Matunga’s King Circle is definitely the home of authentic “South Indian” cuisine in Bombay. By this, we mean Tamilian and Udupi food focussed on breakfast, sapadu (full meals) and snacks. One mainstay, which has refused to upgrade, modernize or change in any way shape or form is Cafe Madras (better known as Madras Cafe).

Still bearing the original signage outside and inside, reminiscent of a bygone era, Madras Cafe draws in the crowds by the car, van and truck load. Reach this place after 9am for breakfast or after 1pm for lunch, and you are doomed to wait for an eternity for a place at one of the tables. There must be seating for 30 people at the max, and be ready to share a community table with someone you don’t know.

Cramped, dimly lit and lacking space for folks to maneuver, the place has the most divine smells imaginable and is guaranteed to drive you nuts in your short wait for the food. The place is incredibly clean and the emphasis on hygiene is clear. The manager serves as the head waiter and barks out orders to get you a table or food.

Come here for breakfast and the options are incredible. You could go for the standard fare such as upma, idli, vadai or dosai. If you are in the mood for something more exotic, ask for the pesaratu dosai. A spicy batter is used to make this delicacy. Otherwise, you always have masala dosa, uthapam or rava dosai, which is my personal favourite. All these dishes are served with a freshly made coconut chutney and sambar. The only way to end such an awesome meal is with a tumbler of filter coffee. Amma would be proud!  

Special Tip: On sundays, they serve pongal and this is something you must order. With a generous portion of ghee on top, this tamilian khichdi is a must-try. 

The lunch served here has several bhaaths (mixed rice preparations) which are very nice. The Bisi Bhele Bhaath (equivalent to a fancy sambar rice with veggies) and Dahi Bhaath (curd rice) are very good. They also have fancier dishes like rasam vadai which is nice and spicy.

The pricing is very nominal and you will leave here feeling truly satisfied.

The service has a distinct focus on getting you processed and on your way. They are very polite. However, speed in delivery of food extends to delivery of the bill too. You are gently encouraged to move along and let in the next batch of hungry diners.

My recco – Go to Cafe Madras for breakfast and show up just after 8am. Get a table, and enjoy a sumptuous meal of idli, vadai and coffee.

 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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This is quite simply THE ONLY PLACE we would recommend to visit after a Saturday morning jog.

Crepe Station Cafe in Bandra is a great place to grab a nice breakfast while enjoying a soothing sea-breeze and the beautiful people of Bandra will keep you company. The windmills on the awning and the fans to keep you cool are all components of this true cafe experience.

Food here is very good. Breakfast from omlettes (for those veggies who do have eggs) to various toast and bread options make for a nice start to the day. Wash it down with one of their signature fruit juices. The top picks would be either watermelon juice or lime juice.

For lunch or dinner, try the namesake of the cafe – a nice french crepe. Technically, they mainly have galettes (salty “crepes”), though they do have a few sweet crepes too. The farm fresh crepe (Spinach and cottage cheese) is very good and so is the one with the tomato concasse. Avoid all “indianized” crepes – somethings were just not meant to be!

There are some nice Italian options including a nice spaghetti alio olio. Garlic bread and bruschetta is also pretty good.

Another nice option are the burgers (veggie burger in particular) and sandwiches. So, as you can see, lots of cuisine options for veggies here. And they all stay consistent with the cafe feel and flavour.

The service can be slow but we really seem to be super relaxed everytime we visit. Pricing is just perfect – not too high, but enough to make it count.

Time for a review in a review:

Crepe Station, (Above Croma), Malad(W)
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We recently visited the newly opened outlet in Malad with all the passion of a loyal fan. Boy, were we disappointed!

Right from the get go, this division is located in a mall and does not retain the cafe feel of its Bandra cousin. There was a sizeable Indian section to the menu. Did I mention that Indian food + crepes = bad idea? Well, it is.

We dont frankly care if the food is good or not. They killed whatever is nice in the Bandra original by introducing -hold your breath now – an Indian lunch buffet, full with naans, dal and the works. The servers were also keen to push us in the direction of the buffet. When we did order crepes, it took us a good 30 minutes to receive the 1st crepe.

Fruit juices were limited, ambience limited, service missing. The only thing that rang true was the quality of the crepes. Excellent as always!
We say – avoid the Malad(W) outlet at all costs.

*End of Review in Review* (Don’t ever accuse of not innovating!)

My recco – Visit the Bandra outlet on a Saturday lunch or early evening. Spend a good 2 hrs enjoying a juice, a crepe and a whole lot of ambience

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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What I like best about this understated place is the unique cuisine. Ambience is minimal and service is polite and decent.

