Category Archives: South Mumbai

>Steaks at Colaba


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



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

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


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.
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


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

>An afternoon with Xanthe Clay at my Fort


With Xanthe Clay & Heathcliff on the streets of Mumbai

Warning: Long post ahead 

Xanthe Clay

Well, this is another Twitter story. Pamela Timms and I know each other through twitter. She tweets as @eatanddust. (I am, er, @finelychopped on twitter). Pmalea is an expat at Delhi who writes a food blog called Eat And Dust. She writes for publications too and you would never guess that she is not a local when you read her write ups.

Pamela wrote to me a few days back asking me if I could hook up with someone called Xanthe Clay who was coming to India to do a story on the local food. Now, I must confess that I had no idea who Xanthe was. More a testimony of the fact that I don’t read as much as I should than anything else.  Xanthe and I exchanged a few mails. She wanted me to show her my favourite eating places at Mumbai. The answer was obvious, take her to Fort.
We met at her hotel around lunch time on Friday. Xanthe told me that she met Camellia Panjabi, the Grand Dame of Indian food writing, the previous day. I felt like an amateur Karaoke singer about to perform after Lata Mangeshkar.
 Xanthe was the only person I know whose name starts with X. As I later found out, her parents had given her a Grecian name. A Google search on the phone the previous night and our chat during the day revealed that Xanthe was a big food writer in the UK. She’s written three books and now is onto her fourth. Her books, from what I gather, try to focus on demystifying and simplifying cooking. “I don’t write about difficult cooking”, she said. Well, that sounded like my sort of cooking. Xanthe tweets as @Xanthecooks She is also a food columnist for The Daily Telegraph in the UK.
Turned out that she personally knew Simon Majumdar, food blogger turned food author turned food reality show judge and someone I admire, for a while. According to Xanthe, Simon was someone who ‘calls a spade a spade’. That’s exactly what I’d like to be known as. That’s why Finely Chopped was born. And yet, Simon is the nicest, and only, celebrity I know and he sincerely answers any questions that I have.  
Well, that’s all about Xanthe professionally. The first thing that strikes you when you meet Xanthe the person is that she is one of the sweetest people you could meet. Extremely charming, gentle and with a very disarming smile. She is just the kind of person you would run to if you were stuck in a room full of bawling Kindergarten kids and didn’t know what to do. She was extremely non-fussed and walked the crowded streets of Fort without a tremor and sampled food and drinks from the street side stalls without flinching.

All of this is real, Xanthe dug in to everything without a second thought
Accompanying her was Heathcliff, the photographer. His work has taken him to all parts of the world. It was amazing to see how he drew similarities with what he saw at Syria when I showed him a Parsi Fire Temple here. Heathcliff too had no hang-ups while trying out the food and seemed to be as into the assignment as Xanthe. It was amazing to see Heathcliff walk around with three bazooka like cameras while I ended up with sore shoulders with my tiny little Sony cyber shot at the end of the day. 

The khao gulley or ‘Eat Street’ of Fort

I won’t get into the details of the street food because that’s what Xanthe’s article will be about. This is more about what happened that afternoon.
We started our Fort walk with a homage to history. Laxmi Building, and its plaque announcing its inauguration by Sjt Subhas Chandra Bose in 1938. And then ‘The Bombay Store’ which Xanthe found to be quite ‘posh’. I showed her the ‘Bombay Swadeshi Stores’ plaque and gave her a lecture on Bal Gangadhar Tilak and how he opened this store to take on the British who dumped their goods at India. More than a hundred years back. Thank god for Amar Chitra Katha history lessons. ”The British were the bad guys”, I looked pointedly at the fairy godmotherlike Xanthe, and Heathcliff who was quite an anti-imperialist himself.
We headed to one of the many Khao Gulleys of India that sustained its middle class worker bees. I had discovered this one at Fort on a rainy day on the way back from Puncham Puri. A few centuries back. 
We first bumped into people eating red rice with brown dumplings on plastic plates… I introduced our visitors to the concept of Schezwan…the Indian cousin of Sichuan. “Always red”.

Bhel puri stall next, except sev puri photographed better according to our visitors. The bhel was consigned to a corner as we munched on sev puri and ragra pudi and dahi puri. In any case I prefer sev puris or ‘Indian canapes’ as I described them. The unhealthier and more deep fried the better for me.  I gave a free Hindi lesson here. Sukha is dry. Bheega is wet. Khatta is sour. Meetha is sweet. Kam Teekha is less hot. There is a new Vinod Dua in town.

