The Oldest Gujarati eatery in Mumbai – Thakar Bhojanalaya

With Winter coming to a close, we decided to catch almost the last Undhyo of the season and what better place than at the oldest Gujarati eatery in Mumbai? Situated in the heart of the old commercial precinct of Kalbadevi, Shree Thakar Bhojanalay has served many a merchant the authentic Gujarati food he can get in his home. So when Doctor G suggested we have lunch over there this afternoon, we readily agreed.

Located at the end of a higgeldy piggeldy lane that is impossible to walk in on any working day, we decided to take a taxi because even if the business area is deserted during a Sunday, Thakar’s reputation has people coming from far and near making parking impossible ( as you can see from the crowded street on a Sunday morning). So if you want to have a relaxed meal without worrying about whether someone is going to crash into your car or tow it away, either hoof it there if you are any where in the neighbourhood or take a taxi.

So after we climbed up the clean staircase ( must warn you of the faint smell of Eau de Bombay) we came up to the blackboard displaying the special sweet and farsan for the day below the tariff card . We were still early but most days this narrow passage is filled with patrons waiting their turn for an empty table.

The Thali

Gujerati eateries have a set menu served in the traditional thali. This is fantastic because you don’t have to worry your head about what to order and what not. With chapatis, puris, rotis, rice , daal and kadhi being constant, there are seasonal options in terms of vegetables and the little tidbits or farsan that are a must with every meal. A standard Gujerati thali also has some sprouted beans and today we were served my favourite red chana. The daal of the day made of arhar or pigeon peas as well as the kadhi was available in two variants : sweet and salty ( my personal preference) . The salad was a simple tomato cucumber mix which you could spice up with the different  while the chutneys ( red chili, green chili ,chilli garlic and raw papaya and sweet)  that were generously served. There was a spicy lemon pickle and a green chilli pickle which I gave a miss but I just couldn’t resist the absolutely yummy spread of vegetables :  green okra, a potato and pea gravy, a fresh mango turmeric and paneer in curried yoghurt gravy and the perfectly spiced undhya was balanced with fresh sandesh, moong daal halwa and the refreshingly chilled, velvety basundi jazzed up with fresh custard apple bits.

The specialty of Gujerati food is that they adopt and adapt several cuisines to their own  so we weren’t surprised when yummy corn and moong daal bhajias were served as farsan  with paneer and spinach rolls and dhokla. We were given a variety of breads – phulkas with or without ghee, bajra rotis, maka rotis, thick atta  biscuit like rotis and fried and roasted papads .

We were served in a typical thali with two flat rimmed catoris for the sweets and plain rimmed catoris for the vegetable curries. Unflavoured buttermilk and catoris of freshly set yoghurt were provided on the side. And after repeated servings of everything, came the scrumptious moong daal khichadi, soft and warm and perfect. If you have room for more, there was some bati pullao

The thali would be best described as a sit down buffet where the diner is given options to have all or any of the food that is available.

 Verdict

Sundays are particularly crowded so you would do well to make a reservation because once a table is occupied, it takes quite a while for the customers to leave…….. And remember , once you are seated the waiters start serving immediately so if you are in a group , wait for everyone to come before you sit down at the table.

Thakar’s  is clean, with efficient air-conditioning and a spotlessly clean wash room  and  without any pretensions of being anything than an everyday food place. The food is tasty, the service quick and attentive and definitely worth the trek.

Thank you Dr. G for the lovely Sunday treat.

 

Tel : 022 22069916, 022 22011232

31, Dadisheth Agyari Lane, Off Kalbadevi Road, Marine Lines, Mumbai

Cafe Zoe – A great Brunch Option

With today being 15 days deep into January, it almost seems silly to write a restaurant review about a New Year’s Eve lunch, but too many things were happening over the past few days for me to be more uptodate. However, I would still like to share my memories of Cafe Zoe which even today, remain fresh and happy. 

 

Twice before when my cousins had come from California I had invited them to Cafe Zoe but both times we couldn’t make it – the first time we had to cancel lunch because of a glitch in the program and the second time we had to cancel dinner because Cafe Zoe doesn’t allow diners below 21 after 7 pm ( rather early for dinner by Indian standards I thought); so when they came down last December, going to Cafe Zoe had become something of a challenge. And yes, finally we did it! On the last day of 2014, we brought in the New Year rather early with a brunch over lunch celebration at Cafe Zoe.

