The iconic Matunga landmark — Mani's Lunch Home — has downed its shutters from yesterday after a memorable 14-year innings.
The entrance of Mani's Lunch Home. Pics/Satej Shinde
The building it is housed in, Model Co-operative Hostel Society Ltd, will be redeveloped so it is pack-up time for Mani's, hopefully temporarily.
The 75-seater restaurant was devoid of its strictly functional chairs and tables when we visited it yesterday evening. Some of the 40 workers employed at the establishment they call "home", were sleeping on the floor or on tables.
Broken down insides of the restaurant
Shocked Matunga residents were seen walking in, braving the downpour in the hope of a last cup of filter coffee, as if paying obeisance to the much-loved restaurant.
K A Vijaya (74) murmured "puuure ghee" as she looked at the place forlornly. "Ghee was the secret of their delicious food," she said. Partial to sevai, the spunky lady admitted to taking parcels home, regularly.
The menu of the popular Udupi establishment
K A Viswanath, staying just two buildings away said, "They used to send at least 50 lunch boxes to our office and their average daily patronage was 500. The workers are my family, the place is my home."
While the workers looked worried, the owner has promised them that he will look for a place to relocate. "Nobody should be told to go away in the rain. We are orphaned," the workers said dramatically, adding, "We are from all over India like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, MP, Karnataka, Nepal and we have a Maharashtrian too."
A Gujarati gentleman, who would only say his name was Trivedi, walked him, rocking on his heels in shock when told it was closed. "Bandh? Why?" he demanded to know.
As we leave, fruit sellers, a tailor and a vegetable vendor cluck in despair. The demise of Mani's is a community tragedy and tonight at least, much of Matunga, that relished a full meal here at Rs 110 will be sad.
What the chef? Mani's shut down! Mani's has been my go-to place every time I visit Matunga market scouting for ingredients or during Diwali shopping. I love their idli and wadas, but the dosas are my favourite. I like that they offer unlimited chutney and sambar. Even their sambar tastes different because they don't use regular sambar powder but traditional ingredients. It is unfortunate that it has shut down because it's an iconic place.
— Michael Swamy, chef, food stylist and photographer
The decision was not taken overnight. The building was supposed to go for redevelopment for quite a while now. The restaurants near the station will get a spillover of patrons for sure. Some patrons will trickle to King's Circle too. There are around six South Indian restaurants in the vicinity like Amba Bhavan, Shree Sunders, Arya Bhavan, Udipi Shree Krishna and another small eatery opposite Shree Sundars that does snacks.
— Devavrat Kamath, co-owner, Cafe Madras