But what you really come here for is in the pursuit of decent mexican grub and palatable gourmet pizza. This place has a decent number of vegetarian option and a good start would be the Potato Macaroni Salad. Another good salad is the Fajita Salad (though not very authentic to its namesake – the Fajita). Be warned – sizes are modest for all dishes.

The pastas are ok, but skip to the thin crust pizzas. My fav is the spicy veg – a nice mix of authentic crust and indian flava on the top. They are very proud of their thin crust, so dont do a faux pas and ask for the cheesy stuffed crust. This ain’t Pizza Hut, buddy!

The must try section is the mexican food. They serve a good bean’n’ cheese taco. The hard shell is good, but go for the soft taco – yum! Another nice dish is the mushroom & corn burrito. If you want something lighter, the olive & jalapeno quesadilla rocks.

The rest of the menu is decent and the focaccia sandwiches are worth a shot.

The best part – its so damn affordable. I told my wife there is no way they stay in business. Two years later, I am so happy they proved me wrong. Where else would I get my taco fix?

My recco – Order some mexican food, pick a juice and have them deliver it at home. The place is small and their delivery times are good.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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You will find me very rarely give 4 bones to a restaurant that dares to have only 5-7 vegetarian dishes on its menu. This would be one such occasion.
Taling Pling Savoury Gastrocafe sits on the 3rd floor of the CentralWorld mall, in the very heart of the prime shopping district. Its inside a mall. Surely that should be strike 2?This cafe is one of the “warmest” places a vegetarian can rest their keester in Bangkok. The service is excellent and the servers have quick recommendations. They understand vegetarian = no fish, chicken or meat. They speak English.

We ordered the Tofu& Veggies with fresh thai basil & chillies. Veg thai spring rolls and steamed rice rounded out the meal. I had a crisp Singha beer and my wife had the Thai Iced Tea. The portions are maybe a little small though the beer seemed to fill the vacant void. Awesome stuff!

The ambience is perfect. Thai contemporary design mixes with classic silk cushion covers and dark wood paneling. This is one plush lounge in the heart of a mall. The clientele seem to reflect this and are young Thais out for a good time.

The meal is reasonably priced and the only real downside is the lack of a massive range. Dont go too late or they run out of veg. spring rolls.

The Thai Green Curry was also excellent and we tried this the second time we came here – so yes, it was THAT good.

My recco – Go when you want a non-touristy, contemporary meal where real Thais eat.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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A perfect cafe to sum up modern Bombay’s search for an oasis in the heart of the metropolis. A solid 8-ft high wall separates the outdoor seating from crowded, noisy Pali Naka in the heart of Bandra. On a good day (and I went on one such day), this wall has the effect of separating all cafe occupants from Bombay and the hustle-bustle. 

Basilico is a cafe with a contemporary feel & flavour. This is my second time here, and my wife had to give me a thousand assurances to get me through the swinging wooden gate. Our last experience had been very average – the food was average flavour, the ambience just a wee-bit pretentious and the price outrageous. We are spoilt for choice in Bandra, and a return visit seemed unlikely. 

What a difference a year makes. Full credit for the folks behind Basilico – they took the time to revamp their menu. The food is now much more flavourful. The prices more reasonable, though it remains a pricey meal. The service continues to be decent, and portions are healthy. 

The vegetarian options are many and varied. So kudos! We chose the Mustard potato skins and New Mezze 5 to start with. The potato skins were decent enough, and the varied ingredients seemed to go well together. A good start. The mezze 5 was a bit disappointing. The search for authentic mezze in Bombay continues. This fusion rendition of the mediterranean platter fails to deliver. The hummus is tasteless and the falafel are nothing to write home about. Adding in a very Indian chutney to this platter did little to rescue the dish. Very missable! 

The star was most definitely the main course. We had the Mushroom & Goat Cheese Cannelloni and it is yummy! The meld of flavours seems perfect and the hidden surprise of caramelized onions adds just the right amount of sweetness to this tangy dish. A thick tomato-based sauce acts as a good bed for the cannelloni themselves which were done to the correct consistency. This dish, in itself, will ensure that we come back here again.

The iced teas were so-so, but the ambience is now lively and yet laid back. The final damage was around Rs.500 per head, so it remains a pricey meal.

The hour and a half we spent there was relaxing and rejuvenating – exactly what ze doctor ordered.  A perfect place for dates, meetings, solo meals or a coffee break, Basilico seems to be finally living up to its billing.  

My recco – give it a try! 

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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