Ambience

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Cafe Zoe which describes itself as a cafe, brasserie and bar is a fairly new entrant in Mumbai’s eating scene and is another gem in a lotus pond ( the others being Blue Frog and Zaffran and the lotus pond being Mathurdas Compound) making the once grungy mill area of Mumbai a hip and happening place.  A converted godown and retaining much of its architectural lineage, Cafe Zoe has a young feel to it with comfortable sofa seating on the side ( with interesting cabin trunk centre tables!) clean and simple wooden tables and chairs surrounding a well stocked bar at one end and a mezzanine dining area with more chairs and tables. Actually the entrance is pretty unobtrusive and even after you find the place, you can almost miss it. But do step inside and get past the pastry counter for the Cafe Zoe experience.

The Food

We started out with some pretty unremarkable Mushroom Bruschetta and French fries that were yummy but not crisp enough according to my cousin who said that they were fried in Olive Oil……but what they simply loved was the Spicy Guava Shake which was to my mind a liquid guava jelly . They also loved the watermelon Margeurita

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For the mains we had a caramelised onion tart, a roast duck, some bassa and steaks. These were received with much approval but the desserts again had a warm response:  chocolate mousse tart was disappointing but the tiramisu was great.

Overall

Cafe Zoe has a hip, happening feel and is user friendly for children upto 7 pm. They have a fairly strict code of conduct for children and actually warn that badly behaved children and their parent(s) could be made to stand in a corner. But Cafe Zoe is well located despite the hard to find entrance and is a great meeting spot for both South and North Mumbai diners.

The ultimate verdict was A THUMBS UP for Cafe Zoe which has won the hearts of more happy customers who will definitely come back for more

Cool Chef disappoints

I was so impressed with Cool Chef’s ambiance that I immediately suggested it the next venue for our ladies lunch and that too the very next day!

Luckily for me only three were available or else I would have been branded as the worst discoverer of restaurants by the ladies who lunch.

We chose a round table, the only one in the restaurant but that turned out to be too rocky. So after we ordered our drinks and starters we shifted to a square table which also rocked. Obviously this was a rocking place in more ways than one!

The waiter brought along our drinks and as Roo said, her fresh lime soda was brought in sweet even though she specified otherwise. Our thin crust pizza was definitely thin but also decidedly limp and too luke warm. The rocky prawns which were supposed to be drowning in Wasabi Mayo had only a whiff of the stuff but were good…….. While we munched through the starters we thought the main course would live up to the hype I’d built around the place. Unfortunately the Red Thai curry which was good was not what we wanted ( we had wanted that vegetarian) and the Green Thai curry was terrible. The only thing we all agreed was really good was the steamed rice which was steaming hot with each grain of rice long and light.

Perhaps as the owner said this place is truly to be enjoyed at night when it comes alive with the sound of young people having a blast. It definitely is not a place for ladies who lunch.

Walking In to COOL CHEF

I often wonder why I land up at the place I do especially when I make that choice on a whim.

This morning I had around half an hour to kill ( may be even more if things took longer……….) and I happened to be in the vicinity of a restaurant that was situated in the most unlikely place – Worli Village. It would seem strange to have a village in the middle of a large city like Mumbai but yes, we do have pockets of old world charm that still go by the name of village squatting right in the middle of our modern day concrete jungle. At the end of  Worli Sea Face  a road otherwise known by the name of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan ( or Frontier Gandhi as he is known to students of Indian history) a most unlikely name if ever, just before the round about is a small easy to miss road turning left which is dominated by the Indian Coast Guard. There just cheekily beside it on the left is COOL CHEF, the eatery which I was looking for.
I had read somewhere that the restaurant did a mean breakfast so I thought I’d pop in for a quick coffee. Unfortunately, I had got it wrong – the restaurant does a mean brunch and a great dinner so on a normal working day the chefs come in only at 11 am. However, when the watchman rang the door bell, I was welcomed into the parlor by the maid who was followed by the owner’s mother. Perhaps she is the owner herself because it turned out to be a family venture – the youngest son being the chef, the premises being his father’s and the general support system being the whole family!
Mrs. Thadani, Raviraj’s mother, was more than welcoming and offered me a cup of tea, coffee or cold drink or even just plain water while she shared with me the story of how the restaurant evolved. This little cottage has become a quaint cozy restaurant which spells quirky , young and fresh. I just glanced through the menu without my spectacles but I imagine the food to be good since Raviraj has trained as a chef in Switzerland, the Mecca of all students of serious cuisine.
I was impressed by what I saw and was tempted to stay on and have the coffee since the cooks did walk in at 11 but my wait was over and I had to leave…….
But I will be back with a report of how the restaurant measured up.