A cafe that fits all

Updated: Feb 25, 2020, 09:14 IST | Phorum Dalal | Mumbai

A Juhu cafe and bar feels like a cosy house that is perfect for a solo meal, gossip session or a date night

Tender coconut and couscous salad
Tender coconut and couscous salad

Food: Scrumptious
Ambience: Relaxed
Service: Slow
Cost: Reasonable
Verdict: 2/4

It is always pac­­­ke­­d," a friend complains, as we stand outside Homema­de Café and Bar, in Juhu where once in the early 2000s, Salt N Pepper stood offering a fiery Chinese and Indian menu. The artificially coloured triple schezwan rice still reminds us of our Chindian craze.

"Which means it will be good," we counter.

This is our second visit since the cafe first opened last July. We were there in Mumbai's bleak December winter for the seasonal mulled wine (Rs 450) packed with spices like cloves and cinnamon, and the tiramisu — creamy, caffeinated and light. A busy bar kept the Christmas cheer up with star-shaped fairy lights on the wall.

Chicken satayChicken satay

We truly soak in the interiors only on our second visit, which is during the day, and we notice the rust orange brick walls and a wooden swing door that welcomes one into the compact outdoor seating area.

The décor indoors is inviting too. We feel we're in a home owned by someone with great taste. On the left, a half-drawn curtain drops, and we peek into a semi-private space occupied by an inviting table in the backdrop of a library. The black-and-white checkered floor spills into the main area, which has comfortable sofas and high chair options. Done up with warmth by Shweta Kaushik, who has also designed Trèsind and Bayroute, we love the attention to detail and the touch of fun.

Interestingly, we see a lot of all-girls groups, dressed in their best having a good laugh over cocktails.

We choose high chairs over the cushioned sofas and soak in the gentle buzz of incomprehensible chatter. At noon, we are sure it's gin-o-clock and we order an Italian affair (Rs 675) and drunk hibiscus (Rs 675). The Italian affair has the sweetness of coconut lime cordial with earthy tones of turmeric that balance the fruity pineapple. The latter has the tropical notes of orange, peach and the vegetal touch of hibiscus made fresh by aromatic basil.

Banoffee pie Banoffee pie

The drinks take time to come to our table, and by then we are halfway through a plate of tender chicken satay (Rs 345), rubbed with haldi, which comes with a sweet peanut sauce on the side, and mushroom blanco (Rs 325) topped with pepper sauce and loaded with garlic. The pesto aioli it is paired with is a misfit as we prefer the fungi in its own creamy sauce.

Since all eyes are on dessert, we go back to a salad instead of main course. It's a move that could easily be termed dull. But the tender coconut and couscous salad (Rs 325) is anything but that. The generous bowl comes with crunchy couscous salad dressed in a tangy vinaigrette, along with pomegranate pearls, peanuts and soft feta. The fresh kale leaves remind us of Popeye (yes, the sailor man) and the tender coconut strips add a milky sweetness. We are salad converts.

Drunk hibiscusDrunk hibiscus

Having tried the mulled wine on our first visit, we order the spiced red sangria (Rs 450) this time. Let's be honest, we usually waste the fruits that sit at the bottom of the glass and are happy when this one comes with a lone slice of apple. The sangria is peppery with subtle hints of cinnamon and star anise. This, we pair with the banoffee pie (Rs 225), which has a crumbly, buttery base, airy white cream atop a layer of banana mash and caramel folded in.

Next time, we're going back to skim through the books on that shelf we spotted and enjoy a quiet meal at a corner table.

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At The Homemade Café and Bar, Juhu Hotel, near petrol pump, Juhu Tara Road, Juhu.
On 11 am to 12 am; 11 am to 1 am (on weekends)
Call 9987721543

Food review rating: 4/4 EXCEPTIONAL, 3/4 EXCELLENT, 2/4 VERY GOOD, 1/4 GOOD, 0.5/4 AVERAGE

The Homemade Cafe and Bar didn't know we were there. The Guide reviews anonymously and pays for meals

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