Street food


This is simply the best Gujarati canteen style restaurant in the city.

Rows of plastic seats on the pavement outside are for patrons willing to wait, over an hour at times, to get a chance to enjoy the top class gujju fare inside. Snacks, as their name suggests, are their forte and for well over a decade they have excelled at that.

They prepare a very good sev puri, but we recommend the bhel puri, with an additional request to make it spicy. The pani puri is very good as well, but the dahi puri is marginally better. The service is lightning quick for these dishes, so order one if you have been waiting a while.

What’s truly unique to Swati is that they offer rarely found authentic gujju dishes. They offer some excellent bajra roti with guava shaak (vegetable). This can be a bit dry for some. The highlight (and must have dish) is the Panki. Batter steamed within banana leaves, and served with a green chilly pickle – the name does not reveal just how tasty a dish this truly is. Peel back the banana leaves, and peer through the steam to see a thin layer of batter clinging to the leaf. Scrape it off with a spoon or by hand and savour it without the pickle first. When done, we were left with the question – what does this go best with? The answer came quickly – another round of Panki.

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 Do ask the busy waiters for any specials. In mango season, definitely try the traditional gujju puri & aam ras.

For drinks, we pick the sugarcane juice. They have several excellent fruit juices as well as jal jeera. Take your pick – you really can’t go wrong here.

The service is fast, helpful and courteous. The ambience is basic with steel and wood for the tables and benches. Tables are close to each other, so dont expect privacy – that is not what you should want anyway.

My recco – Get here early to avoid the crowds. Order a Panki, a seasonal special & one of the gujju chaat dishes.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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A definite landmark that is mentioned in every single guide book to Bombay, the Haji Ali Juice Center has been around forever.

Present at the crowded and ever-busy Haji Ali Circle and on the seaface that has the island mosque of the same name, this juice center is easily discernible by the huge number of cars apparently parked on the side of the circle.

A very Bombay version of a drive-in/drive-through, the stewards of HAJC will guide you to a cramped corner of the road to pull your car over. They will then scoot over with a menu wrapped in a “protective” plastic sheath. He will also start reciting the seasonal specials before you have had the chance to turn the car’s engine off. His aim is to serve you quickly and get you on your way so the next thirsty traveller can be serviced.

HAJC also serves some snacks and even pizza (???!!??), but we say stick to the fruit juices and milk drinks. Of the fruit juices, you can never go wrong with the standard fare of sweet-lime (mosambi), watermelon or orange. We recommend one of the cocktails – most famous of which is the very exotically named Ganga Jamuna. A mix of Orange & mosambi juice, this is a must-try. Occasionally, they will even serve the even more exotic derivative Ganga Jamuna Saraswati, with pineapple juice joining the party.

The milk drinks are also very good and both the banana milkshake and the sitaphal (custard apple) milkshake are delectable. They also push the chickoo milkshake but the real gem is the seasonal mango milkshake (available only from about May – Aug). Show up in May-early July and you will get Alphonso mangoes in them. Yum!

Another fabulous try in the humid summers is the falooda. Filled with the gelatinous noodles or balls, and a generous serving of rose syrup, this iced milk dish is rarely made better than at the HAJC.

The pricing used to very modest but has gone up a bit with the fame. The crowds have increased too and summer evenings can be positively painful waiting to get a place to park.

The new additions are the plastic glasses to allow take away. For the purists though, I say walk up to the counter (which is long and wonderfully fruity in smell) and ask for a tall glass mug of juice.

My recco – Take a car full of folks and everyone order a different drink. Try at least one seasonal special and be sure to share with all.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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