Category Archives: coffee shops

>The Seventh Day: JATC turns into EATC

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I got a bit emotional the other day when I saw that JATC had shut down. I poured my heart out at this post.

A week later the great but elusive @anaggh, ‘the ghost who tweets’, tweeted me about a food tasting as I headed to the gym. @musingsman was arranging it Didn’t take much to change my mind and I was off to what was once JATC. Turned out that it was opening as ‘Eat Around The Corner’. Cashing in on the old fan list though the name doesn’t really flow IMHO.

It was a secret tasting that evening. All hush hush. No photographs allowed. Mr Sanjay Narang was there and it was good to meet him. It was great talking to the the head Chef ,Chetan, a well travelled man who knew his food. I was relieved to see some of the old staff around. The look of the restaurant had changed to a more classy black and white theme. Gone were the chirpy sea blue and whites. The quirky posters were gone. Then I was shown that a few reproductions had remained for us loyalists. I was assured that waffles would be served too. And after a few attempts they managed to recreate the chocolate milk shake K so loved.

I caught up with some prominent tweeps @berges, @B50 and @Netra but soon left them and chatted with Chetan as he hand crafted a gouda, ham and honey mustard multi grain melt which would have sent my pa in law cartwheeling in joy. The breads are baked in house apparently. I tried the pepporoni pizza which had a nice mouth feel despite being out at the counter for a while. A moussaka which I liked for a change… some enchanting hummus and I am quite finicky about it. My first taste of guacamole and later a tantalising strawberry cheesecake. From what I understand, EATC builds on the JATC concept of soups, salads, entrees, pizzas, desserts, coffees and teas… but gets more sublime, aesthetic AND expensive.

We were supposed to keep quiet about this but then the formal preview happened today. Bunkin Banu had done her disappearing act so I swung by at EATC on the way back.

Quite a few tweeps were there. @  @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @I ended up piling up meats beside Mahatma Gandhi’s Grandson who seemed to be doing the same. Found out that you don’t turn into a prince if a former Miss India shakes your hand.

K joined me after that and made a beeline for the ice cream counter after some salads. We sat where our old table used to be. Or so we thought.  The layout has been changed after all. The ‘John’ is gone and there are two swank loos now. Those who have more than a decade of history at JATC, like we do, would know what this means.

The fresh highlights for me were the rather sharp chorizzo and the curried rice which as Chef Chetan explained was made with coconut milk, beans and Indian curry powder. The latter’s apparently used in the Caribbean too. The dish didn’t evoke much faith visually but looks were pleasantly deceptive here. The Jamaican stew was too Indian curry like for me though. The Illy cappuccino was quite robust. Rs 127 according to the menu board.

We wanted to go to EATC for breakfast on my birthday. Hadn’t opened then. Is opening in a couple of days now and we will head their waffles soon. Hope they keep to the standards of the tastings when they get down to business.

Disclaimer: This was not an anonymous review. Was carrying my BB and not the camera on the day when it was not ‘in camera’!

The strawberry cheesecake won over my heart

Good to see some familiar faces

The coffee was pretty good

Berges who is on a mission to make the world a quieter place

Was impressed by how fresh the pizzas tasted despite being out at the counter

Chef Chetan justifiably thumping his chest after a job well done

The chorizo was nice and sharp

I think this is roughly where K and I used to normally sit

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Filed under Bandra Bites, coffee shops, Conti, desserts

>Breakfast in a Box…Barista, Carter Road

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Soumik called me in the morning asking for brunch options. Given that K and I wake up at noon on weekends, breakfasts are brunches in any case for us. He was looking for dim sums but Mumbai doesn’t have any exclusive dimsum joints as far as I know.

K and I went to Candies for breakfast but it was too crowded. My resolve weakened and I decided to head for Crepe Station where we had a great breakfast last Sunday. Visions of omelets and waffles were smashed as we reached Carter Road and saw that there was no Crepe Station! It was getting renovated. Will be up on its feet on Monday we were told. Must be connected to the crackdown on  Bandra restaurants with illegal extensions that I read about in the papers.

We went to Open Affair next door which advertised breakfast. There was a couple sitting there. A Caucasian girl and a local guy. They had a half eaten plate of scrambled eggs on their table. We were told that breakfast orders ended at 11 am. It was 1215 so the couple must have been nursing their scrambled eggs for long.


