From guilt-free treats to indulgent croissant sandwiches – this list is all you need while planning a comprehensive picnic menu
Winter in Mumbai is like a traffic light on the Pune Express Highway. Blink and you'll miss it. That makes the season even more coveted. And if you ask me, there's no better way to enjoy the brief, fleeting nip in the weather than to step out into the great outdoors. Especially after the year, we've had (no thanks to Covid-19).
This could explain why, we at IFN, decided to take that thought and give it shape as an outdoor picnic that we'll most likely think of very fondly in the years to come.
And so, on a delightfully sunny Thursday morning, we packed our laptops, got an in-house brat to steal her mother's expectedly fresh bedsheets (God knows what she dealt with for taking them back the way we left them), and packed the best picnic food you can lay your hands on in the city, to set-out for a self-made mini workstation of sorts.
Around the World Trade Centre in South Mumbai's Cuffe Parade, we dawdled our way through giant Colaba-Bandra-Seepz construction bulwarks to find ourselves inside a secret garden. There, we discussed big and small ideas, while debating over the saltiness of some cheese and the crunch of the croissants to end up with what we realised is going to be a very handy list for others, too. Just in case, you have as free-minded colleagues as us or are planning a picnic with friends and family, minus the brouhaha of cooking the food, there's really no better list to check than the one a bunch of food editors, writers and content creators have curated, right?
Kuckeliku Breakfast House
At the recently opened Kuckeliku Breakfast House, owned by Nuzha Ebrahim – who was earlier at the helm of The Fromagerie, a venture that focuses purely on grilled cheese – brekkie gets a new-age makeover. Choose from a selection of pancakes, waffles, toasts and croissant sandwiches, for your picnic spread. We picked the Avocado, spinach and gruyere and the Southern fried chicken croissant sandwiches, that came with flaky, buttery viennoiserie pastry and a plethora of flavours and textures. Time your delivery/pick-up well to ensure you get to enjoy the treat while they're still in mint condition.
Because our team of gourmands has a steady quorum of health watchers, our picnic outing would have been utterly incomplete without a dose of salad. For this, we roped in Yoga House, an idyllic spot in Bandra that caters to yogis and yoginis looking for a quick recluse. Their offerings are simple and prioritise nutrition over nosh, so it made for an intelligent addition to our menu. We tried the fig salad from their café and found a few team members chomping down on it first before they got to the indulgent treats. Try them out for your next sojourn, and who knows, you may even spot a Carbie Barbie sneaking in a healthy bite.
Based out of Andheri, Skinny Bakes is a home-based dessert venture, owned by Preeti Singh, that does justice by its motto – cake without the heartache. To clarify, SB's treats are guilt-free and devoid of nasties like refined sugar. Add to that a selection of seriously satisfying sweet treats and what you have is a clear winner. We tried the almond butter brownies, banana bread with choco chips and healthy Snicker and Twix slices, with all of it being devoured until the last morsel. During our picnic, one of our digital writers confided that she was amazed to find herself reaching out for a second serving, despite not being a fan of the banana bread.
Soufflé S'il Vous Plaît
Located in Churchgate, this diner is typically best suited for a leisurely lunch by oneself or a secret date night with someone you're clearly falling for. But a little digging cued us to select items from the menu that surprisingly work very well for a picnic basket, too. We found ourselves lathering generous amounts of sweet potato hummus on their avocado tartines, over and over again. While our digital strategist seemed to have discovered a new-found love for the duck prosciutto here. (We suspect the leftovers have travelled to Juhu along with her).
Started by Rajat Mendhi as a sit-down dining experience, Bombay Picnics – as the name suggests – is a no brainer when packing for a get-together outdoors. Mendhi's offerings combine nostalgic flavours with unique ingredients and a solid imagination to give you handy treats, for both sweet and savoury takers. We called for the stuffed sriracha glazed doughnuts with a chicken and mushroom filling, for meat-lovers and vegetarians, respectively. And came away in love with an experimental snack that combines a range of nuances into a (kind of) pocket-sized sandwich.
Salt Water Café
A long-time favourite among Mumbai's suburbians, Salt Water Café has been a go-to for many of us for quick working lunches and #TGIF nights with the girls. Their portable caramelised onion and goat cheese flatbread makes for a clever addition to your picnic menu, given that it's compact and yet, good enough to satisfy two appetites. We noticed our founder reaching out for one too many slices, which is understandable since we're aware of her affinity for caramelized onions. You can also pack their smoked salmon bagel or the ciabatta with herbed burrata, tomato, and pickled onions, in case flatbread is not your thing.
Suman Quazi is a Writer, Host and the Food Editor with India Food Network and Start2Bake. She believes that while food is cultural, societal and intellectual, it is also deeply personal and is keen in contributing towards a dialogue around food in India that's meaningful. Her work has appeared in leading Indian publications like Midday, Living Foodz, Zee Zest, Deccan Chronicle, 101India and DailyO.