Category Archives: Colaba Mon Ami

>Steaks at Colaba

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Hi Kalyan,


This is S… have been reading your blog for the past one and a half years, signing off comments as esskay.


Needed your take on where to get the best beef steak for dinner in Colaba? My friends and me don’t mind the quaint old settings but was wondering if New Martin’s corner will be open for dinner or no. Since, the steak on your blog from there looked scrumptious…

Or, should we stick to Mondy’s? Leopold will be very crowded, I guess. What about Cafe Churchill. Neither of us have actually tried these places out so we don’t have any reference to fall back on.
 
Please do help …
 
Well I love the steaks at Martins. Partly for the fried onions. Deep fried meat. How wrong can you go with that? They are open at night though chances of getting steaks post 8.45 pm is a bit less.

The food at Leopolds is very iffy.

If steak is your thing then Mondys is a very very good bet. I was taken there by a Mondys steak lover. Turned out that the young lady new her meat.

Churchill is a lovely old school conti place. We are fans of the sausage in firecracker sauce and prawn Newberg pasta. But everything we have had there has been good
 
Cheers
 
K

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Filed under Colaba Mon Ami, Dear Uncle Knife, South Mumbai

>Oriental Indulgence. Golden Dragon, The Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai

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We were at a loss on where to close my birthday eating with. I was treating but K left the choice of place and cuisine to me. Sancho’s where we ate lunch had set a really high standard. Mexican cuisine was reasonably new to my palate. I wanted more. Let this birthday be a day of discoveries. There were a couple of French restaurants/ cafes which have opened in Mumbai recently. The feedback on them ranged from ambivalent to vitriolic after I asked around on twitter. Then K pointed me to my favourite cuisine. Chinese. She suggested the hallowed Golden Dragon of the Taj. Seemed like a good choice. Plus Ranjit, who had carefully hand picked a birthday gift hamper of the choicest condiments, said that Golden Dragon is good on Sichuan cuisine. While Mumbai is big on red coloured dishes called Schezwan, you can rarely get authentic Sichuan pepper based dishes outside of a five star here. We were on a relaxed budget that night.
We took a cab and went as we were told there was no valet parking. Unlike the ITC Grand Maratha or Thai Pavilion (Amba’s anniversary story), you don’t get a cake or free dessert at the Golden Dragon even if you suggestively say ‘birthday’ while booking. No free cabbage or khimchi either and we were a bit hungry.
The restaurant was brightly lit and the food blogger in me got excited. Good Photos. Most high end places at Mumbai are so dark. Almost as if they are embarrassed of the food they serve. No such problems here. The decor was reminiscent of a dining room of cruises in Agatha Christie murder movies. Grand, yet understated. Not too big. Sitting at a table across was a Parsi family who seemed quite at home here.


K chose a mocktail which was described as a ‘melted tiramisu’. She completely agreed with this. Made it a point to tell me that I should write that she disagreed with my description of ‘like cold coffee’. She knocked over a bit of her drink in her excitement. The folks at the Golden Dragon immediately replenished it. My Long Island Ice Tea was well made too.
K sips on her tiramisu

They were at their Candies
We had a fairly experienced gentleman named Elvis taking our order. He had a point of view on things. He rejected my order of ‘char siew’. Said it would be too sweet unless we wanted it that way. Thankfully approved of our next option. Sliced pork, bacon and string beans. This was a fantastic dish. The pork had a good lineage. The ham tender and yet salty like soft hearted sailor. The string beans extremely fresh and bouncy. We quite enjoyed the crunchy beans and didn’t fish it out as we normally do with vegetables that come with meat. An interesting balance of the innocence of greens and the sins of red meat. Almost like a Playboy Centrefold in a Nun’s habit.
I voluntarily finished the greens
 
Our other order of lobsters in pickle with ginger was poetic to say the least. The lobsters were demure and tender and were married harmoniously to the sharp and passionate pickles and ginger. An amazing combination of very pleasant, succulent bites punctuated by the odd zest of pickles. Both dishes were stellar and rose to the occasion.
Lobsters
 
