favourite here. There was a colleague from my office with whom I used to go to Bay Bites every afternoon. She wouldn’t have lunch, but would give me company while I had mine. There was also a sandwich wala opposite our office. On days when both of us would reach office at the same time, we would pick Cheese Chilli Alu toasts before heading to work. Eventually the two of us got married and moved onto other jobs and Bay Bites shut down.
Voltas House, Parel: There used to be a restaurant called New Sardar outside the office building. The loquacious owner, a Mangalorean, was very proud of his version of the Maharashtrian dish, misal pav. It had won an award in a local newspaper you see. I would often call for the misal pav to office and eat it at my desk for brunch. The owner was quite a visionary as he would send the order in a tiffin box with individual carriers, which made it quite easy to eat. This too shut down.
Dosa at Swagath, Fort. Photo: Kalyan Karmakar
Laxmi Building, Fort: This is where I ate some of the best food during my working days. There were so many restaurants close by offering tasty and affordable food that I never carried lunch from home. My favourite was Ideal Corner where I would go for Parsi food at least once a week. Other favourite haunts were Hotel Deluxe for Kerala food, and Apurva for Mangalorean food. Then there was Swagath where I would go for a dosa and filter kaapi, and Yazdani for bun maska and chai before embarking on the one and a half hour long drive back home. All these eateries became the base for the food walks I later conducted at Fort.
HDL Building, Andheri East: A colleague told me about a Malvani (coastal Maharashtrian) restaurant opposite the Buta College close by. I soon became quite a fan of the tiny, non-air conditioned restaurant, Malvani Aswad. Its owner would run from table to table taking orders during lunch time. I used to go to Malvani Aswad at least once a week while working here. My favourite thing to eat was the Pomfret fry thali. This was the most expensive dish here as they served a reasonably big-sized pomfret. Other favourites were the prawn masala and sukha mutton thalis, which were a lot cheaper.
Hallmark Building, Bandra East: Whenever I come here, a visit to the poha stall run by Mr Kamble for brunch is a must. If the poha is over, I go to the Sai Balaji stall on the opposite side for piping hot vadas and freshly-steamed idlis. My favourite lunch places are Sadichha and Highway Gomantak for the seafood thalis. For something less indulgent, and lighter on the tummy, I go to Aram for their vegetarian Gujarati thalis. In the evenings, I sometimes go to Sri Krishna for vada pav and, when in a more disciplined mood, for sukha bhel at Maharashtra Bhel.
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