Mumbai offers a wide range of options for food lovers, both seasoned eaters and novices. From fine dining to home-style diners, from gourmet cafes to street food vendors, you name it and you’ll find it. But the essence and flavour of the city can be truly experienced at small local eateries, where the day’s events and latest gossip is discussed and dissected over cups of chai and plates of idli and vada.
We have picked three of our favourite local restaurants that serve delicious regional cuisine.
1. Hotel Prakash Upahar Gruha
This eatery is among the most visited snacks corner at Shivaji Park which is one of the prime locations in the city. It has been serving Maharashtrian cuisine for the last fifty years and remains the only Maharashtrian restaurant to be featured in the New York Times. They serve a number of unique snack items and classic recipes that are commonly found in Maharashtrian household and are a part of staple diet in the state. The most ordered dish here is the Sabudana Vada, which is like a fritter made from tapioca pearls mixed with chillies, potatoes and select spices – we highly recommend that you try it. Crispy on the outside, loaded with a soft and hearty filling inside, this snack goes perfectly with the ground peanut chutney that it’s served with. Vada typically means a fried snack and can be made with various combinations of batter and vegetables and hence is a common snack item. Another popular dish on their menu that is a favourite across Maharashtra is the Batata vada which is mashed potatoes mixed with herbs and spices, coated in a batter of lentil flour and deep fried.
We also recommend Misal, an iconic Maharashtrian recipe which has a combination of dry snacks, potatoes and onions soaked in a spicy sprouts curry. You may want to end your meal with a glass of Piyush, a perennial favourite which is a refreshing cold beverage made from sweetened yoghurt and select aromatics like cardamom and nutmeg. It’s a daily ritual for many locals to grab a snack or a beverage here with friends and enjoy an evening walk around the nearby park.
2. Acharekar’s Malvan Katta
Malvan is a charming seaside town widely known for its coastal cuisine, located in Sindhudurg which is the southernmost district in the state of Maharashtra. The word “Katta” in Marathi language means a raised platform (of stone or wood) along the side of the road for travellers to rest upon. Aptly named for the kind of ambience it provides, Malvan Katta is a no-frills family run restaurant that serves delicious home-style meals.
Malvan cuisine uses coconut liberally in various forms like grated, dry-grated, fried, and extracted coconut milk. What gives this cuisine its distinct flavour is the Malvani masala which is a blend of around 12 dry aromatic spices including coriander seeds, dried red chillies and peppercorns. If you are a seafood lover we highly recommend the Fish Thali/platter which comes with batter fried fish, fish curry, bhakri (which is like Roti or Indian bread but made from rice flour instead of wheat) and a small portion of steamed rice, making it a wholesome and hearty meal if ever there was one.
Those who prefer chicken can opt for Chicken Kheema Thali which has chicken mince prepared in the form of curry, a delectable gravy, bhakri and rice. Make sure you wash it down with a glass of sol kadhi, a cold beverage made from coconut milk, select spices and kokum which is a sour fruit indigenous to the Western Ghats. It is known to have innumerable health benefits and is a natural antacid making sol kadhi a perfect accompaniment with spicy curry-based food.
3. Amba Bhavan Coffee Club
This restaurant is among the very few places left that have preserved their culinary heritage in this ever evolving city. As you enter the eatery, you will be engulfed by the tantalizing aroma of filter coffee and transported back to the bygone days at the sight of wooden beams, old pendulum clock and wall mounted menu that makes for a quaint and pleasant setting. This restaurant started serving traditional South Indian food in 1935 and the phrase ‘coffee club’ in its name might have been used to make it inviting for the Englishmen in the city, says the owner of the establishment. It is believed that the popular South Indian dishes like Idli, Vada and Dosa might have originated in the temple streets of Udupi in Karnataka and are on the must try list of dishes served at this restaurant.
Most South Indian snacks are served with an accompaniment of sambar – a curry made from lentils, vegetables and aromatic spices; and coconut chutney made with coriander, green chillies, grated coconut and mint. The combination of Idli, chutney and sambar is perhaps the most widely consumed breakfast dish across India (cuisine varies incredibly widely across India, but that’s a topic for another day). It is light yet very nourishing and makes for a complete meal. Other popular items on their menu are rasam vada which is a fritter made from fermented lentil batter soaked in tomato stew made with traditional spices; and the classic – dosa, a thin and crispy crepe made from a batter of lentils and rice. Amba Bhavan has a reputation for serving the best filter coffee in the locality – quite a title considering the many Udupi restaurants and cafes in the area. Located in the busy marketplace of Matunga, which is full of old Hindu temples, roadside book stalls and florist shops, this restaurant is perfect for ending a saunter in the vicinity with delicious traditional food and coffee.
Mumbai can be included in just about any itinerary, thanks to it being a gateway city. We recommend at least three nights to do it anything near justice. Many of the best authentic restaurants in Mumbai are in suburban areas which are connected to South Mumbai (where most hotels are located) by the suburban train line, which makes for a great experience itself.
Click here to make an enquiry and be sure to mention your interest in food. Or check out our Cuisines of India suggested itinerary to see how it combines with other food capitals of India.