We had this with a Sichuan vegetable noodles that Elvis recommended. This was off the menu. He had a strong point of view on this. I had visions of ghastly red noodles in my mind but went ahead with his recommendation. My first reaction when the noodles came was “it looks like something I would have cooked”. And I mean this is as a compliment. There was a certain fluffy airiness about the noodles which made you fall in love with them.Then there were the bites of fresh fiery Sichuan peppers which made you realised that this cherubic dish had a few pranks up its sleeve.
The food was really grand up to this point. My only grouse was that they got the dishes  immediately after the drinks which was a bit sad. What if we didn’t want to run out in twenty minutes after paying a good part of a cost of a night’s stay at the hotel? They should have at least asked if wanted the food along with the drinks instead of plonking it down all together.
The noodles wasn’t enough and I thought I’d go for a fried rice. They had burnt garlic rice and a rice with prawns, roast pork, chicken. After much silent callisthenics I managed to attract a waiter. Not Elvis though. This guy refused to give me a burnt garlic rice with roast pork. Apparently their chefs are too mechanised to be able to customise.  Which, for a very expensive place, was difficult to digest. Especially for someone who often thinks on his feet as he cooks. I went for an egg fried rice which was quite ordinary, not well flavoured and didn’t even seem very authentic to me. The rice was more Mr Chows than Taj IMHO.

Elvis later came and told us that we should have gone for the full blown pork, prawn ,chicken rice. Probably would have if he was taking our order and not the Storm Trooper.

Still, I must say that we ate a really grand dinner. Left me a lot happier than our meals at San Qi at Four Seasons and the one at the China House, Chinese place at the Santa Cruz Hyatt, did. And I was glad that K, who is not too fond of Chinese, or Mexican, liked both the meals. I was treating after all.
The price? I won’t mention that here as that would surely lead to an income tax raid at my place. Let’s say that it cost me as much as two night’s stay at a four star at Penang cost me. Remember, we didn’t drink too much. No desserts. No starters. But then you can’t expect ‘cheap’ when you go to THE Taj.

So would I prefer the Golden Dragon to a couple of nights at Penang and its Cafe 78? You should know me well enough by now.

Dreaming of the Orient. Of Georgetown. Of Cafe 78

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Filed under Colaba Mon Ami, Fine dining, Mumbai highs, Oriental, South Mumbai, Woes

>The Chinese are coming…. Ling’s Pavillion, Colaba

>“If I was to ever live in town then I would order food from Ling’s everyday”… Mrs Knife, a proclaimed non fan of Indian Chinese food

PS: I’ve been there twice more since I wrote the post. Loved each meal. Stellar discoveries since then have been chilli garlic king prawns, roast pork belly, Chinese ‘greens’ with prawns, pork spare ribs in honey pepper sauce, rince with mince meat with egg cracked on them at the table. Just returned from a visit with the Finely Chopped Knights whom I met after ages and Manisha whom I am eternally grateful to for introducing me to Ling’s

Chinese greens: BB pic
Roast Pork belly: BB pic
Meeting the original Knights after too long
Master Class(Photo credit: M)

 

If I remember my Tagore right there was a line in Bengali which went ‘Jaha chai taha pai, jaha pai taha chai na’. Or was it a line from a Bengali film? It translates as ‘I get what I want. I don’t want what I get’. So there is my food partner in crime, Ipsita, now at KL pining for the Hakka Noodles of Indian Chinese restaurants. And here I am sitting at Mumbai constantly looking out for ‘real Chinese’. The Chinese which KL lovers and my friends, Arindam and Sasha, introduced me to. And the Kharbanda‘s of Petaling Jaya led me further into. At least I got lucky recently.

I’d known of Ling’s Pavillion, Colaba, right from my early days at Mumbai. Times spent frolicking at Colaba. When I fell in love with Mumbai. Ling’s Pavillion seemed like an expensive place from outside and we never really went in. That’s how things were for more than ten years. Colaba became more an ‘outing’ as my life centred around the suburbs and Mill Lands of Mumbai. Reflecting the shift in the city’s fortunes. Then my short posting at Fort at South Mumbai began. Colaba bounced back into my life. As did Ling’s. Folks wrote in praising it. MumbaiCentral told me about its authentic Chinese. About how the best thing to do there is to ‘order outside of the menu. To ask the owners about what to order. Then Sassy Fork wrote about it. And soon I found myself at Ling’s one afternoon with Sassy Fork and her cousin Archie. Sassy Fork writes a food blog and prefers to remain anonymous. A wonderful soul whom you won’t get to see here I am afraid.