Vada pao shoot followed and then my lecture on the difference between kandapakora (‘tomato tomato’). We headed to the Pao bhaji stall to see the making of ‘tava pulao. “Not ‘pilaf’. That’s Persian”. And then a chai stall where Xanthe enthusiastically sipped a glass of cutting chai and learnt about the concept of ‘cutting’. “Half a cup so that you can drink many through the day. Rs 4 versus Rs 8 for a glass”.
Mewad ice cream followed which both Xanthe and I liked. Reminded me of the lunches at Nariman Point when I used to work there. The photographer in Heatchliff made him choose falooda for its kaleidoscopic balance of textures and colours. We then crossed over to the Apoorva gulley. Lunch time was over. Saw the remains in the vessels of a Maharashtrian Moushi’s cart run by the Amres. Two carts down was Swamy who came to Mumbai from Coimbatore fifty years back.  He served more than 38 types of rice at this spot for twenty years now. Heathcliff clicked away at sheera (sweet semolina), upma (salt), idli, curd rice or tair sadam, tamarind rice, lemon rice and sambar rice. And then we set off for cut fruits.
Our street food walk brought us across the various faces of Mumbaikars. Enthusiastic bystanders who joined in the conversation with explanations and suggestions. Street fruit vendors who kindly let us click away without even knowing that we were actually going to pay for what we ate (this was not a PR shoot or a press junket). The odd strain of post Headley suspicion in a vendor and a lawyer who didn’t want to be photographed. The fruit seller who was fine with us photographing as long as we didn’t disturb his work. This was business hour for him in the city’s former commercial centre. And the proud Maharashtrian food vendor who asked me to take our visitors to ‘good healths’ rather than showing the ‘cheap street stuff’. Mumbai is a world city after all.

The bystanders joined in with their suggestions. They were Maharashtrians & told me that Ragda puri is apparently a Gujarati invention…loved by all

‘Ragda’ or chickpeas

The faluda won Heathcliff’s heart

My take on faluda…would love to see Heathcliff’s pics

Memories of mewad ice cream

“Rapidex’ Hindi lessons

Cutting chai

Swami and his rice cart

With my family at Fort

I was touched by the way I was welcome back by all ‘my people’ at Fort. I had just been there for four months after all. It started right with the parking lot guys. Dipu the sandwich wallah, the last person I said goodbye to when I left Fort a fortnight back. Then the welcoming smell of Ustaad’s jalebis. The Vidya Dairy Farm refused to take money for the jalebis and samosas that they served us. The Prodigal Son had returned. Ustaad who was taking a post lunch break gamely came out and started making jalebis for Heathcliff to photograph. Man, does the old man love the camera or what? Never realised that our Pehelwan was so short. 
We didn’t go to Apoorva or Swaghath as Xanthe and Heathcliff were interested in street food. I took them to Ideal Corner though and I packed dhansaks for dinner. It was good to meet Walter and the manager again. Parvez had just left. The waiters smiled and giggled when I asked them if they’d give me a job. Will there ever be a proverbial ‘rich uncle’ in my life?
Our tour continued and a trip to the paan shop in front of Lalit where the security guards of an unknown ‘important person’ picked me up for taking photos on my second day at Fort. And then we went to the smiling juicewallah where I had a strawberry milk shake after ages. He didn’t approve of Heathcliff’s choice of beet, carrot and apple though.
Our next stop, Yazdani Bakery, where I introduced Xanthe to the Iranis and Parsis. “A bit like the way the Brits look at the French, idiosyncratic, quaint, love food”. We chatted with one of the owners, Mr Parvez Irani, whom I met for the first time. He told us about how a Japanese consul member came and told him that Yazdani stood where a Bank of Tokyo branch once stood in the hoary past. And of the German baker who came visiting in the 80s and said that Yazdani made the best bread in the world. Then Tirandaz Irani came to the shop and allowed me into the hallowed baking area for the third time. Xanthe was awestruck, as I was each time that I went in, by the deeeeeeep oven. On the way out she joined the bakers in rolling dough, synchronised as if it was a West End musical.

