In the old days, when celebrity chefs travelled to new locations, they demanded grand restaurants with fleets of waiters, expensive décor and an air of exclusivity. Even when the great French Chef Joel Robuchon started his L'Atelier chain, meant to be simple, pared down restaurants, he required his investors to put in so much money that there was nothing very pared down about the restaurants.
We’ve now seen two Indian celebrity chefs come home and both have broken with that trend by focussing on the food. Cyrus Todiwalla’s The River Restaurant in Goa is simple and emphasises flavours and local ingredients over décor. And now Floyd Cardoz’s, the famous New York chef (North End Grill, Tabla and even Top Chef) has just opened Bombay Canteen in Parel. Floyd has done away with the foolishness and pretension that many Michelin-starred French chefs demand.
The Bombay Canteen is a large casual room that lets you do what you want. You can snack at the bar. You can have a light meal. Or you can eat your way through pretty much the whole menu as I did.
Two things need to be said. The first is that both Cardoz and partner Sameer Seth worked for the legendary New York restaurateur Danny Meyer and you can feel his influence in the ambience and the excellent service, which is warm without being over familiar. Everyone feels welcome but the efficiency is first rate.
The second is that this menu is very much Floyd’s own. The word ‘Bombay’ in the title usually means paani puri variations and new takes on vada pav. But Floyd has moved away from the clichés. The Keema Gotala is outstanding as is the perfectly fried egg on top of it. Durban’s Bunny Chow is transformed with the use of Goan sausage. The standout dish is the Kejriwal Toast, a longstanding mainstay of the Willingdon Club menu, which is transformed into a gourmet classic here. (Nothing to do with Arvind, by the way.)
In terms of trends, Bombay Canteen fits neatly into the current wave of Indian cooking. We have had the Frenchified stuff. Now this is fun food made by great chefs who don’t take themselves very seriously. But they take the food very very seriously!
You must go.
Vir Sanghvi is India's best-known food writer and TV host. His book, Rude Food won the Cointreau Award for Best Food Literature book in the world and his food and travel shows on channels such as TLC and NDTV Good Times have won numerous awards and continue to be watched by millions.