I walked into the cavernous, old school, dimly lit (pardon the photos) restaurant and joined the two lovely ladies in the upper section. Pleasantries exchanged it was time to order. Sassy Fork lobbied for the roast pork. Archie, on hearing ‘pork’, heaved a sigh of relief. “Must be an authentic Chinese restaurant then”. They looked at me to place the order. I put my hands up and requested Sassy Fork to order her favourites. Which is when she pointed me towards a chubby gentleman by the door, Baba, the owner.

I went up to him and explained that I liked ‘original’ Chinese and that we ate pork too. He nodded, called the waiter and scribbled something on a page and got onto the cell phone. Soon hoards of Chinese entered the restaurant. They looked like business delegates in Mumbai. Apparently in search of ‘home food’. There was complete pandemonium as the lazy afternoon turned into a bee hive of activity. The Chinese were seated. Earnest Chinese tour coordinators running from table to table. Waiters were very busy. The three of us sat cooling our heels waiting for the food to come. The Chinese visitors ate away with looks of grim and determined concentration. No photographs taken unlike the Japanese. I made a mental note to be more tolerant of colleagues who make a beeline for daal and bhindi masala on office tours abroad during those pre-recession days.

The first course finally arrived. After what must have been a very Long March. I asked the waiter what the dish was. Kung Pao prawns. Come again? That sounded as American as it gets! We were hungry and tore into the dish. It was similar to Kung Pao dishes in other restaurants. The prawns were so fresh that they almost waved at us. There was a strong acidic sour taste which tempered the sweetness of the dish. That seemed different. Were we clutching at straws? Was the food going to be any different at Ling’s?

The next dish looked painfully familiar and out of place in a Chinese restaurant. When asked we were told that these were fried Bombay Duck. Looked like they were straight out of a local Gomantak seafood restaurant. We bit into it. Were there treasures hidden inside? The disappointment swelled up. This was good old Bombay Duck in an all too familiar batter. Without the masala. As Archie summed it up, it was neither Gomantak nor Chinese.

Chest beating, remorse and recrimination followed. We wondered whether we had been a bit foolhardy in placing ourselves in Baba’s hands. Sassy Fork had had enough. She smiled though I was pretty sure that  I wouldn’t want to me at the receiving end of the maelstrom of emotions that the smile covered. She called for a waiter and ordered a roast pork.

The rest of the order followed. Dawn broke after the depths of night. Baba’s offerings headed our way. Our lunch began to look up.

There was Chinese omelet or Foo Yong. Delicately flavoured, well beaten eggs with the resounding and reassuring crunch of shredded dried Chinese vegetables. Biting into it was like sinking into a feather mattress with someone occasionally tickling you and making you giggle with childish joy. Yes, this was different.

Then capsicum stuffed with pork. Minced pork elegantly and primly perched on a diced bell pepper. Reminiscent of a young Scarlett O’Hara getting ready for a formal dance at the plantation next door. Sizzling across the very tender minced pork were the roaring flavours of capsicum. Meat and greens waltzing their way together down your palette. This was no ‘Manchurian Chicken’.

And then came what they called ‘beef stew’. Extremely tender slices of beef which flapped like a baby elephant’s ears. Served in a thick caramelised sauce, served in a clay pot. It awakened memories of my last trip to Malaysia. The name of the dish eluded me. But I was transported to a food court at Petaling Jaya with Arindam, Sasha and Soumik with each mouthful. I smiled dreamily as I bit into oodles of happy memories. A later search on the blog told me that me that the dish was called Bah Ku Tea. Arindam’s favourite from the Sector 17 food court at Petaling Jaya.

The roast pork was as tender as Sassy Fork promised. It’s taste sweet, typical of many Chinese dishes of the Far East.  With steamed, even though long grained rice, I finally got my long sought after Chinese meal. Move over Mainland China. This is the real Mc Coy.

On the way out we spoke to the owners. First to the Mr Ling, the thinner brother who had spent sometime in the States. We asked him about what the Chinese ate at the restaurant. He said that the Chinese wanted food that was not too spicy or oily. And that the ‘best thing’ was the fact that they ate whatever was put in front of them without asking what it was. I precociously asked him about Sichuan peppers, weren’t they spicy? Mr Lin explained that Chinese peppers were different from Indian spices. The heat hit you later apparently.