So we headed to the new Barista at the Carter Road Khao Gulley (Food Street). A nice cosy place. One table with two seats where there were two ladies catching up over coffee. And a corner with bar seats which is where we sat. Nice, cosy and quiet. Unless you are the third group who comes in which case you won’t get a place. It was almost like being by yourself as I stretched my hands to to the counter and picked up our orders. The orange theme gave the shop a chirpy feel. The road in front gave a sense of space. The glass door and windows keeping us in a comfortable air conditioned cocoon, shielded from the dust outside.

I went for a cappuccino. Lavazza brew I think. The cappuccino at Barista is one of the the best in town. It tastes of coffee to start with unlike most cappuccinos around. Is served hot, again rare. And has a good, reassuring kick.

K went for a Sugar Free Delite Ice Tea. Tasted good. She got so excited that she bought two 200 ml tetrapacks in a sugar free rush to take home. They cost Rs 89 each. I told her it would be cheaper in a regular store. She panicked them in any case. We checked the printed price later. Rs 20!

The coffee and chocolate muffin was a disaster. Couldn’t break it with a spoon. Reminded me of the Pre – Indus valley civilisation brownie that I ate at the airport Coffee Day a couple of years back. This muffin was baked then too. Vintage though inedible.

K was quite happy with the mince chicken and hummus in pita that we ordered. The pita was just about ok if you ask me. The mince filling was creamy and pleasant. The hummus too subtle and understated for a hummus lover like me though. We actually had a kheema curry in the fridge at home. I told K that we could have bought bread and had a similar breakfast at home. “Spoken like a true housewife” she said.

But the great cappuccino in a quiet corner, ‘Far from the Madding (sic) Crowd’, made it all worth it.

Note: Crepe Station Bandra is shut this weekend

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Filed under Bandra Bites, Breakfasts, coffee shops

>Painting Fort Purple… Coffee Point, Yazdani Bakery with Purple Foodie

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With the star bakers of Yazdani. Pic: Shaheen Peerbhai

Shaheen, the Size Zero Baker of the Belgian chocolate cake fame, who writes on The Purple Foodie, DM’ed me on Twitter yesterday. She was at Bombay Store for a shoot.

We met up for lunch. I introduced her to my Fort. A place where banana leaf meals are a fact of life and not just the name of a restaurant. Our little baker wanted to eat light and ordered a Keralite fish curry and rice. She changed her rice order when she saw my banana leaf sadiya (vegetarian Keralite meal). Spoon in hand she soon dug in and clicked away too. And for those who believe in what K and my in laws do, the surmai fry at Deluxe had just a masala coating. No frigging batter.

We stepped out and I offered to take her to Yazdani Bakery. Then got waylaid as I stumbled upon a coffee shop which looked exactly like a chai ka dukan (streetside tea shop). Never saw something like that before. Even after about four months at Fort. My Fort never stops surprising me.

Of course I had to stop. Had a filter coffee. The owner looked a bit worried as we took photos but got into the spirit of things once assured that we wouldn’t report him to the authorities. He took over from his assistant and made the coffee himself. Gets the coffee from his gaon (village) at Karnataka apparently.

Shaheen clicked away with her fancy camera with detachable lenses. I looked in awe as she showed a camera function where things automatically looked blurred in the background. Made me felt like the Indian football team which made it to the World Cup in the 50s but couldn’t go as they didn’t have shoes.

The coffee was milky. Really strong and potent.

I then took our Size Zero Baker to Yazdani where Tirandaz Irani immediately allowed us into the baking zone. I felt honoured and at home at the same time. It felt great to see little Shaheen’s eyes light up when she saw the wood fire oven. She was mumbling something about getting a pizza and tossing it in. Kids of today. She marvelled at the speed at which the bakers were packing the dough for the bread. I was in a spell as I saw the Christmas cakes going into the oven. My favourite raisins kept in a pile. Little did I know that I would actually have one of those cakes, fresh from the oven, at our office lunch on the 24th. Soft, fresh, full of raisins doused with rum which made me feel wary about driving back.

The two of us created quite a storm apparently. The bakers thought we were from the media, ‘mediawalleh hain’ and started posing for us. Everyone wanted to get photographed by young Shaheen who obviously added a touch of purple to the monochromatic settings.

On the way out we chatted with Tirandaz who enacted out the ad film shot at Yazdani involving Boman Irani and a fat woman. Tirandaz caught hold of one one of his bakers and made him play Boman while he sportingly played the fat wife. This was a film Kainaz had worked on and I texted her.

I asked Tirandaz about the story food journalist Vikram Doctor told me. Apparently  Yazdani was the only bakery open this side of town during the riots of ’92. Vikram and a group of Samaritans used to collect pao (local bread) from Yazdani every morning and take it to people stuck in the riot affected area. Triandaz confirmed and then said “luckily those days are long gone.”

