Did the new food vending machine at Mumbai Central station make the cut?
We dropped by to review the new food vending machine at Mumbai Central station offering pizzas and gourmet meals. Did it make the cut?
Filmsy and translucent packets of salt and pepper have for long aided us in sprucing up the insipid Indian thali served in plastic, compartmentalised plates which we struggled to make space for on the side-upper birth, taking extra care to not spill over the runny and unappetising daal on our laptop as the train rocked us away to known and unknown destinations.
This imagery is so well-ingrained in our memory that when we find ourselves inside the newly opened IRCTC automatic food vending court at Mumbai Central station, using those same packets of salt to sprinkle over freshly made fries (Rs 60) makes us feel out of place. The news itself had been hard to believe, for we had accustomed ourselves to the no-nonsense vada pav and copied versions of global potato chip brands available at platforms. So, we accept this cafeteria — serving fresh pizzas, fries, juice, and Indian, Thai and Chinese meals — not just with joy, but with a lot of gratitude, in spite of their endearing spelling mistakes, where sauce becomes "souce" and margherita becomes "margaretta."
The pizza vending machine
A quintessential canteen-like space, the food court sports simple black tables and red chairs. A couple beside us is devouring their oriental meals that have been served to them by helpers in the area who collect the food dispensed from the vending machines. Contrary to the norm, here, the vending machines are meant more for quick service than self-service. We call for a "margaretta" (Rs 180), the only kind available at the moment, and an orange juice to go with the salted fries. All three items are served at the plastic table within a span of eight to 10 minutes.
While it's not any Neapolitan pizza bearing the characteristics of Italian gourmet cuisine, the thin crust pizza with stretchy cheese and cutesy concentric circles made with liquid cheese is yummy, if not outright delectable. The orange juice (Rs 60) is fresh and pulpy though we enjoy ours well-strained.
The staff is attentive and kind, and placed conspicuously in the middle of the cafeteria region of the station, this new canteen is certainly a much-needed polishing of the Railway Ministry's armour (with another outlet slated to open in January at the Mumbai domestic airport) that has for long been compromised by its food. Is it the veritable alternative to our quick-fix vada pav? Perhaps not because of the distance between the local train platforms and the cafeteria. But we are certain to hold our tongue hereon before unabashedly writing off bad food with a comment like, "Arre yeh toh Rajdhani waala khaana hai."
Time 7 am to 11 pm
At Mumbai Central Station.
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