And then the discovery of the day. I found out that they served Siew Yoke and Hainanese chicken rice. Again introduced to me by my friends at KL. Dishes I fell in love with. All of these and Char Siew too. A dish I had at Singapore while I chatted with Mr Saw at Chinatown. You had to order the chicken rice a day in advance at Ling’s. Still reason enough for me to plan my next visit.

We met Baba on the way out. He was happy to see his choices get our approval. A slow start with a strong recovery. Baba claimed that his was the only place to serve authentic Chinese in Mumbai. He proudly spoke of the 119 Chinese delegates who ate at his restaurant that day. Yes, they looked very at home. Baba apologised for the delay in service. He put down the Chinese of Calcutta as “too oileeee” when I brought up the topic. Run by new generation Indian of Chinese origin. “They like curreee” he said disdainfully with a Kl meets Mumbai accent. Well, I did keep burping all day after the enjoyable deep fried Chinese lunch at the Indian owned Ming’s at Colaba Causeway sometime back. The food at Ling’s stuck to its ‘non oily’ claim on the other hand. A marked difference. No gastronomic opera post lunch here. This royal feast which could have actually fed five cost a fairly reasonable Rs 2500 (50 USD) with a soup and two mocktails ordered before me.

Finally Mumbai was complete for me.

Bhindi masala….Chinese version
Our flustered waiter
The rather sharp Kung pao prawns
Bombay Duck fry…identity crisis
Omelette with Chinese vegetables…the party started
Pork stuffed in capsicum
Beef stew or Bah Ku tea
Roast pork…entree? Dessert? Delectable either way
Mr Lin promises Hainanese Chicken rice & Char Siew
Chatting with the great Baba on the disappearing art of Chinese cooking

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Filed under Colaba Mon Ami, Mumbai highs, Oriental, South Mumbai

>"He who loves the baker gets hot noodles". Ming’s Palace, Colaba

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I was on Facebook the other day when I saw Gia’s update. It wentNothing spells comfort like the aromas from a simple pound cake spreading through the house. Vanilla and butter tantalises, while a golden crust beautifully beckons from inside the oven. It must be hot in heaven tonight, a 180 degrees hot!”. And then I saw the pictures she put up.  I could almost smell the butter wafting out of my comp screen. I lusted shamelessly after the cake till Gia offered to give me one of the two that she had baked.

Pic taken by Gia Fernandes

We met outside my office the next day. I got into car with the cake, unwrapped a bit of the silver foil and was immediately swept off my feet by the sensuous aromas of vanilla and butter. Now the thing is, Gia not only came from Wadala to gift me the cake but even took me to her favourite Chinese Restaurant for lunch. How lucky can a guy get?


Ming’s Palace is this restaurant at Colaba Causeway. It is apparently sixteen years old and is owned by the Ismaels of Meena Bazar. It is opposite Electric House ahead of Leopolds and Food Inn. I had often passed it by but never gone in before. We went in and sat by the window and took in the joys of Colaba Causeway passing us by.






The decor at Ming’s Palace  is very eighties Chinese. False golden ceilings, lots of reds, dragons, faux pagoda pillars… it had Enter The Dragon and Fists of Fury written all over. The service was competent and the managers and maitre d knew their stuff. The waiters enthusiastic even if they occasionally bumped into each other.

I asked the maitre d for something “uniquely Chinese”. Gia told me not to bother as this was a hard core Indian Chinese place.


Gia ordered an old favourite of hers. Beef chili. She very clearly specified that it should be from an under cut. She told the waiter that she could  recognise a good tenderloin and threatened to send it back if it wasn’t. Her stern words worked. What we got was a most delectable plate of beef chilly which was light years ahead of the beef chili of Leopolds. I realised that beef could actually be succulent and juicy.

“Ask for under cut'”. A lesson learnt. But then this is a lady who knows her meats. She had after all cooked up a storm for us with beef and pork in her magical kitchen sometime back.




Gia suggested squids. I went for the squids in chili and black bean sauce. Frankly the beef chili was a tough act to follow. The squids were fresh and I liked the balanced use of black bean sauce. But the poor squids ended up being a Shashi Kapoor to the beef chili’s Amitabh Bachchan.