Ustaad loves the camera. I really miss him

10 kilo maida, 250 g besan, chini, colour…sounds so simple

Took a while before the juice wala gave in to Heathcliff’s request of beet, carrot AND apple

The right way to drink Brun Maska

Xanthe Charms Mr Rashid Irani…not the easiest of tasks

The Fire Temple for those who love to bake

‘My Fair lady’, now playing at Yazdani Bakery

Tirandaz Irani in the corner… this is the third time that he let me into the bakery. Third time that I asked him to
A last walk down the street that led to Fort House. Suresh’s vada pao shops where the vada pao maker remembered me. He got bashful when bystanders told him that his photos would come out at London. The bearded guy at the counter of Fountain Plaza waved out at me as he always did. 
A final sev puri stop. Xanthe said that she had a ‘feeling’ about it. She was right. We had a remarkable sev puri and did a little video clip where I nodded away like a cheer leader while Xanthe described the making of sev puri.

The gentleman in blue most sportingly let us photograph his lunch

Shoo you evil eye

Puris…who could not love them

‘Sev’ comes to the party

Getting ready for the shoot

 At the Queen’s Necklace

Off to Marine Drive where Heathcliff wanted to shoot the sunset. I took a few photos too as I had never been here with a digital camera. Xanthe and I chatted for a while as I got to know about her work. I had done most of the talking so far. “Indian food is about existence and not indulgence. That’s why we don’t focus on plating” and that sort of stuff had made up our day.
Xanthe told me about her belief in blogging as a way to get noticed as a writer. And about how she felt that content was more important than worrying too much about Google searches. An interesting perspective for Heathcliff too who was trying to figure out how to balance a blog with socio political views with a more ‘effective’ photographer’s portfolio blog. 
It was soon time to part but not before I answered Xanthe’s questions on etiquette. “Do a Namaste only to doormen, chauffeurs, etc. If you are meeting someone from the English speaking urban ‘elite’ then a simple handshake would do. A folded hands Namaste would seem facetious”.

The Queen’s Necklace

Warming up to India

‘In conversation with Xanthe Clay’ as K Jo would say

Xanthe wanted to know what my favourite from the street food of Mumbai was. After a bit of thinking I said that it would be the ‘Mumbai sandwich’. It was unique and had a sense of buttery indulgence. As I explained, we were extremely loyal to the street food of our little corners of India. As a former Calcuttan my love for phuckas and rolls would never let me get impressed by vada pao, sev or bhel puri. The Mumbai sandwich was suitably neutral and Western and didn’t compete directly with my favourites.

Mumbai Sandwich
And thus ended an afternoon where I got to do what I love the most. Introduce the world to a Mumbai which lies somewhere in between the depths of Slumdog Millionaire and the excesses of Mukesh Ambani’s Antilla. To the real India. A tiny part of it.

The afternoon opened a number of doors in my mind. Left me with deep thoughts. Largely to do with whether any British paper would send Nigella to do a food piece at Mumbai.


Filed under Food musings, Fort, Mumbai highs, People, South Mumbai, Street stars, Vintage Bombay

>Of being ‘Fort Enchanted’


Ustaad with his rangeen photos

I would often cross the sweet shop on my way to lunch. The smell of fresh jalebis inviting me from way ahead. I would always stop to wish ‘Ustaad’. He would extend his elbow to me to shake. Hands covered in jalebi mix. And then, from behind the swarthy moustache, the squeaky voice would say “aap mujhe rangeen photo dena”.

I had given him a black and white print out of the post I had written about him. But ‘pehelwan’ (or wrestler), as some called him, wanted coloured prints. Something we had forgotten in the age of Picassa and Flickr.

Today, on my last day at Fort, I fulfilled my promise.

I don’t know know what made me fall in love with Fort the way I did. Was it the approach to Fort? The poetry of Muslim architecture by the J J Flyover. The Victorian Majesty of VT, the BMC and Times of India buildings. The chutzpah of the art deco buildings by my office. An office building which was inaugurated by a certain Sjt Subhas Chandra Bose in 1938. Opposite a shop opened by Bal Gangadhar Tilak when he raised his cry of Swadeshi (self rule) against the British. The same British who had helped plan a charmed business district with enough trees or shade for the weary traveller to rest by. Was it the winding walks with each lane opening into a new wonder? Stumbling into a Garden of Eden one day. Also known as Horniman Circle? Or the parking lot guys who would park my car when chubby, my driver, was bunking. They were all from the same gaon or village apparently.

