Mumbai’s legendary dining institutions: Fort
If the Kalbadevi, Bhuleshwar and Zaveri Bazaar cross-section is referred to as Mumbai’s oldest thali- strip then Fort can lay claim to housing the largest congregation of Mangalorean and Maharashtrian (Gomantak) seafood lunch homes apart from the last few, antiquated Irani eating establishments. Seekers of the days fresh catch should try Ankur, Apoorva or Mahesh Lunch Home, especially if Trishna if full. Fans of chicken farcha, sali boti and caramel custard, Fort makes up your Parsi munchies mecca.
Feeding Mumbai since 1919
We’ve never been able to put to pen just why some of us meat-loving locals keep going back to this ancient Irani Café, so here’s a list of things we adore about it instead: their light-as-air bread, all the grandfather clocks, the multiple bulb-lit baked goods cupboard, the mezzanine floor, the long ceiling fans, waiters like Hassan chacha ― who took over the service salver from his father before him ― orange squash in upcycled bottles, chicken pattice (Rs 50), mutton cutlet with gravy and pav (Rs 280) and finally, its proximity to three theatres. Some say their kheema, sali boti, patra ni machi, biryani, white Afghani chicken and caramel custard is a bit of a hit-and-miss but we’ll leave the try-and-tell to you.
Café Excelsior, 23, AK Nayak Marg, Opposite New Excelsior Cinema, Fort, +9122 22074543. 8 am to 11 pm
Feeding Mumbai since 1933
As pairings go, today’s salt and caramel was yesterday’s beer and kheema. And our fathers and grandfathers still swear by Military when it comes to their cold pilsner-and-spiced mutton mince fix. That this VFM Parsi café also makes dhansak, biryani and caramel custard, is just the cheery on this vintage, mirror and wood-lined, cake. Apart from the quintessential glass baked goods cupboards, chequered table clothes, handwritten sign boards and cute Parsi couples silently eating sali boti, what we love most about this no-frills eatery is their nearly 80-year-old owner Behram Khosravi, who can been seen greeting the lawyers, brokers and locals or cutting bread, opening beer bottles and just being helpful, every day.
Café Military, Ali Chamber, Tamrind Lane, Fort, +9122 22654181. 8.30 am to 9.30 pm, closed on Sundays
Feeding Mumbai since 1921
This bright, airy and nicely spruced-up Irani eatery is a favourite with the Cuffe Parade to Marine Lines locals, college kids, first dates and beer-drinking office-going truants. But for children of the 80s, this nostalgia-invoking spot brings back memories of the south Bombay Sunday routine starting with Tibbs Frankie at Aga Brothers (closed in 2015), horse-riding at Bandstand followed by dinner at Café Universal. As kids, we always ordered the Scotch broth soup and beef burger, the folks would have a frosted glass of beer and a sizzler or mutton dhansak. These days, the beef has been replaced with buff but this iconic 95-year-old teak beams bearing, retro yellow restaurant and bar serves up everything from Indian-Chinese to tandoori.
Café Universal, 299, Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Fort, +9122 22613985. 9.30 am to 11.30 pm
Feeding Mumbai since 1985
Fort’s tiny 55-seater, new kid on the Irani restaurant block has a massive fan-following of the non-Pasri kind. Here, regulars arrive daily to tuck in to lunch specials ― Parsi curry chaval on Tuesday, Railway mutton on Wednesday, kichdi kheema papad on Thursday, pork gunpowder on Friday, pulav dal on Saturday (their best-seller) and saas ni machi on Sunday ― or just for a quick akuri breakfast (Rs 90). The dhansak (available in mutton, chicken and veg) with brown rice is everybody’s favourite order but if you want to try something usual, ask for the slow-cooked and overnight marinated atheli margi (chicken; Rs 150) and wash it down with raspberry soda.
Ideal Corner, 12 F/G, Hornby View, Gunbow Street, Fort, +9122 22621930. 12 pm to 3.30 pm and 5.30 pm to 10.45 pm, closed on Mondays
Feeding Mumbai for over a 170 years
No one in the city can tell you exactly how old this puri-house is, not even the 6th generation owners. We know because we asked the Sharma’s. Here’s what we do know, Pancham Mangalsingh Sharma opened a street-side shack serving only puri bhaji approximately 170-odd years ago, even before the landmark (Victoria Terminus now CST) it now stands across was built. The Agra puriwala quickly became renowned for serving consistently great puri bhaji, which made for the perfect breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. Of the three kinds of puffed puris they serve today, the best is still the sada or plain, thick-ish fried wheat bread followed by the masala made with spiced urad dal. To dip ask for a katori of their classic aloo bhopla, a potato and pumpkin curry or the chole. Finish, with a glass of chaas (salted butter milk).
Pancham Puriwala 8-10, Perin Nariman Street, Fort, +91 9004188052. 8 am to 12 am