I have always had a complicated relationship with vegetables. Growing up in a Bengali-Muslim household meant that my family dinner table was typically brimming with meat curries, kebabs and beef. Tons of it. And so, my palate warmed up to vegetarian food only once I started living on my own. As I see the world around me shift speedily towards a more plant-forward future, I find it imminent to acquaint myself with this type of food. And because I cannot yet try the all-vegan menu at 11 Madison Park—earlier this year, the famed New York-based restaurant announced that it was removing meat from the menu, making waves in the F&B industry—yet, I decided to do the next best thing. Have lunch at Mumbai's newest plant-based hotspot, Greenr Cafe.
A California-based brand, Greenr Cafe has been around in India since 2015, with outlets in NCR. And I can imagine how the rise in trends towards healthier foods and lifestyles (especially post-pandemic) may have accelerated their entry into Mumbai's foodscape. Of course, Bandra—a neighbourhood that is characterised by its hip, almond-milk-latte-sipping, Pilates-loving crowd—is a reasonable choice for a brand such as this one. Plus, it sits perfectly inside Bandra's serpentine lanes and beside cutesy little shops selling colourful knick-knacks.
Inside the cafe, the walls are white, with much of the paint peeling off, but unabashedly. Except for the ones that are embellished with giant, watercolour canvases, as if to say, 'We're laid back, cool, artsy and indie.'. Divided into four segments, the cafe has a winding pathway, leading you from one section to the other and dotted with simple teak tables and benches, with large, multi-hued cushions adding a splash of colour. There's also a shelf, doubling up as a display shop for jams, preserves and chocolates, all sourced from sustainable and local brands.
The menu is a combination of a range of nibbles, salads and bowls, alongside healthier versions of time-tested classics like pasta, pizza, burger and sandwiches. Now, I'll say it like it is: I am wary of imposter foods, which is any dish that's trying to be something that it is not; like a healthy pasta or pizza. So, I played it safe and started off with two smoothies—the acai berry bowl and a paradise mango. While the acai berry bowl was rich, velvety and yum, thanks to the crunch coming in from toasted oats and coconut, I found the mango paradise a tad too sickly-sweet. On the side, I had a portion each of the rosemary sweet potato wedges and the jackfruit carnitas. The wedges were a perfect guilt-free snack (if you don't consider carbs to be a crime, like me), as for the carnitas, the jackfruit itself was a piquant medley of pulled and tender jack. But it came with a generous dollop of purple-cabbage and carrot slaw that tilted the flavour profile way too much on the sweeter side than I'd prefer.
Then, there was the pumpkin and sage gigli, which is a Tuscan special pasta with ruffled edges that pairs well with a ragu or even, creamy bases. In its Greenr Cafe variant, though, it didn't quite manage to shine through, with a pumpkin-based sauce that rendered the whole dish mushy and again, sweet. Surprisingly, the one dish I was most sceptical about, turned out to be the winner: the Tuscan shroom ball pizza, which came with copious amounts of mushroom and oodles of earthiness and oomph. I knocked it down quickly, with my pomegranate mint juice, which is light and a truly apt drink of choice in Mumbai's scalding October heat. For desserts, I tried the coconut ice cream, which was nutty, creamy and sweet, but more credit here lies to Nomou, the brand this cafe sources their ice creams from, than the cafe itself.
All in all, what I gathered is that while the cafe is great to work out of, or catch up with a friend on a whistle-stop visit to the city, over a nibble and a juice, smoothie or coffee, I wouldn't put it down for a full-fledged meal. Perhaps more so, as someone still getting used to vegan food, I would much prefer a Sequel or Plural, both of which play either on truly-good produce or rely on the punchy flavours of Asian food, to handhold the uninitiated like myself. And that's that, I guess.
IFN paid for this meal and reviewed the restaurant anonymously.
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.