Mumbai’s food scene is one of the most vibrant in South-East Asia. In fact, if you wanted to, it’d be very difficult to hit all the restaurants on those must-try lists. Trust me, I tried…
Here are a few of the restaurants I visited. Unfortunately, because I didn’t try more than one dish at these, I made this list for you and tried to divide them into categories to make it easy to decide if the restaurant would be right for you.
- Shivsagar, Juhu
A casual restaurant with several branches across India, Shivsagar is the Indian equivalent to our Kenyan Chowpaty. An all-vegetarian restaurant, the menu is comprised of North and South Indian cuisine, Italian, Mexican, Chinese and continental cuisine. Dad had organized a family reunion for his family in India at the Shivsagar Juhu branch, where we had dinner in their private hall at the back of the restaurant. Renowned for their pav bhaji, Diva and I both went for a Dosa and Sev Puri, respectively as we had just indulged in buttery pav bhaji the night before at Chowpatty on Marine Drive. They were quite delicious and I can see why it is a popular stop for locals and tourists alike.
One of the oldest restaurants in Mumbai, Leopold Café is one of the iconic Irani cafes remaining in the city. With wobbly ceiling fans, a rambunctious atmosphere with European café interiors and boasting a varied and eclectic clientele, Leopold Café is one of Colaba’s gems.
Founded in 1871 by Iranis (a term used for Zoroastrians in Mumbai who arrived in India in the 19th century, as opposed to “Parsis”), Leopold is open from 7:30 AM till midnight. Of course, today the restaurant is known for being one of the first sites attacked during the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The café has even preserved some of the signs of the attack including bullet holes as a memorial.
Prior to the terrorist attack, it was particularly known as a popular hangout for foreign tourists. The cafe was also mentioned extensively in the novel Shantaram and its sequel The Mountain Shadow. Shantaram is about an Australian bank robber and heroin addict who escapes from jail and flees to Bombay, as Mumbai was formerly called. Of all the very typical Bombay things and places mentioned in the book is the Leopold Café. After the attack, it is also now also popular with many Indians to commemorate the spirit of defiance.
The restaurant menu is casual with a range of all-day meals and it even features a mix of Italian, continental and Chinese cuisine. Since we had indulged in a scrumptious afternoon tea at the Taj Mahal Palace, we opted to share a meal of French Fries, Crispy Chilli Potato (super moreish), Vegetable Spring Rolls, washed down with Chiku Juice and Nimbu Pani.
And for dessert, we all shared a decadent Chocolate Lava Cake.
If you can’t get to Leopold Café, try to go to Café Mondegar (also in Colaba, just 200m away from Leopold Café). Amongst the first (along with Leopold Cafe) and most iconic restaurant and bars in Mumbai, Café Mondegar is the first restaurant in Mumbai to house a jukebox. Started in 1932, the restaurant is a popular landmark as famous Indian cartoonist and painter Mario Miranda painted murals (his cartoons) on all inner walls and the entrance ceiling of the restaurant.
FUN AND QUIRKY
One of the hippest and most chilled-out places ever, Social at the Palladium Mall really is the Insta-worthy restaurant of your dreams. With industrial pipes visible from the ceiling, rough-cut wood log tables and customized low slung light fixtures, the bar was full and getting a table at the restaurant was difficult. After shopping at the mall, we were ready to indulge in some food and drink and it was clear that Palladium Social was the place to be.Besides several tables, Palladium Social has a state-of-the-art Craft Beer Tasting Room, the first of its kind in India, featuring 15 craft brews sourced from India and Europe’s finest breweries.
As we browsed through the menu printed on paper, rolled up and served in metal tins with cutlery and toilet paper-style napkins, I noticed that the restaurant was full of shoppers and office professionals wanting to grab a bite or have a quick drink.
The menu is comprised of breakfast dishes, soups and salads, sharing platters, bitings and mains from a whole range of cuisines from burgers and sandwiches to Indian chaats and Chinese sizzlers to pasta. And their drinks menu is full of fun, quirky cocktails.
While everyone went for water or refreshing juices, I got a Hot Shoddy cocktail as the AC in the mall was making me feel sick. The hot drink with brandy, honey, slices of orange and apple along with warming spices such as fresh cinnamon and clove was delicious but didn’t help with my sore throat.