The friends I would meet, old and new? Amba, Kaniska, Gia, Mama, Ranjit, Viraj, Ashish, Berges, Andrea, Shaheen. Drawn to Fort like bees to a honeycomb. Or was it the many afternoons of getting lost? Of  ‘hearing one’s inner voice’ as Tony Bourdain once put it.


Bohri Masjid

Tilak’s Bombay Stores & the art deco buildings
Horniman Circle

An Irani cafe in Japanese building

Laxmi Building

Was it all the fresh, wholesome, honest food with prices from another century? Dhansak at Ideal Corner. Ironically my first and last lunch at Fort. Their atheli chicken pateta and gun powder pork. Ulundu and Mysore Sada Dosa, kick in the butt filter coffee at Swagath. The breads of Yazdani Bakery. Apple pies and Christmas Cake too. Apoorva’s stews, appams and Gassis. Banana leaf vegetarian meals at Deluxe with delectable Surmai  fries. Beef and paratha at Rahmaniya. Deepu’s sandwiches. Madhukar’s Lassis. Muzzafar’s palak bhajiyas. Puris at Puncham Puri and Mathura Sweets.

Ustaad’s jalebis

Suresh’s Palak Bhajiyas

Chicken stew at Apoorva

Chicken fry and parota at Garden Plaza

Those jalebis again

Banana leaf meal at Deluxe

Moti Lassi with malai

I had most of my lunches here

Ideal Corner’s dhansak my first and last lunch at Fort

Evenings at Swagath…Mysore sada dose

Yazadani’s breads

Puncham and his Puris

Bombay Sandwiches

Kick in the butt filter coffee at Swagath

Or did the spell of Fort lie in its people? Parvez Irani and Tirandaaz Irani of Cafe Ideal Corner and Yazdani Bakery who broke the myth of grumpy owners of Irani Cafes. Krishna, the owner of Apoorva who would often sit down at my table to chat with me. And hand out a ten per cent discount. Dipu the big hearted sandwichwallah who would wave at me every day. The last person I said goodbye to today at Fort as I handed him a printout of the post I wrote on him. The scion of Mathura Sweets, unshaven with an ear stud, wishing me in perfect English. Muzzafar and his colleagues at Suresh’s Batata Vada shop, smiling at me when I would go by. As would the bearded man at the counter of Fountain Plaza opposite. Or Madhukar the Maharashtrian lassiwallah at the Punjabi Moti Halwai, who posed for me one day.

My regular waiter with curly hair at Swagath Udipi. Patiently explaining to me the difference between set and ulundu dosa. As we got to know each other he would wrap my coffee glass with a tissue paper, the way I liked it, when I sipped on a hot filter coffee on the road. His colleagues at Swagath, all excited to see the blog post on them on their ‘Idea Mobile’ (no not a plug). The three waiters at Cafe Ideal who would always serve me with care. The waiter from Udipi at Aoorva who would take my order with a bashful smile, embarrassed when I shook his hand after new year. The waiter in the AC section at Deluxe who would meticulously explain each item in the Keralite banana leaf thali. Getting me steaming glasses of rassam on the house on days when I wouldn’t go for the full meal. “Have it. It is fresh”. The waiter at Puncham Puri who told us about the fact that the venerable Mr Puncham had set up his puri shop way before CST station existed. A rare breed in a city of restaurants with inept untrained staff.

With the Yazdani Bakery Gang. Photo: Shaheen P

The folks at Swagath read the post on them

Muzaffar at Suresh’s

Our man from Udipi at Apoorva

Intense discussion with Krishna of Apoorva on Thai food

Madhukar at Moti’s lassis

Tirandaz Irani of Yazdani enacts the Rin ad shot here

Third generation scion of Mathura Sweets

Dipu the sandwichwallah with the heart of gold

The every smiling Parvez Irani of Ideal Corner with his merry band

Or were it the bakers from UP at Yazadan Bakery? Posing for me not once, but twice when I came in for shoots.The earnest father and daughter who ran the humble Pradeep Gomantak? The cart owners at Khao Gulley who posed for me one day as I took photographs. Or the trips to Colaba? To Ling’s and Johnny and bacon pot rice and pork belly. To Olympia and its super fantastic kachhi biriyani and mutton masala fry. Or to Samovar and its parathas.