We spoke to Mr Rashid Irani, Tirandaz’s uncle who introduced himself as ‘Haroon Al Rashid’ to Shaheen after the Arabian Knights. Shaheen had obviously won many hearts specially when I introduced her as a baker. Mr Irani had some advice for our Purple Foodie. “Women shouldn’t be bakers, they should only bake babies”. (!)

The icing on the cake was when the gentleman sitting beside Mr Rashid, Mr Mehernoush from Canada, asked Shaheen for the name of her blog. He exclaimed in recognition when he heard ‘Purple Foodie’. Turned out that he loves to cook and that he reads Saheen’s blog. Now what are the chances of that?

And this is what Shaheen Tweeted about our afternoon at Fort.

@PurpleFoodie Shaheen

@ After a fabulous afternoon eating Keralite food and peeking into the Yazdani Bakery kitchen with @Finelychopped, I am truly #FortEnchanted

A coffee shop which looks like a chai ka dookan. Fort continues to surprise me
The coffee comes all the way from Karnataka
Show me a cappuccino machine which can beat this
The boss takes over after we brandish our camera
Filter Coffee
Now, does she look scary like a Municipal Ma’am?
The Christmas cakes go into the oven at Yazdani

I am a raisin fanatic…no wonder yazdani works for me

“Butter to my bread”
Christmas Cake straight out of the oven
Had the Yazdani Christmas Cake at the office Christmas lunch. Am still heady (BB pic)
I am sure she would have like to pack the oven and take it home
Baker meets bakers “they are so fast”
Tirandaz Irani plays the role of the fat wife as he re-enacts “the washing soap” ad shot at Yazdani with Boman Irani. K had worked on the film
Mr Rashid Irani  

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Filed under coffee shops, Fort, Mumbai highs, People, South Mumbai, Vintage Bombay

>Mr Moshe Shek I presume… the hunt for the perfect cookie in Mumbai

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Moshe’s Walnut Fudge Cookies

I am a bit under the weather thanks to the blizzard at Mumbai right now. The temperature dropped below twenty degrees. Centigrade! But then I am Bong. Genetically conditioned to be a hypochondriac.

Felt like a steaming cup of coffee and a good soft chocolate chip cookie to fix me up a couple of days back. Thought of my options. Most Mumbai coffee shops are non starters when it comes to cookies – Barista, CCD, Costa even Candies (!).

I like the chocolate chip cookie at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf but a kilometre seemed a bit too far to travel in this state. Went to Gloria Jean’s next door to home. Love the coffee there. Love to sit on the cosy sofas. I tried the chocolate chip cookies. Rock solid. Sushil Kumar, wrestling champ might have better luck, but I couldn’t muster the strength to break it.

Coffee Bean and Tea leaf Chocolate chip cookie: the only decent coffee shop cookie
Attempting to break the Gloria Jean’s chocolate chip cookie
Sushil Kumar the man who can actually break the Gloria Jean’s Cookie. Photo credit http://y .in.com/connect/images/profile/b_profile4/Sushil_Kumar_%28wrestler%29_300.jpg

 

Gloria Jean’s cookie: Rock solid. Excessively sweet

I still wanted good cookies. We don’t have a Cookie Man at Bandra. So K took me to the new Moshe’s at Bandra.

We were greeted at the cookie cupboard shelves by a thin, unassuming man who asked us what we wanted and then politely pointed us to the walnut fudge cookies of Moshe’s. Definitely the best cookies to be had for your money at Mumbai. I also ordered a humus from a waiter who passed by, Picked up an interesting looking olive foccaccia bread.

Then on a hunch asked another waiter “is that Moshe’s”. Turned out that the diminutive man who greeted us  in the beginning was Moshe Shek, celebrity Chef and Restaurateur, himself.

I went up to him and introduced myself as a fan of his cookies. (sounds weird doesn’t it). Moshe smiled and said that the cookies taste best when heated for 7 seconds in the micro. The best cookies according to him are the ones which do not use too many ingredients. We spoke about focaccia bread and Yazdani Bakery. Turned out that one of the current owners of Yazadani was Mr Shek’s classmate at Sophia’s. “Their stuff is good”, he said. I complimented him on the mezze platter at Moshe’s. I told him about how I was looking for the non pasta stuff when I came for lunch last time. Moshe said that they keep pastas specially for vegetarians but recommended the trout and chicken in figs (if I remember right) for me.

On the way out K and I tasted the chocolate dense cake. We let out a sigh of a very adult pleasure in unison. This was wicked stuff. You just take a bite, place a piece on your tongue and feel it slowly melt down. Sweet mother of God!

