The bestsellers at these joints are so good, you only have 120 minutes to catch them. Here's the first in a two-part series of what to eat, where and more importantly, when
At 8.30 am on Sunday, a crowd gathers at Chandru's for its dal pakwan. The Sindhi treat comprises a maida flatbread, fried in pure ghee. This is served with chana dal.
Chandru Samtani with daughter Rakhi. Pics/Ashish Rane
"The royals of Sindh relished it. Today, Sindhis eat it at least once a week. It is a celebratory dish sent to loved ones on happy occasions," 60-year-old Chandru Narayandas Samtani tells us. From Sri Devi and Akshay Kumar to Manisha Koirala, Chandru's clientele is a loyal one. Samtani took over the shop after his father, who launched it in 1988. "At that time, there was nothing on Yari Road."
We break the crispy bread and take a bite. Samtani reminds us to dunk it in the dal. The dal cuts the monotony of the pakwan. The turmeric and masala are not overpowering. The pure taste of the pulse stands out. "If you get a bitter aftertaste, it means the makers have used a poor quality oil or ghee," he adds. Dressed in a pink tee and tracks, 50-year-old Gita Thakkar places a parcel order for dal pakwans. "No cooking today," she tells us. Thakkar drives up from Juhu every fortnight. "I have a fixed order, and it is heavy enough to serve as brunch."
A corner table is heavy with plastic bags. These are for those who don't like to wake up in the morning. "They leave an order the previous night. By 11, we are sold out. The late latifs come by 12 to pick up their parcels," says Samtani.
Swati Snacks for jalebis and fafda
248, Karai Estate, opposite Bhatia
Be there by: 7.30 am
When we arrive at Swati Snacks on a Sunday morning at 8 am, groggy-eyed, there are about 15-odd customers already in queue at the takeaway window. It is the pull of the fresh, hot jalebi, fafdas and fafdis served between 7.30 am and 9.30 am that has lured them. What started out as a tiny hole-in-the-wall nearly 40 years ago, is today a swish restaurant serving regional food. Madan Singh Chauhan, from Rajasthan, has been has been preparing jalebis at the restaurant for 35 years.
"Back then, the jalebis were priced at Rs 70 a kilo. Today, it is R560. But the quality remains consistent," says the 70-year-old. Major Bhagwan Singh, who has been a loyal patron for the past decade, agrees.
"It's the fresh, juicy taste of the jalebis peppered with aromatic saffron strands that makes it so delicious," says the 86-year-old who has just returned from his morning walk. The panki, a rice pancake steamed in a thin banana leaf, is another hot-selling item.
Olympia Coffee House for mutton masala
Rahim Mansion, No 1, Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg, Colaba
Be there by: 12 noon
The mutton masala is so famous at this no-frills Colaba landmark, if you ask for kheema pao, they suggest you try the former. Which is what happened with Sujit Nadkarni, a first-time patron. And, he is quite happy with the dish.
Long mirrors adorn the walls and the fossilised, marble-topped tables lend the place a quaint charm. "Not much has changed here in terms of food and décor since 1965," says its manager, Aamir Chowdhary. Jose Luis Jiménez Sánchez (in pic), a patron from Spain, agrees. Sanchez had visited the restaurant 20 years ago, while on a holiday.
"I remember loving the brain masala (bheja masala) and mutton curry. It's spicy, but delicious enough to make me return a second time," smiles the computer programmer, as he waits for his order.
Aai Tulja Bhawani Prasann for poha
Next to Guru Nanak Hospital, Bandra East
Be there by: 9.30 am
A lanky, stooping old man mans the stall, Aai Tulja Bhawani Prasann, next to Guru Nank Hospital in Bandra East. We have got here at 11 am and are just in time to claim the last plate. "I start serving poha at 8.30 am and am usually done by noon. However, there are times when I am sold out in two hours. Then, I rush home, and ask my wife, Prabha, to make another batch," Ramchandra Kamble tells us.
The 58-year-old has been selling poha here for the last four years. "Before that, I was working as a salesman for a clothing company at Elco Market. The 12-hour shift was killing me. I quit and started this [stall]. Noon onwards, I sell veg biryani, which is over by 2.30 pm. Then I have the day to myself," says Kamble, coaxing us to try his chaas, spiced with green chillies and chaat masala.
"My wife trained with the Taj," says Kamble, showing us a laminated copy of her certificate. "I can't cook as well as her," he says, with pride.