On asking we found out that you can order half portions of rice and noodles. The mixed fried rice was well flavoured and not the standard white and lifeless rice in widow’s garbs served in many local restaurants.



My first reaction to the mixed Hakka Noodles was, “it looks almost as I have made it”. At the risk of giving in to the sins of hubris I must say that I make one of the best Hakka Noodles at Mumbai. The Hakka at Ming’s Palace were colourful, zestful and bursting with passion. 



The food at Ming’s was deep fried and spicy, as Indian as Chinese can get. There were a couple of dips – chili ginger and regular red chili which were volcanic. I looked as if I had dived into one of the Sichuan Hot Pots of Chengdu. Sweating and smiling. In fact the last time I perspired as much at a food place was at Puncham Puris. Both lunches were followed by strident burps late into the night.







Gia and I parted ways till we met the next night for a Master Chef Pressure Test dinner at our house on Saturday. More on the later.



This fable had a happy ending. I came home late in the evening. Took out a juice before going to the gym. Cut a slice of the cake. “Thick” as she had instructed me. It was just as I had imagined. Just the right sweetness. The perfect hint of vanilla. The definition of comfort food. With all the love which comes with it. With “Baking Goddess’ as K calls her written all over it.



PS She is going to hate me for this but I must mention Gia takes orders for her sinful cakes … she is now gearing up to make her Christmas cakes. A three month long process

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Filed under Colaba Mon Ami, Oriental, People

>Sweeping the medals tally … Olympia, Colaba, Mumbai

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Jamshed Uncle strongly praised the biriyani at Olympia when I was discussing Fort and Colaba eats with him. I went there the next day for lunch. It was shut for Ramzaan. I went to Martin’s instead. My fellow table mate there praised the biriyani at Olympia too. He referred to it as ‘Katchi Biriyani’. One has always known of the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat thanks to high school geography. As I wrote this I realised that Raan is also the Hindi name for lamb shanks. What a tasty coincidence.

Well, the holy month of Ramzaan finally ended. I waited impatiently for my biriyani. And jumped when I got an opportunity to go. With me was my new food partner in crime at Fort, criminal lawyer who Tweets, MumbaiCentral. MC scoffed when I suggested Olympia. “I thought you wanted to try out uncharted territories”. I had to explain that I had never been to Olympia before. I had had my first brain masala from there though. A takeaway at a friend’s place in my early days at Mumbai.

Lunch conversation with MC was interesting. I peppered her with questions spawning from from Grisham novels, A Few Good Men and Boston Legal. Yes, she does try cases. No, all lawyers are not great orators. Criminal cases are not just about murders, corporate or divorce cases could qualify too. She only has to wear a lawyer’s gown at the High Court. Yes, it is air conditioned. No, they don’t have business ‘targets’. They can’t really advocate an increase in crime rates after all!

Olympia is a Muslim restaurant at the beginning of Colaba Causeway, opposite Mondegar’s. The smiling owner told me that his family owned Olympia for more than sixty years. His father had bought it and it used to be a Iraani restaurant earlier. This probably explained the Irani Cafe feel to the ground floor. It had the round tables and the Goldilock chairs typical of Iraani Cafes. The place was buzzing with happy and hearty eaters.

MC and I headed upstairs to the ‘Women & family section’. Well, we food lovers do stick together through thick and, uh, thin, after all. She squealed when we reached the section. “They have air conditioned it”. The owner told me that they used to have an Iraani Cafe feel upstairs too. He had ‘modernised’ it now. I wish he hadn’t. It looked like a shady wedding hall from the suburbs. Piped steel furniture, brownish walls. Didn’t have the charm of the  ‘non family and non women’s’ section.

The service was prompt and efficient. We called for a couple of what the menu card proclaimed as specials -mutton fry masala and mutton biriyani. I timidly suggested chicken but our Goan criminal lawyer would have none of that. We also ordered the day’s special, ‘daal gosht’ with parathas.

The mutton fry masala was a work of art. Reminiscent of the famous Murshidabad silk which made the British greedy about India. The dish consisted of admittedly tough mutton chunks in a very elegant and delicate curry. I am normally not too fond of gravies in Indian restaurants. But I was decidedly smitten by the curry here. For the curry was no ordinary curry, it was sheer Urdu poetry. I longingly lapped it up with the nice, firm parathas. I had the look of a teenager in love on my face. This was a dish whose memory I would never forget it.

