One of the highly recommended vegetarian restaurants by foodies in Kenya was Swati Snacks. To be honest, I would have snubbed the recommendation in lieu of a trendier restaurant had the restaurant not be repeatedly featured in everyone’s lists for me.
Swati Snacks started in Mumbai as a tiny restaurant in Tardeo in 1963, serving a small selection of home-made chaats and hand-churned ice creams. These were much loved by family and friends and the restaurant quickly developed a large loyal fan base. The casual dining restaurant now offers a wide selection of eclectic vegetarian fare in a modern, clean setting. The distinctive regional Gujarati cuisine, based on traditional recipes from Indian homes, alongside flavorsome street foods, is cooked home-style with fresh ingredients. The menu really just builds upon traditional dishes that patrons remember eating at home, as well as street foods relished on the road, reviving old memories through food.
Today, Swati Snacks has expanded to three thriving and hugely popular restaurants in Mumbai and Ahmedabad (with varying menus for the two cities), all with a reputation for consistently delighting guests with its distinctive delicious food. Staying at the Taj Mahal Palace, the newest Swati snacks location at Nariman Point was the most convenient one for us.
Using the manual wheelchair the airport pick-up company had let us borrow for our stay in Mumbai, we piled into an Uber to the restaurant for brunch, having skipped breakfast at the hotel. There was a chair lift taking guests up the short flight of stairs to the restaurant, but the staff lifted me up the stairs in the manual wheelchair. It was just easier and faster so I wouldn’t have to transfer in and out of my chair multiple times.
Rather busy for a weekday lunch, Swati Snacks Nariman Point had a bright, fresh and spacious look with chalkboards on the wall listing the day’s specials and glass windows overlooking the kitchen.The metal furniture resembled a cafeteria, but the restaurant was clean and we could see servers carrying trays piled high with intriguing dishes.
The Swati menu consisted of traditional specialties such as Panki (made by cooking a batter between banana leaves), Khichdi Kadhi, Dal Dhokli (whole wheat roti cooked in traditional Gujarati dal), Makai Handvo (savory Indian cake made with corn), and Satpadi Rotli and Gatta nu Shak (masala roti served with a chickpea flour yogurt curry). The snacks portion of the menu includes a range of puri snacks, falafel, pizza, dosas, Pav Bhaji and Vada Pav. The drinks menu consisted of Chai, Chaas, Lassi and fresh juices while their dessert menu comprises ice creams and traditional Gujarati desserts.The menu is so wide that it was so hard to decide what to order. And the crockery used is all bright yellow that I think makes the food look even more delicious!
To drink, Diva and I opted for a Sugarcane Juice. Swati Snacks is said to one of the most hygienic restaurants for street food in Mumbai, so I had to try this local specialty here. Cool and refreshing, the sweet cane juice was perfect, paired with the spicier chaats.
Someone on the table ordered a Chaas Pudina, a mint-flavored yogurt drink (a lunchtime staple in Gujarati homes), showing that we were missing home now. It was super revitalizing and energizing in the heat.
Mom opted for their Pudina Panki, paper-thin mint flavored savory rice pancakes steamed in banana leaves, served hot with chillies and chutney. Unwrapped these from the banana leaves was an exhilarating experience and the panki was super scrumptious.
While Diva picked for a delicious Vada Pav, Mumbai’s version of a burger that is a street food staple, served alongside green chillies, I opted for the Dahi Batata Puri.
The dish comprised of crispy fried hollow puris stuffed with a spicy potato mixture with coriander, mint and green chilli chutney and sweet tamarind chutney garnished with mung beans, coriander and lashings of seasoned yogurt. I’d never had Dahi Batata Puri before and the yogurt-based, multi-textured dish was perfect to cool off in Mumbai’s heat.
Still hungry after we all dug in and devoured Mom’s panki, Mom ordered Puranpoli and Kadhi. Puranpoli is a flatbread stuffed with a sweet lentil filling made from toovar dal and jaggery. Served with a thick smear of ghee, the decadent puranpoli paired well with the creamy kadhi, a gravy made from buttermilk or yogurt and gram flour. Just like how my Nani (grandma) makes it!
Dad ordered a Bhel Puri, made with puffed rice and sev (a vermicelli-like snack made from gram flour) mixed with potatoes, chaat masala, and chutneys, all on top of flat puris, deep-fried small round and crispy wheat bread. Spicy, but sweet, tart, and salty at the same time, this dish was an explosion of flavors.
Still craving more of that cooling chaat, I got the Dahi Sev Puri. Another delectable dish with flat puris topped with chaat masala, potatoes, green coriander, mint and chilli chutney and tamarind chutney, all under a layer of seasoned yogurt and sev, the Dahi Sev Puri was just a Dahi Batata Puri with the addition of sev. Creamy and crunchy, this dish was heavenly.
At this point, I was quite stuffed but we had to try their house-made ice creams as they were quite well known for it. The Kesar Pista ice cream was lusciously rich and velvety but I barely managed a few bites as I was beyond full.
With efficient service and incredible food in a clean space, Swati Snacks is a mainstay on my Must-Visit Mumbai Restaurants list, and I think it should be on yours too.
Satisfied, we sauntered out of Swati Snacks, ready to take a nap before taking on the next bit of my packed itinerary. Unfortunately, Diva couldn’t get mobile network to order an Uber so we attempted to walk back to the hotel. So yeah, even with a wheelchair, I managed to wander through the streets of Mumbai, dodging rickshaws and cars while trying to ride on the uneven curbs. It sure was an adventure!
Photos by Hitesh & Diva Shah