The Gateway of India looks strange -- bathed in light but not a soul in sight. I am used to seeing people thronging the place, making it hard for me to maneuver the car on most daytime trips to this part of town. But it’s close to midnight now and the only people around, are emerging from the Taj Mahal hotel and of course, the nearby Colaba Causeway. It’s also raining -- another reason for the lack of people. But as we turn into one of the many bylanes behind the Taj, we suddenly come face to face with a large crowd. And that unmistakable whiff of rumali roti and kebabs! Bademiya doesn’t play fair. My diet plans don’t stand a chance.
There is hardly anything new that one can say about this iconic roadside eatery that is a part of Mumbai’s glorious history. Bademiya is to Mumbai what Kareem’s is to Delhi and Putiram is to Kolkata -- a meeting place of the hungry multitudes who come from near and far to taste the kebabs, rolls and rumali rotis. We order a plate of Shami Kebabs (Rs 160), Plain Baida Roti (Rs 75 each), Chicken Bhuna (Rs 130) and the Babycorn Tandoori (Rs 110). The food is finger-licking good and the waiters ensure you don’t have to step out of the car in the rain. The only problem is, (as one of the managers tell us), that because of the popularity, they run out of food pretty fast, so even if they do stay open till later, most items are over by 1 am.
Next up is Zaffran at Crawford market, one of the busiest marketplaces in the entire country. But not at midnight. It’s closer to 12.30 am when we arrive but there is still a long queue at the counter. We settle for the Achari Paneer Tikka (Rs 250) and the Gosht Chelo Kabab (Rs 400) The chelo comes with rice with spiced cream sauce and bowls us over completely. The paneer tikka can be smoking hot on demand and is sure to wake up the sleepiest of souls. It’s heartening to see great vegetarian fare also on offer here.
We pass by Ayub’s as we take a mini detour to head to Bandra. Located between the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Churchgate railway stations, Ayub’s stands next to an expensive pub and so, is assured of late night clientele. This place doesn’t inspire visions of spotless utensils or over-cooked food but once you convince yourself that most kitchens, big or small, in Mumbai would probably flunk an unannounced FDA test, go right ahead and order the Mutton Seekh Roll, Mutton Baida Roll or Paneer Tikka Roll here.
Enroute we also manage a super quick stopover at Rajput, the hidden, tiny place on LJ Road which serves both Chinese snacks and the quintessential Mumbai pav bhaji. The shutters are down but people who have been-there-had-the-food advice us to try our luck. Sure enough, there are people inside and out comes a plate of Chicken Lollypop and Pav Bhaji (the gastronomical nightmares we suffer for our art). But we have to hand it to the cooks here. The food is terrific and thankfully not too spicy.
We are full after all that meat and greens inside us and decide to go on a long drive, till we reach the home stretch of Bandra. We stop the car for a while, decide to breathe the pure sea air and soak in the atmosphere on the Bandstand for a while. Two cops on the beat give us a suspicious stare, figure out we are not drunk and move on. A fellow late birdie tells us to head to Bandra station when we pretend to be hungry. He is spot on. Right next to the station on the western side, stands Yaadgaar. It’s a takeaway joint unlike its more famous neighbour Mughal Sarai. But the latter stays open only till 1 am and in any case, we prefer the freshly grilled kebabs and tandoori chicken that Yadgaar serves. A half Tandoori chicken sets us back by Rs 120. It’s slow grilled to perfection. Yum! The Chicken Roll (Rs 50) however, is a let down. It seems like they’ve put a few slices of garlic chicken with the gravy, inside!
There are almost half a dozen restaurants in Bandra that stay open past 1 am but we just don’t have space in our tummies to try them all. So we head straight to a tiny, almost inconspicuous joint off Waterfield Road called Sigdi. Sigdi welcomes diners till 1 am and after that acts as a takeaway, till, believe it or not, 6 am! We arrive here well past the deadline and so the first floor is shut but the chef whips up a Bheja Fry (Rs 90) and a Chicken Tandoori (half plate Rs 120). The tandoori loses out to Yadgaar but the Bheja Fry is too good to pass up even though we are bursting at the seams again.
But then how can we give one of Bandra’s most popular late night hotspots a miss? Mini Punjab is located as the same lane as KFC, sandwiched between Linking Road and Ambedkar Road in Bandra. It takes 10 minutes to place our order here as we are sixth in queue. The kitchen is abuzz even as the clock nears 1.30 am. We want to pack some stuff for lunch tomorrow (so that we taste this with an open mind and on an empty stomach) and ask for the Veg Kolhapuri (Rs 170) and the Kheema Masala (Rs 220). And we can’t resist asking for the Malai Phirnee (Rs 40) along with it. We do have a sweet tooth! The Kolhapuri is average, (we admittedly reheated it the next day) but the Kheema Masala is out of this world and goes surprisingly well with the plain naan. The phirnee is not too sweet and just the perfect ending to a happy meal the next day. But let’s not go too far ahead with our story. Mini Punjab ticked. We are almost over with our trail. But wait, we haven’t checked out the other party capital, Juhu, yet.
We think of heading all the way to Rhythm at Lokhandwala (it stays open well past 1.30 am) for our final stop but stumble upon a brand new takeaway in Juhu. It’s launch day at Jantar Mantar and the owners, who are also the brains behind the popular Nom Nom restaurant in Bandra are present to cater to the crowd that has swelled to over a dozen cars. We ask for their Cruise Bowl, which is basically a sabudana chat with spicy salsa sauce and a chicken shawarma in a rumali roti. Their kitchen is new and clean and the chefs are good with their hands. The food is impressive and the portions generous. Sadly it’s past 2 am and there are no ice cream stores open this late. But we have done enough to earn our eight hours of sleep. Tomorrow can wait!
Best joints for a night out in town
Bademiya -- Apollo Bunder -- Call 22848038
SMD recommends: The kebabs and rumali roti
Zaffran – Crawford Market --
SMD recommends: Chelo Kabab,
Ayub – Fort -- Call 65618535
SMD recommends: Everything in mutton, be it the rolls or the mains
Rajput -- L J Road, Shivaji Park
SMD recommends: The Pav Bhaji.
Yaadgaar -- Station Road, Bandra (W) -- Call 9867056380
SMD recommends: Tandoori Chicken
Sigdi -- Waterfield Road -- Call 26557907
SMD recommends: Bheja Fry Rolls
Mini Punjab -- 16th Road Bandra (W) -- Call 26002164
SMD recommends: Chicken Bhuna, Paneer Tikka, Butter Naan
Jantar Mantar -- Juhu -- Call 865534477
SMD recommends: The Veg Cruise bowl and the Chicken Shawarma