Fresco Bakery for kadak pav
29, Juhu Church Road
Be there by: 5.30 pm
At 5.15 pm on a sweaty Monday, we step into Juhu's most popular bakery, Fresco, and are welcomed by both —the aroma of freshly baked pav and owner (in pic) Sheila Fernandes' brilliant smile.
Laadis of kadak pav, each containing 12 conjoined pieces that are double baked for an hour in the oven, have come fresh out of the oven. Fernandes has been running the bakery, which her father-in-law set up in 1971, for 26 years. "My sons, Glen and Gavin, help me out," she says, as a customer comes forward to pay. She informs Fernandes about how her child fared in his exam, Sheila asks about her health — she'd caught the flu last week.
"People buy groceries once a week, but people come here for bread every other day. I know most of my clients by face. When I am not there, they ask after me," she says. By 6 pm, the quantity of kadak pav has dropped to half. "Sometimes, people buy an entire laadi, so it flies off the shelf. Those who come late complain we don't
Jacinta Pereira is one such customer. "I have been buying the kadak pav from Fresco for 23 years. We eat it with butter, dip it in chai and even with Indian curries. I love its crunchy texture."
Another customer, Ayesha Hussain, comes all the way from Versova. "I used to live in Juhu for 10 years, so we don't like any other pav. We are also attached to the owner, Sheila, who greets us with love. It's like visiting a family member."
Sangeeta Sweets and Farsan for samosas
Manoj Villa, DJ Road, Vile Parle Station West
Be there by: 10 am
Bhavesh Shah, 35, walks into Sangeeta Sweets and Farsan on the corner of DJ Road at Vile Parle, and asks for his usual — kachori and samosa. "Samosa cche ne? (Samosas are available?)" he asks Ramesh Thakkar (in pic) over the counter. "I live just around the corner and my office is also close by. Sometimes, I come here for two samosas when I don't want to go home for lunch," says Shah.
Pic/Sameer Sayyed Abedi
The 40-year-old shop sells confectionary, Indian sweets like mango barfi, malai pedas and kaju katri, and savoury items like samosas, cutlets, and kachhoris. "Our samosas fly off the shelf. We start selling at around 10 am. By noon, they are over. We get a lot of corporate orders, so there are days you won't get a samosa at all.
Because of the popularity, we also started an evening sale from 5 pm to 7 pm," says Thakkar, who started the shop at the age of 16. His children, 22-year-old Kartik and 25-year-old Hemakshi are helping him expand. "We want to renovate, and add a seating area. We'll add cupcakes and cakes too, but samosas are our focus,"
Stuffed with peas, mashed potatoes, cashewnuts, raisins and garam masala, they are fried in refined oil. "I have been coming here with my father since I was 10, and the taste has never changed," says Shah.
Paris Bakery for kharis
278, Dr Cawasji Hormusji Street, Marine Lines
Be there by: 10 am
It's easy to miss Paris in a narrow bylane of Marine Lines. But for those who have tasted the flaky khari biscuits brushed with butter, there's no forgetting this route. "I don't have customers from the neighbourhood. Most come from Walkeshwar, Carmichael Road, Tardeo and other areas of South Mumbai," says owner Danesh Irani when we meet him on a Tuesday afternoon.
Irani is candid enough to admit that his steep prices make his snack accessible only to a privileged few. "The prices are high because quality is top notch." But Irani won't reveal the prices. "I tell customers too, don't ask me the price. First taste and then buy," he says. Along with the khari biscuits, the kharis twists, cheese batasas and garlic sticks are high-selling items.
The place has been serving patrons since 1963, and continues to exude an old-world charm, right from a quaint signboards that reads, 'Quality is never an accident' and 'We have no branches anywhere else'.
Kali Peshoton (83) is a loyal customer, even if it means he must face parking problems when he gets here. "I have to park at quite a distance and then walk it up, but it's worth it because you don't get soft, light kharis anywhere else." says Peshoton.
Candies' for chutney sandwiches
5AA Pali Hill, next to Learners Academy School, St Andrews Road, Bandra West; ONGC Complex, Bandra Reclamation
There's never an easy walk to the counter as hungry stomachs queue up to place their order at the Pali Hill and Reclamation outlets in Bandra. From the favourites — paneer makhani roll, to chicken patties, to burgers, pizzas and mini meals — the humble chutney sandwich is one of the fastest selling items at the café and bakery.
Most of the time, it is wiped out by 7 pm. Soft white bread with a generous spread of butter and green chutney. Godfree Falcon, manager at the Pali Hill branch, says, "At a time, 35 to 45 sandwiches come from the central kitchen, all lapped up in 30 minutes."