Came home and discovered that the olive foccaccia was as soft and adorable as it looked. The olives added a bite of cherubic mischief to it. This was great bread. The hummus? Perfect consistency and balance of taste… the sort of thing which tells you that being a desert nomad needn’t always be bad.

Ironically I wasn’t carrying my camera on both my trips to Moshe’s. Plus I just love photographing foccacia…love the textures and the balance of diverse colours…a photo shoot followed at home… you can see all the pics on this album on the Finely Chopped Facebook page.

And the cookies. Close your eyes and imagine the most sensuous tastes your have ever experienced. Let your imagination run wild. Think satin smooth. Think cream. Think textures. Think sweet. Think salt. Every forbidden pleasure you dreamt o as you grew up.

Imagine nibbling into the cookie. Feel it give in in your mouth. Making your every sense leap up in ecstasy as it trickles down, titillating you all the way down. Feel loved like you never have been.

Yes, that pretty much sums up the walnut fudge cookies of Moshe’s.

Moshe’s Olive foccaccia

Moshe’s Hummus

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Filed under Bandra Bites, coffee shops, desserts, Lebanese, Mumbai highs, Woes

>Waking up to smell the waffles …. Just Around The Corner, Bandra

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Coffee and waffles at Just Around the Corner used to be weekend staple for us.

Then the indifferent service and the birth of the new Candies near our house put paid to our trips to JATC. K missed her waffles. In the feather weight class, she could. Didn’t fit in with my faux health consciousness though. So the mutton puffs, mayo and cheese sandwiches of petite four of Candies became soul food for me.

We went to JATC after ages yesterday. We were looking for a place which served coffee, had good food AND a wash room. Suddenly remembered JATC. Thought would give it a try for old time’s sake.

K was thrilled to see that the waffle machine was there. Last time I went to JATC they told me that they had stopped making waffles as the machine had conked off. Plus it was past noon and JATC stops serving breakfast after a point.

“I want one waffle. I want waffle,” went the Missus. I was a bit flustered by her manic chants and looked for something for myself. I settled on an alu paratha. And then I remembered, we used to share a plate of waffles in our JATC Wonder Years. It was two to a plate after all. Except that the hysteric, ‘I want one waffle’, chants had distracted me. Seemed like I had over ordered.

The alu paratha was ready first. It looked hot and steaming and fresh. I took a bite. Passionate stuff. Fresh, bursting with flavours, hot, felt good in the tummy. K said she’d skip the paratha. I told her to try a bite as it was pretty good. Well, it was pretty good and the ‘one bite’ turned to many and I didn’t have to worry about over eating.

Coffee came next. JATC used to serve their own coffee earlier. Then Coffee Day which had a section outside. Now it was Costa. The Costa cappuccinos were robust and masculine as always. A tad under- heated. A blast of steam in the cappuccino machine and we were good.

The waffles arrived. Twenty minutes later as they told us in the beginning. I like my waffles crisp. K likes them soft. She had requested them to keep it soft. The waffles we got were sheer perfection in K’s world. Soft and formed perfectly. And yet firm enough to not put me off.

The sight of butter melting on the waffle. The sweetness of honey smearing across the sharp salty cut of butter is the stuff the nicest of dreams are made of. To be savoured as long as you can.

A breakfast which made K update her facebook status thus: I can walk to a place where butter melts on hot waffles and coffee shops know my name. That’s why I live in Bandra.”

Alu parathas – one bite turned into many
Where did my paratha go?
Sipping into a cup of Bandra
“I want one waffle, I want one waffle, I want a waffle”

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>And this is why I Blog… Filter Coffee with Young Madhu, Sundarshini, Bengaluru

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Madhu, the young hero of our story

I’d begun to warm up to South Indian filter coffee at Swagath at Fort, Mumbai. Then I had the kick in the butt filter coffee at MTR, Bengaluru. I was converted. I was a filter coffee kinda guy.

I wanted more coffee in the evening. We were at KH Road on work. I wanted coffee. Filter coffee. I spoke to our local colleagues. They conferred between themselves and then one said, “there is a shop. A bakery. Only standing. No sitting. Very good shop.”

The young boy who was manning the video equipment was commandeered to take me to the coffee shop. We walked down the road at a brisk pace. He seemed to be in his early teens at the most. We didn’t speak a common language. Our conversation was in mono-syllables. Barely managed to figure out that his name was ‘Madhu’. He looked at me and said “where?”. 

“Bombay”.

He nodded wisely as he chewed on this information.

