Mumbai’s legendary dining institutions: Mohammed Ali Road – Part I
Are you plagued with idiotic idioms and ancient adages that never die to live another day? One such 80s saying that’s haunted the city by simply sticking around is the trite descriptor: Mumbai ‐ the city that never sleeps. Because in reality Mumbai shuts shop, stops service and is all but tucked into bed by 2 am. The only exception to the above we can think of is the stretch between Palton Road (behind CST) to Bhendi Bazaar, which is especially lit up like a sparkling emerald during the holy month of Ramzan. Our suggestion is you visit anytime apart from Eid unless you like crowds, soaring prices and dirty shoes.
HOTEL GRANT HOUSE
Feeding Mumbai since the 1950
No other eatery holds the mantel of, “Mumbai’s best kheema pao” as many times as the two kinds of coconut-spiked kheema you will find at Grant House or Police Canteen. Second generation brother-owners Shekhar and Shreedhar tell us that their father Laxman Varma’s story started 65 years ago when he went from a tea-and-errand boy to a snack shack owner inside Sir Robert Grant’s (Governor of Bombay, 1834) estate (now the Haj House). In the 50s their clientele was made up of freedom fighters, politicians, constabulary and police officers, who all ate eggs and vadas. The famous, fiery Maratha-meets-Andhra style kheema was introduced soon after; Shekhar suggests you try the bheja (brain) variation. Recent developments include moving into a 100-seater restaurant next door apart from menu additions like mixed seafood pulao and green chutney-coated surmai fry.
Hotel Grant House, near MRA Police Station, Palton Road, +91 2222617059. 7 am to 11 pm, closed on Sundays
Feeding Mumbai since 1929
Walk passed Grant House and Iran Like Restaurant, take the second right and somewhere between the mountains of material, opposite Musafir Khana, you’ll find an independent structure marked Radio Restaurant on a sun-faded signage. Step into the rabbit hole ― the barbecue/storage area ― and come out into the cavernous, one-room Radio for your fill of cumin-y crisp sheekh kebabs, murg Taliban (chicken in a cashew-rich gravy) and melt-in-mouth bheja fry, tenderised with a tomato gravy. “In the 30s there was Radio Bakery, Talkies and Restaurant. Today… only we survive.” recalls one of the partners. FYI, the rough Radio with its Family Rooms, creaky ceiling fans, moody lighting, wood fire kitchen, list of rules and time-distressed art deco façade was a yesteryear favourite with Mumbai’s underworld fraternity.
Radio Restaurant, 10 Musafir Khana, off Palton Road, +91 2233151900. 6 am to 12 am
Feeding Mumbai since 1979
Contrary to popular belief, this red and white air-conditioned restaurant behind Minara Masjid, did indeed start out and still is the neighbourhood Indian-Chinese eatery for schezwan fried rice and chicken Manchurian. In fact, it wasn’t till the late 90s that the word got out: Chinese-n Grill also makes a few Mughlai (chicken and mutton gravies), Delhi (nalli nihari), Minara (offals) and Ramzan (haleem, mutton chap etc) preparations. The clear, must-order, winner ― approved by every food writer, restaurant critic and foodie blogger in India ― is their slippery as silk, nalli nihari. Start by ceremonially gathering ginger, chillies and lime in your plate and then dive into the bucket armed with roomali or tandoori roti. We’re guessing you’ll save their hot seller, the Shanghai Sizzler for another night?
Chinese-n Grill, 122/132, Barkat Manzil, near Minara Masjid, Mohammed Ali Road, +91 2223475621. 12 pm to 2 pm and 6 pm to 12 am
Feeding Mumbai since 1923
Feeding hoards isn’t new to the third generation Hakim duo that man Bhendi Bazaar’s most beloved eatery. Aside from a few changes (although the upstairs section is still dank and dingy) nothing here has changed much. The twice-cooked shammi kebabs are still as succulent, the desi dal still comes with a finger deep layer of ghee and the first nalli nihari (try the beef version) of the day is still served at 6 am. Fans span artists like the late M F Husain (his famous wall sketch has recently been framed), musicians like Zakir Hussain and actors like Sanjay Dutt ― who even contributed a khada (full spices) chicken recipe that they’ve coined Chicken Sanju Baba, in homage. Also try the peppercorn dotted white chicken biryani and the butter drenched chicken Hakimi.
Noor Mohammadi, 179, Wazir Building, Abdul Hakim Chowk, Bhendi Bazaar, +91 2223456008. 6 am to 1.30 am
Feeding Mumbai since 1970
It’s a little hard to believe that over 10,000 feet of community tables, a/c and non a/c sections, banquet halls, private dining areas, a bakery, a sweets counter and even an indoor fountain lie behind the iconic fork, plate and spoon signage of Shalimar. Grand, if you consider their modest 1950 juice centre beginnings which owner Zainuddin Shaikh turned into a fast food joint by 1970. Today, the seemingly endless eatery ― it now seats over 500 ― is a Mughlai food haven run by Shaikh’s grandson Omaer. Try the raan masala, a whole leg of lamb, the dum pukht biryani cooked on coal and the Shalimar Special, a reduced milk, khoya and basil seed, falooda. If you can commit to a longer relationship, they also offer daily specials; Monday for mutton chop, Tuesday for mutton khichda etc.
Shalimar, Vazir Building, Bhendi Bazaar, Byculla, +91 2223456630. 8 am to 2 am