Biriyani at Olympia

The super sweet Johny at Ling’s Pavilion

Would it be the strangers I shared tables and conversations with at Rahmaniya, Garden Plaza, Deluxe, Yazadani, Ideal Corner, Swagath and Apoorva? Strangers who became lunch mates for a few magical moments.

Or was it just all about Ustaad and his fresh, hot jalebis?

Ustaad. AKA Pehelwan

Gosh, I must have done something really good to have deserved this. Maybe there is an angel looking after bloggers.

I bid my goodbyes at Fort today. To Ustaad. To the dhansak at Ideal Corner. To the folks at Swagath.

As Jim Morrison said,“When the music’s over … Turn out the lights”

When the music’s over


Filed under Fort, From the hip, Mumbai highs, People, South Mumbai, Street stars, Vintage Bombay

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


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  


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

>A walk in the clouds… Ankur, Moti Lassi, Fort.

>Note: I wrote this post last evening when I though that Friday was our last day at Fort. Just got to know that we have got an extension till the first week of Jan. Thanks Santa 🙂 (lots of photos so keep scrolling)

It was lunch time on Monday. The first day of the week. I got an SMS from K.

“Last week at Fort. Choose where you eat wisely”

I didn’t have a plan when I went down for lunch. I thought I had eaten at most places at Fort. Should I repeat one of my favourites?

That’s when I remembered Ankur. The Mangalorean restaurant that they showed on NDTV’s Secret Kitchen the previous night. A rare food programmewhich went beyond Gajalee when it showed seafood joints at Mumbai . A little asking around on Twitter and Puja Dhingra of Le 15 Pattiserie told me that Ankur was at Fort and that it was one of her favourite restaurants.

I thought of heading towards Ankur.  I embarked on a hunt reminiscent of my early days at Fort. All I had to go by was that ‘it was close to Apoorva’.

Well, it wasn’t. Some people I asked said it was towards the Stock Market. That seemed far. But the weather was perfect to check this out. I asked the folks at Yazdani. They knew of Apoorva, Mahesh. But not Ankur. In desperation I tweeted and immediately got directions. I headed down directed by tweets and by a pakorawallah and suddenly stumbled upon Ankur. Did I say I love twitter?

For those interested, take a right from the Bombay Store Building at Fort. Cross Mahesh, not Apoorva, head past Yazadani, cross the Akberally road and the Church over the and then take a natural right. You’ll find Ankur.

Go Down the Mahesh Road

Past Yazdani

Head towards the Stock exchange
Love the architecture

Past the pakora wallah – who asked me to taste and not just shoot… he was the one who directed me to Ankur
The Ankur Lane

My friend and guide at Fort , Mumbai Central (on twitter), summed up Ankur as an ‘expensive Apoorva’ when I tweeted. Well it was grander than Mahesh and Apoorva. A tad frostier and marginally more expensive than both. A tour guide had got some foreign tourists over. It was that sort of place.

After much consultation with a senior waiter and his trainee I opted for Prawn Karavalli. Their other suggestions were fried fish (a speciality apparently) and gassi (which I earlier had at Apoorva).

I am glad that I ordered the Karavalli. The curry smelt divine the moment they placed it on the table. It tasted tangy and sharp. Exactly as it smelt. The sourness gave into a lightly woody bite ending with an unusually pleasant bitter note of fried curry leaves. Went very well with neer dosas.

I am not much of a curry person but I lapped up the entire bowl of Karavalli curry. That’s how good it was. And this is very rare. On asking, the senior waiter told me that unlike gassi, karavalli didn’t have coconut in it. It was made with tamarind, coriander, black pepper, chillies and curry leaves. He insisted that there were NO mustard seeds in it. When I pointed out black specks, he said that they were specks of dried tamarind.

He told me that Ankur was a fifty year old restaurant. That it started as a vegetarian restaurant. Was owned by the same gentleman who started Apoorva apparently. Better sense finally prevailed and it became a fish place fifteen years back.

How were the prawns? Overcooked. Possibly not too fresh. And overpowered by the curry. The crime which most Mangalorean and Gomantak places commit.