We reached a petrol pump, took a left, we were on a road below a flyover. He pointed in front and said “Darshini”. We crossed the road and he took me into a specific section. It looked faintly reminiscent of South Indian fast food shops in Mumbai’s office districts. Except there was no chairs. Just some stands to keep your plate on. The cash counter was right at the front. You paid and got coupons. 8 Rs for a coffee. I picked two. Madhu realised, and said ‘no‘, I smiled and said, ‘its OK‘.

We went to the food counter inside and gave our coupons. The man at the counter took two stainless steel tumblers out. Poured an inch of coffee decoction into each. And then milk from a tumbler which he poured in like a fountain, like the Ganges falling on Lord Shiva’s head. A frothy cup which would be unmatched by any cappuccino Barista.

Photo credit: http://www.naturalmeditation.net/Design/shiva.html

Madhu poured a bit of the coffee into the small steel bowl in which the tumbler was placed. I followed his lead. The hot tumbler singed your fingers. The coffee calmed down once poured into the bowl. I took a sip. Moksha. The coffee perked you up, rejuvenated you. Opened your third eye. This was powerful stuff.

I took out my camera. Madhu grinned and said ‘photo’. I begun clicking the coffee from various angles. Madhu was bemused, “Bombay, no coffee?” 

The coffee was really good. I ordered one more. Madhu declined. “Badam milk” he explained as I looked at the coffee maker a white powder instead of the black decoction in another customer’s cup.

Coffees drunk, we walked back. I don’t know what struck me but I suddenly looked at Madhu and asked “cricket?”

And then the dam broke. I learnt that Madhu not only followed cricket but played it too. That he was a batsman. A big fan of  Tendulkar. He studied in National High School. Same school as former Indian captain, Banglaore’s very own Anil Kumble. That Kumble had come to Madhu’s school recently. He had signed an autograph for Madhu. On a cricket bat.

To think that we had exchanged all of four words before this.

We reached the hotel. Work done, I was leaving at night. I saw Madhu sitting on a chair at the corridor sipping a coffee in a gleaming white hotel cup. He saw me and ran towards me and showed me his mobile. There was an SMS. “India 211 for 6” (or something). We looked at each other, nodded and shrugged.

I walked towards the lift and waved goodbye. Madhu asked, “tomorrow?”.

I shook my head.

“No tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow Bombay”.

He did look a tad sad as we shook hands.

Suddenly the phrase, “Cricket is the religion of India”, didn’t seem like a cliche.

The right way to drink coffee
You can teach an old dog new tricks

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Filed under Bengaluru, coffee shops, Faraway foods, Finely Chopped Knights, South of the Vindhyas

>The sweetest coffee shop in the world…Cafe Coffee Day, Golf Green, Calcutta

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I first went to the Cafe Coffee Day at Golf Green when I was in Calcutta a month back. I took my grandparent’s there for a rare outing. The coffee shop folks were extremely helpful and made sure that the Octogenarian and Nonagenarian guests were comfortable and at home. Arrangements to seat them were carefully made. The menu card was explained. It was their fist visit to a new age coffee shop after all. The order were patiently taken. The food was particularly good. I have eaten at a number of CCDs all across and would know. I have rarely had such fresh sandwiches at a coffee shop. Grandpa loved his Cafe Mocha. The buzz of chocolate making him feel nine again. The sandwiches met his approval. Satiated his new TV cookery show led interest in food. Grandma sipped on her peach ice tea. Smiling like a school girl. Mom, a recent cappuccino fan approved of the coffee – hot and frothy.

A month later Kainaz and I returned to Calcutta. We stopped at CCD Golf Green during the long drive back from the airport. Their coffee machine was under maintenance and they asked us to wait. We prepared to leave. Disappointed. One look at our tired faces and they whipped up two robust, life defining cappuccinos for us.  The cappuccino met the very high standards of Kainaz the Cappuccino Queen.

I was surprised to see the big smile on the face of the Sounak, gentleman who took our order. I remembered him from our last visit. He took our order that time and made us feel at home.

Turned out that he too remembered me from my last visit. Remembered the table where we sat. Our exact orders. What dadu had liked it. And the number of photographs we took.

In case you are wondering, CCD was full that evening when I came with Dadu, Didu & Ma.

K and I made two more trips to CCD Golf Green. We didn’t have to specify our coffee preferences again. Half a sachet of brown sugar for me. One sugar free for K. Take away cups. Neatly labelled. Steaming hot. As K summed it up, “they make much nicer coffee at Calcutta”.

It’s good to be home.

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Filed under Calcutta reviews, coffee shops, People