To eat, we got a Bombay Bhel Puri Salad with rice puff granola, pomegranate, malta orange, assorted greens with tamarind chutney dressing. It was quite scrumptious. We also got a Crispy Corn Chakna, batter fried corn niblets tossed in a spicy seasoning. These went down quite a treat.
We also got some Fries and Diva wanted a Vada Pao Bao, the Bombay vada pao served in a bao instead of a bun, with lehsun chutney mayo (chili garlic mayo) and chilli pickle. This was a re-invention of a classic Mumbai street food, that was delicious.
Really, Palladium Social is a great place to sit down and chow down for a bite, grab a drink or even meet a friend in a fun, casual setting with great food.
- The Bar Stock Exchange, Colaba
Highly recommended to me by my cousins in Nairobi, The Bar Stock Exchange was a must-see on my list of places to visit in Mumbai. Conceptualized along the lines of Mumbai’s infamous stock market, The Bar Stock Exchange is a fun, unique bar concept where the drink prices change based on real-time demand, just like trading in the stock market. When a customer orders a drink, the proprietary The Bar Stock Exchange software uses a comprehensive algorithm to determine and the change the price of that drink for the next customer based on demand.
In line with the theme, the bar looks like alike a real stock exchange with screens constantly streaming updated drink prices based on real-time trades in addition to the legendary stock market ‘gong’. They’ve grown to be so popular that they’ve opened up at several locations in Mumbai. We ended up at the Colaba branch on our last night in Mumbai, as it was the closest to the Taj Mahal Palace, where we were staying. The bar’s age limit is 25 years, so, unfortunately, Diva wasn’t let in. However, understanding why we wanted to visit the bar, they let us in for two minutes to check it out. The atmosphere was electric as we watched the drink prices change in real-time. It’s definitely a stop on our next trip to Mumbai!
- Farzi Café, High Street Phoenix
Aiming to bring Indian cuisine back “in-Vogue”, Farzi Café amalgamates traditional global and Indian classics, with Indian influences, contemporary presentations, culinary styles and ambiance. The Farzi Café at High Street Phoenix is a quirky, chic, modern Indian café where guests can enjoy Indian flavors, in a way where culinary art meets the alchemy of modern presentations and cooking techniques like molecular gastronomy.
Owned by the same group that also owns Masala Library, Farzi Café’s menu has a range of dishes with Indian twists on them, serving everything from beer snacks to bao and rolls to kebabs and sizzlers to street food and pizza. Some of their popular dishes include Dal Chawal Arancini. With a nice bar and seating ranging two floors, the restaurant can easily accommodate a large number of people.Wanting something sweet after our meal at Palladium Social, we headed to Farzi Café for dessert. We got an amuse bouche served in a metal chest with liquid nitrogen smoking away. It was delicious. Unknowingly, I ordered the same Ras Malai Tres Leches, that we had enjoyed at Masala Library, on just the previous night. But here, the stack of layered ras malai and fresh fruit cream with a rose petal net garnish was even far more delectable. Simply divine!
Then, as we waited for the bill, they served us Paan Candy Floss, this time with actual paan masala wrapped in candy floss. The perfect palate cleanser at the end of every meal!
Farzi Café is a wonderful restaurant if you want to explore Indian flavors in a unique way.
Located on the ground floor of JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu, not far from the large, airy lobby is Bombay Baking Company.
Decked out in colorful interiors and a selection of books to read from, the all-day café is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, offering an array of fresh homemade bread, sandwiches, cakes and pastries, along with a diverse array of exotic options from all over the world.The café’s prime location in one of Juhu’s most luxurious hotels right on the beach itself means that a visit to the hotel is a must. We were staying nearby so headed to the café for a nice afternoon snack.
Sharing incredibly tasty pastries over delicious cups of coffee was a nice relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of our meals.
To be honest, I may have missed my weekly coffee dates at my favorite jaunts back home in Nairobi, so this truly was a nice way to chill before heading out to a massive family dinner at Shivsagar.
If you’re ever in Juhu and need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, then pop into the Bombay Baking Company for a relaxing break over some sweet treats. And there you have it! This list is just a tiny glimpse at Mumbai’s vast food scene. Have you been to any of these places? I’d love to hear about what you thought of them.
Photos by Hitesh & Diva Shah