Colaba in South Mumbai is where I first fell in love with Mumbai.
I had stayed there during a college trip to Mumbai. Walking down Colaba Causeway in the evenings was an exhilarating experience. It is where I would hang out with my new friends when I moved to Mumbai to work. The area was the canvas where the courtship with my wife played out.
I have fond memories of the eateries around its many obscure lanes and the following are some of the places we would keep going back to. They are all going strong today more than a decade and half later.
New Martin Hotel
This little Goan eatery near the old Strand Cinema is where we would head to for the tantalizingly tangy and spicy Goa sausages and the well done, caramelized onion smothered steak fry. You would have to reach by 10 pm to get a dish of your choice. I later found out that this ‘Goan’ joint is run by a Mangalorean. The wait staff welcome us like old friends when we go back after all these years.
You were either a Leo’s person or a Mondy’s (Mondegar) person in Colaba. My friends and I used to hang out in Leopold’s as that was the choice of out of towners. Mondegar was more the favourite of people who had grown up in Mumbai. My wife and I used to go to Leo's on Fridays for beef chilli fry, prawn fried rice and tiny moist brownie while we were dating. Over the years I figured out that Mondy’s has better food!
Chewy seekh kababs, super oily baida rotis, over-priced dishes and cats brushing against your feet while you eat at tables set on the pavement notwithstanding there was no comparison to the romance of standing on the roads and having dinner at Bade Miya’s post-midnight. They now have a sit down restaurant at Horniman Circle.
When I moved into Mumbai my friends told me that this was the place to go to for ‘cheap daru (alcohol)’. They had an air-conditioned and very smoky section (you could smoke indoors then) where we used to meet over Royal Stag and fried prawns and peanuts.
This little Parsi run eatery with its over-sauced Continental dishes, well done steaks, sugary ice teas and melamine plates was the go to place for European food well before the Indigo Delis and Saltwater Cafes of the world had opened. You could spot Churchill from a distance thanks to the queues to get in. My wife and I were fond of the prawns in firecracker sauce and prawn penne with Newberg sauce there.
Kalyan Karmakar authors the popular award winning blog, Finely Chopped and is an authority on the food of Mumbai. His extensive knowledge of the city's food scene has been featured in publications such as Femina, Mumbai Mirror and BCC Good Food. He was one of the founding critics of EazyDiner's Mumbai team.