Mumbainet

Mumbai’s legendary dining institutions: Colaba

Mumbai Food Institutions Part 1


Considering Colaba dates back to 1675 should it then come as any surprises that this few kilometres large area holds some of Mumbai’s most legendary ― most of which pre-date India’s Independence ― dining institutions? This week, we cover all the iconic Causeway eateries that you should breakfast, lunch and dinner, spanning Mughal, café, Cantonese and Goan eats.

BAGDADI
Feeding Mumbai for 125(+) years
Before there was Bademiya and Gokul, there was Bagdadi ― a simple, value for money eatery that serves up Mughlai curries with rotis (called Kuboos or Khubz, here) that are larger than an average trucks’ steering wheel. This family-run restaurant is manned by a third generation owner but the menu has not changed since the first time Shafiq Ahmed’s grandfather pulled up Bagdadis shutters, over 125 years ago. Today, people still flock here for their cheap and cheery chicken fry, mutton dal, paya, khichda and dhabba gosht, which is all served on plastic plates, placed on a sticky, community-bench style table.

Bagdadi, 11, Tulloch Road, behind Taj Mahal Hotel, Colaba, +91 22 22028027. 7 am to 12.30 pm

CAFÉ MONDEGAR
Feeding Mumbai since 1932
If you had only one day in Mumbai then this jukebox pumping, Goan comic strip-lined (by Mario Miranda), chilled beer serving café that regulars refer to as Mondy’s, would be our go-to recommendation. In our opinion, it’s a little pricey, perpetually packed ― elbow banging an all ― and seven kinds of noisy… so basically, it’s ‘Bombay’ in a bar. And what do all the tourists, college truants, office bunkers and freelancers like to nibble on between sips of beer and wine? A portion of cheese chilli toast followed by a tummy-lining chicken stroganoff.

Café Mondegar, 5-A, Metro House, Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg, near Regal Cinema, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, +91 22 2202 0591. 7 am to 12 am.

LEOPOLD CAFÉ
Feeding Mumbai since 1871
How does an erstwhile wholesale oil store and pharmacy turn into one of the most popular meeting-and-eating spots on the Causeway? By serving very good North Indian and Chinese preparations with a side of history, how else? Leo’s to the locals, this Irani establishment is divided into a ground floor al freco space and an enclosed bar on the mezzanine. To sum up, a few things that keep us going back include the rustic fittings and fixtures, mostly friendly but often rude wait staff, chilled beer served in tall towers, the bullet riddled walls (circa 2008s terrorist attacks) that the owners refuse to conceal and finally, their beautiful butter chicken and possibly Mumbai’s best beef chili fry.

Leopold Cafe, S.B. Singh Road, Colaba Causeway, Colaba, + 91 022 22828185. 7.30 am to midnight

LING’S PAVILION
Feeding Mumbai since 1994
If you happen to drop the name Baba Ling to any well-heeled Mumbaikar, chances are you’ll be greeted with 100 megawatt grin. Mr. Ling, you see, has long ― his father opened Colaba’s first Chinese eatery, Nanking back in the 1945 ― been plying the all the noodle-loving residents with their weekly fix of something Cantonese. Truth be told, we’ve been eating here for 30 years and we can safely say that we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of what Baba and his team of chefs can serve. Our two fail-safe off-and-on the menu we would be the steamed grouper and the spare ribs.

Ling’s Pavilion, 18, MB Marg, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, + 91 22 22850023. 12 noon to 11.30 pm

NEW MARTIN HOTEL
Feeding Mumbai since the 1940s
Early lunch spiked with nostalgia seekers, this no-frills, blink-and-miss, serious eatery (eat, pay and leave) is the sort of place where nothing changes. They always have pork on the menu, uncle D’Souza is always at the cash counter and the two waiters are always a little hassled-looking, what with the swinging between the service window and the five formica topped tables, this quaint Goan restaurant can hold. Things that feature on our must-try list include beef steak with onion fry, Goa sausage chili fry, mutton cutlets, fish curry and chicken vindaloo.

New Martin Hotel, Glamour House, near Strand Cinema, Colaba, +91 22 2202 9606. 11.30 am to 3 pm and 6.30 to 9.30pm

OLYMPIA COFFEE HOUSE
Feeding Mumbai for over a 100 years
If you’re looking for a ‘local’ breakfast option, we highly recommend you go to Olympia. These folks have been serving up kheema pav on porcelain plates atop round Irani marble-top tables for everyone from us to our grandfathers, and the taxi driver that ferried us there, for over a century. This minced mutton breaky packs in all the essential food groups: meat, veggies and starch, so you can look forward to sampling a lightly spiced ― by Indian spice standards ― version of the local Mumbaikars breakfast staple. Lunch-goers, ask for the ‘Kutchi biryani’ and mutton masala fry and wash that down with a glass of chaas (buttermilk).

Olympia Coffee House, Rahim Mansion, 1 SB Singh Rd, Colaba, +91 22 2202 1043 Open 7am-midnight

Photo Credit: Jharna Thakkar

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After attending culinary school Jharna Thakkar baked brownies for Riyaaz Amlani's Mocha and tossed pasta for Rahul Akerkar's Indigo before tucking away her whites to take on the keyboard as an F&B reporter/editor at the Indian Express, Hindustan Times, Vogue, Conde Nast Traveller, Time Out India and the Times of India. She currently portions her time into eating, drinking, travelling, inventing marinades for Sunday BBQs and freelance writing.

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