Food: The Mumbai McDonald story, and more
In section two of our 32nd anniversary special, we take a walk down memory lane and wonder at how people in Mumbai lived earlier
1993: City paves way for local pizza chain
Smokin’ Joes — the first pan-Indian domestic pizza chain, incidentally headquartered in Mumbai — opens its first store on Carmichael Road on July 21, 1993. The same year sees Mumbai-based Sanjeev Kapoor’s Khana Khazana show on TV, which goes on to become Asia’s longest-running cookery show. 1996 is a big year for fast food lovers as Dominos launches in the city followed by the global giant McDonald’s first outlet in Maximum City. Pizza Hut follows suit two years later.
1999: City ditches lunch, breakfast, for brunch
The first standalone brunch is started in 1999 by Indigo at Colaba, which serves alcoholic and non-alcoholic brunch options. While Shatranj is the first specialty standalone fine dining Italian restaurant in 1990, this restaurant relaunches as Shatranj Napoli in 2012.
2010: Farmer’s Market comes to town
On March 21, the Spring Equinox in 2010, Maharashtra’s organic farmers start selling their produce directly to the consumer without any middlemen involved for the first time. Kavita Mukhi, the founder of Conscious Food and organiser of the Farmer’s Market, starts the initiative to encourage direct selling to the consumer as the farmer gets a better price. The market spreads to more than one location, and health-conscious citizens flock to the market.
2010: Eating out is in
Mumbai sees India’s first-ever Restaurant Week, inspired by those in New York and London. Seven restaurants, including Indigo, Tote, Botticino and Stella, take part in the fest offering three-course meals for R1,000 per head. April 2013 saw a participation of 72 restaurants and 10,000 customers over 10 days across three cities — Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.
Then & Now: What the taste bud craves
Sanjeev Kapoor, Chef
While we love saying so much has changed in the past 30-35 years in the food industry, and exotic cuisines are firing our palates with innovative tastes, in reality not much has changed. Emotionally, our sight, sound, smell, taste and soul of the food still craves for khatta (sour), meetha (sweet) and teekha (spicy), namkeen (salty). Let’s talk about what has changed? Irani cafés have witnessed a significant set back, the centre of attraction has moved to north Mumbai, and today, one doesn’t need to travel all the way to south Mumbai to eat a decent meal.
Roadside food has undergone a transformation, adding all types of cuisine to their menus and even marrying two distinct dishes into one — for instance pav bhaji dosa, and Chinese dosa. The Bombay sandwich is now grilled with a layer of cheese. The original one had veggies such as boiled potato, onion, tomato and beetroot, and was cut into nine pieces.
When I moved to Mumbai, then Bombay, in 1992 to work in Centaur as a head chef, I didn't see so many samosa stalls. In spite of all this, we still crave for typical Indian flavours. If the Chinese were to eat our Manchurian with schezwan rice, they would be in for a cultural shock. People may have become health conscious but not when they eat on the streets. We have more than 15,000 restaurants, and global cuisines are but a drop in the ocean. If the Italian pasta is served the authentic way, we’ll accuse the chef of serving us a kachcha (undercooked) dish.
The changes are time-related, not taste related. Food is the new entertainment. With so many Masterchef seasons behind us, cookery shows are getting prime time slots on television.
One thing that has changed are my Sundays. Today, my Sundays are mostly driven by what my daughters, 16 and 19 years of age, want to eat.
Sepia memory: K rishna Warrier
The one thing I miss the most about Mumbai is Mahabhoj.
In a locality that boasts of many popular eating places like Mani’s Lunch Home, Madras Café and Rama Nayak Udipi Sri Krishna Boarding, it was easy to miss Mahabhoj, a tiny vegetarian thali place near Ruia College in Matunga. But if you ate there once you were hooked, as many regulars would testify.
Of the dozens of thali places I’ve tried in Mumbai, the closest that came to serving home food was Mahabhoj. It had a standard menu and the food was cooked in Kannada style-with typical ingredients like dal, sabzi, rice, chapatti, curd, papad and payasam.
When I first went there in the 1990s the thali was priced around
R20 or R25. The cost kept increasing gradually till it touched R50. But even that was not sustainable.
The rise in gas prices, shortage of labour and sky-high prices of vegetables are the major factors that forced Sachidanand Shetty, owner of Mahabhoj to shut
Krishna Warrier joined MiD DAY in 1987 as a trainee
sub-editor and was Editor, Editions and Technology,
when he quit in 2009