The daal gosht underlined the ironies of life. If the meat in the mutton fry masala left me unimpressed then the mutton of the daal gosht had me beaming in appreciation. It was really succulent. But the lumpy daal left us cold. It seemed like a wannabe Dhansaak at best. We didn’t finish it.

Then came the much awaited biriyani. I waited with eager and impatient anticipation as our bearded waiter got it to our table. My expectations were high. Would it live up to its hype?

Well, it did. The rice was nice, firm grained and well flavoured. It did have masala. But my adulterated Bengali heart didn’t mind it as the masala peeped out discreetly through the rice. It didn’t bulldoze the dish. I like the touch of fried onions it it. No Bengali would recognise this as ‘biriyani’ till you put a placard on it. But as a standalone dish, it touched the sweet spot.

MC looked at each other, smiled and mouthed ‘caramel custard’ in unison. The custard flattered to deceive though. Something marred the experience for us. We soon realised that there was a touch of green cardamom or elaich which bludgeoned the taste of this simple comfort food. We left our custards unfinished.

This decadent Mughal banquet (with a fresh lime & a nice lassi) , in the ‘AC’ section, came to all of Rs 280 (6 USD). That too after we pointed out the fact that the waiter had forgotten to bill us for the biriyani.

My favourite biriyani in Mumbai continues to be that of Kakori House, Bandra. The only one which can break my loyalty to the biriyanis of Calcutta. 

Update: Went to Olympia twice since then. Got addicted to the biriyani and chicken fry masala, the consistency of service, the tandoored mutton chaaps, the fact that spice and more from Sydney, who entrusted me with choosing our spot for lunch, loved the biriyani. Also found out that the restaurant was established in 1918 and that the lassi and fresh lime glasses have a red base so that they are not mixed up with regular drinking water

 

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>Sweet Home Colaba… New Martin Hotel, AKA Martin’s, Strand, Colaba

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One of my first posts on Finely Chopped was on Martin’s. A hole in the wall Goan restaurant tucked away towards the end of Colaba Causeway. An old favourite of ours. Great food, Spartan but clean settings, very light on the wallet, waiters who welcomed us back as one of their own each time we dropped in. Ironically I had not been there since I begun food blogging. I returned to Martin’s today close to two and a half years after the last post. Thankfully nothing has changed.

I stepped out for lunch this afternoon. The plan was to go to Olympia based on Jamshed Uncle’s recommendation of the biriyani there. I got a bit distracted once I got out of Lakshmi Building. There was Mocambo opposite me. And then I suddenly saw Mahesh. The original Mangalorean sea food hot spot of Mumbai. Mahesh of the butter pepper garlic crabs. Then I remembered the oil spill and moved on. I spotted Anand Bhavan. A South Indian restaurant where Malayalis had queued up for a special Onam Sadya (a festival in Kerala) meal. I looked in and saw people relishing rice, pulses and vegetables off banana leaves. Not my scene. But the patrons looked genuinely happy. Their joy was infectious and I did feel like going in for an anthropological experience.

I felt a like a teenage boy who had suddenly come across his elder brother’s stash of porn. Excited. Distracted by the choices.

Then I remembered Olympia and jumped into the car. Reached Colaba Causeway and spotted Olympia to my right. It was shut. We took a U turn as I thought of going back to Anand Bhavan. I texted Kainaz about. She texted back the magic words, ‘Martin’s’. We immediately took another U turn and headed up Colaba Causeway. Finally the Hindu Temple which marks the left for Martin’s came and we turned in.

And there it was. New Martin Hotel. I noticed the full name for the first time thanks my food blogger hat. Martin’s looked exactly the same. The same owner at the counter. The same two waiters manning the place. One of them who always welcomed me with a big smile of recognition even if I was returning after two years and fifteen kilos and a lot less hair. The decor, if you can call it that, was the same. Cream walls. Menu on the wall which looked the same. About three to four booths with sun mica covered tables and bare wooden benches. It was like returning to your grandparents house.

I was alone this afternoon. So I gave the pretty good Goan Sausage Chilly fry and Pork Vindaloo a miss. Went for a dish which is very uniquely Martins instead. The Beef Steak and Onion fry. Didn’t seem to be on the menu though. Didn’t matter. I asked for it confidently. Our waiter smiled and went to the hole at the end of the hole in the wall. (Here’s a tip. Specify green chillies.)