But the Karavalli curry? One of the unforgettables of Fort.

Tweet Feed on Ankur

Kalyan Karmakar

SOS where is Ankur restaurant at Fort @ @



@ @ in the lane next to our store

Mumbai Central

@ it’s the same lane as Military Cafe, if you know where that is. It’s a more expensive version of apoorva.


@ Ankur – Tel: 02222654194, 02222630393


@ we’ve been to most restaurants at fort, I have only one Ankur in my database… 😉


@ i hope thats the same ANKUR rest your looking for !!

Mumbai Central

@ near stock exchange.
Seafood Mumbai

@ Ankur, MP Shetty Marg. go on MG road take left after kandeel restaurant
pooja dhingra

@ it’s in fort! Hidden in a little street…the best uppam and butter garlic crab…pepper chicken…damn now I’m hungry!

pooja dhingra

@ ankur is one of my favourite restaurants in the city! U must try it!!!
The twitter world is abuzz with discussion on the cost of onions. I didn’t touch any
Over cooked prawns in celestial Karavalli curry

I stopped at Moti Halwai on the way back. The sweets at counter looked tired. Meals inside seemed to be vegetarian thalis. What caught my eyes were the lassis outside.

I was in two minds about the lassi. I had a sore throat. The cold sour curd based drink didn’t seem to be a good idea. Then I said what the hell and picked up one.

Madhukar, the Maharashtrian lassi maker, in this 56 year old Punjabi restaurant poured out a lassi for me. Each sip was Ambrosial in the truest sense. Rich. Sweet. Warm. Soothing. Nourishing. A granny of a drink. A hefty chunk of malai or butter bobbing on the surface, added in at the end. Most were fishing it out with a spoon and happily munching on it. I took a few tentative bites. It had a slight salty taste which countered the taste of the lassi.

Madhukar, who posed for me, explained that the difference between the 18 Rs (1/2 USD) plain and 30 Rs (3/4 USD) Special lassi was that the latter didn’t have any water in it. And had some nuts on top.

A 56 year old restaurant which I discovered during my expedition
Madhukar the Maharashtrian lassi maker
Adding malai for the lassi
Lassi mastered
Sweet lassi…a loving granny of a drink
Check out the malai at the rim
I am proud of this photo
Special Lassi. no water
The Punjabi owner of this 56 year old restaurant

And so I ambled back past Fort House and its magical gate, HSBC, the Church, Yazdani, past Mahesh…to Laxmi Building. A lesson in architecture, some great food, friendly faces, a walk, all packed in in less than an hour as I counted my last few hours at this enchanted world of Fort.

And then I got lucky 🙂

The view from opposite my office


Filed under Fort, photo blogs, pisces, South Mumbai, South of the Vindhyas, Vintage Bombay

>A few stolen moments at Mumbai’s Chor Bazar


What follows at the end are a few million photos from an afternoon at Mumbai’s Chor Bazar or Thieves market. You can see these and a few more on this album on the Finely Chopped Facebook page.

The plan was always to go to Chor Bazar after Noor Mohammadi. That’s what my intrepid fellow explorer, Sudeshna, and I did the other day. Two sociologists by training, exploring a hidden facet of modern Mumbai. The world below the  J J Flyover which connected Byculla to CST. She had been warned not to go to Chor Bazar alone. At the end of our expedition she wondered why.

Done with our Grand Trunk Road lunch at Noor Mohamaddi, we set off past the more genteel looking Shalimar restaurant. We crossed shops selling attar or Indian fragrances on our quest for Chor Bazar.

We joined the teeming millions, all headed in the same direction. Past more restaurants and then saw a  classical yet modern looking mosque. We were about to head towards the mosque when I saw a man selling an interesting mix of channa (pulses), spices, chutney, liver and other condiments. I stopped to take photos. The vendor was more than willing to let me shoot. The customer, Mr Hassan, indulged me too and even offered me a bite. Thankfully I remembered my manners in time.

This little food stall set the tone for the afternoon. New discoveries. Photographs. Friendly people. People who would pose for photos. Indulge your banter and answer your questions. It was like being on a holiday.

Our entry to Chor Bazar, literally ‘thief’s market’, was past a Mosque. Religion and sin in peaceful coexistence. Sudeshna, educated in the leftist liberal feminists corridors of Delhi’s JNU, observed that women were allowed in the mosque. We soon found out that this was the ‘Saifee Mosque’. One of the main, if not THE main, mosques of the Bohri Community. Women are allowed in their Mosques from what I gather.  

Hope I am not treading on any toes here… do not claim to be well versed with the religious aspects involved. Apologies in advance if any feelings are hurt. Not the intent.

The area was crowded. Yet peaceful. Order maintained by a posse of men in olive green fatigues and maroon berets looking straight out of the Tintin stories based in the Middle East. On asking we found out that they were volunteers from the Bohri community performing duties as diverse as maintaining order to providing paramedic services. The crowds were due to the occasion of Muharram. Someone told me devotees had come from across the world to congregate at the Mosque for Muharram. Looking after them were little children handing out glasses of water. Lessons in humanity learnt at an early age.

We crossed the mosque into a lane of sweet sellers. Again encouraged and indulged as I took photographs. I took photographs of an ancient man in a white beard deftly wielding a ladle to fry sweet samosas. We were introduced to the venerable Sara, owner of a sweet shop, established in 1922. Turned out she was an ex councillor. Happy to be with her people even “if everything collapsed”. I asked her to smile as she posed for photos. She said that she used to be scolded for laughing too much as a kid in school. I promised not to.

We then walked into the Chor bazar. Greeted by a shop which said New Calcutta Feta Shop. Our eye’s lit up as immigrants do at the sight of any connection from the motherland. We went in and chatted with the shop keeper from Bardhaman in our native Bengali. Turns out that ‘Feta’ is not cheese here. It refers to the golden caps which Bohri men wear during festive occasions. We got our lessons on Bohri caps – which ones are for children, for ordinary folks, for priests and for special people.

Thus educated we finally walked into the ‘chor bazar’. Into lanes packed with people. The winter cool a big relief. The packed lanes a bit of a strain if you are claustrophobic. But the sense of warmth, bonhomie and good cheer took care of that.

There were all sorts of second hand stuff on sale…old mixers, fridges, washing machines, toasters, watches, batteries, telephone receivers, spectacle cases, and fresh olive oil bottles (!)… a museum of people’s lives and their cast-offs. But where were the old gramophone players, the grandfather clocks, the automobile parts and old movie posters and the other legends of The Chor Bazar?

Turned out that the shops of Chor Bazar are shut on Fridays. That’s when the street side sellers take over. Though we did find one or two shops selling treasures from the past…some needing a coat of polish to recover their lost sheen. The odd brand name or LP cover a throw back to our own pasts.

It was a lazy afternoon. Walking by with a silly smile on the face. Making new discoveries. Camera clicking away. Conversations with strangers. Lessons learnt. Being made to feel welcome. Completely at peace. Unwound. Destressed. Lulled into thinking that this was a vacation.

Sometimes it’s good to see your own city as a tourist. To open your eyes and fall into its spell.

Shalimar Restaurant…the search begins
The scent of a princess
Perfume testing

The Saifee Mosque

Food to go with holy thoughts
Channa with a twist
Liver for the channa
I discovered that there were textures in food beyond the Far east. Right in our own backyard
The kind Mr Hassan who allowed me to photograph his lunch and offered me a bite too
“Hey there are women in this mosque” said our  JNU Sociologist alumni
People posed for photos without a fuss
Life before facebook
The Bohri Volunteers
The calendar shoot
Finally some food pics. Boondi
The shop was founded in 1922. I am sure he was there then
They will grow up to be sweet samosas
He complained that I only too chacha’s (uncle’s) photos
Ladoos. At home in a mosque. And in a Mandir.
The lovely Sara
Refreshments for tired feet
Hey…that’s our home town
Bohri caps
How can you shop without eating
To new beginnings
Environment friendly battery disposal?
He offered a free photo with each of his ‘Dubai watches’ as I clicked away
Few signs of Chor Bazar
You want ‘good price?’ Kiss my a@#

That 70s show
Mithun da
Er, I paid money and watched this film
A woman’s best friend
They say it’s winter at Mumbai
That was quite a stunt
Friday prayers
Turn right for Chor Bazar
Attar or Indian perfumes…memoires of a nautch girl
Guess you can shop for everything here
The Lost World below J J Flyover


Filed under Mumbai highs, photo blogs, South Mumbai, Vintage Bombay