I was sharing a booth with a well fed happy looking gentleman with a thin moustache who was digging into his mackerel curry and rice. I begun to talk to him.

No he was not worried about the oil slick and what it would do to the fish. Laughed when I asked him about this. Yes, Martin’s was his favourite restaurant and he came here often. He too believed that the biriyani at Olympia (remember?) was one of the best around. He explained that Olympia was a Muslim run restaurant with Muslim workers. This is why it was shut as it remained close during the day during Ramzan. He said that the biriyani there was Kutchi Biriyani and unique. This really whetted my appetite. I really hope that I don’t return to Andheri before Ramzan ends.

The gentleman, a Christian who enlightened me on a Muslim restaurant, finished his meal with a jelly and custard. He became a bit shy when I wanted to photograph him. I did click him surreptitiously from the side for memory’s sake.

Our smiling waiter arrived with the beef steak and onion. My eyes danced with joy as he placed it on the table. I took a million photos of this Kaleidoscopic delight. Much to the amusement of the gentleman I just wrote about.

The beef steak fry is a complete meal. It has all food groups. Meat. Vegetables. Starch in the form of thick potato chips. Bread. The meat is one of the best cuts of beef that I have had in Mumbai. You reach it after digging through some very seductive fried onion rings. Chopped chillies cut the sweetness of the fried onions. The thin steak is cooked to perfection. This is one of those ‘last meal before I die’ dishes. With loads of oil and red meat it sends you hurtling towards Kingdom Come in any case. But as life has taught me recently, it makes sense to live like the grasshopper in the story of the ‘ant and the grasshopper’. Live every moment to its fullest. You never know when the next banana skin will come up.

And so I enjoyed my meal, bite by lingering bite. Remembering the many happy evenings that I have spent here. Heady times. Memories that one can cherish and live on no matter how tough things can get. As the Boss said, “those were Glory Days baby”.

I then did what I never had at Martin’s before this. Inspired by my fellow table mate, I ordered a jelly with custard. I took my first bite and almost slapped myself. What was I thinking of for all these years? How come I had never ordered this before? The jelly and custard was a most angelic experience. Sweetened just right. Chilled. Ever so soothing after the tempestuous, passionate and wild beef steak and chilly fry. This was the perfect ending. Like a mother’s goodnight kiss to a baby. A dessert that was so simple and yet so deeply satisfying. The secret possibly lay in its simplicity. What a poetic end to an epic lunch.

(Someone remind me to avoid these top angle shots in the future!!!)

I spoke to the gentleman at the counter for the first time. His name is Mr Baptist D’Sousa. He has been running this restaurant from the mid sixties. Martin’s apparently is more than sixty years old. He wasn’t first owner. That possibly would have been Methuselah.

Do you want to hear something really funny? Turns out that Mr D’Sousa who runs the nicest Goan restaurant North of Goa is actually a Mangalorean!

A young man looked up as I spoke with Mr D Sousa. We got talking. Turned out that his name is Abhishek and he is from Indore. He was a regular at Martin’s from 1996 to 2003. Starting in his college days when he used to stay at a hostel at Churchgate. He was back in South Bombay for a short while and like me was making the most of it. “Martin’s is all about nostalgia,” he said. No surprise that his order too was a plate of beef steak and onions! We burst out laughing at the realisation of how our stories crossed. I was a regular at Martin’s from 1999 to 2004.

I left Martin’s after paying the majestic bill of Rs 103 (2 USD) for the blockbuster steak and the cherubic dessert. Remembering how my earlier post on Martin’s was my first piece on food to get published elsewhere. On Kirti Poddar’s Feastguru, now sadly shut. Kirti and I made plans to eat at Martin’s for three years. I finally made it to Martin’s today. After he left for Bangalore. This grand meal in simple surroundings at a just about three figure price is the sort of thing that would have tickled Chief Foodie Kirti no end.

I left Martin’s surrounded with happy memories from a lifetime back. A simple uncomplicated time full of hope and restlessness. Memories of laughter. Of discovery and joy. Of impatience. Eager anticipation. Of making life plans. Nervous and excited. Of dreams and of falling in love. Of setting up a life together. Of food that was joyful and nourishing.

Of a wonderland called Colaba.

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