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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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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Craving for an “all you can eat” thaali with excellent Gujju fare? Rajdhani – is a great place for you.

With over 10 outlets in Bombay alone and plenty more in India, Rajdhani is the home to the authentic gujju thaali.

Expect huge wait times as large groups of friends and family hover around the doorman waiting their turn at the goodness inside. A tip – show up the early and beat the crowds to it.

Once inside, your gang will be seated in a large dining room and immediately the waiters attack! They hit you with the masala chaas (buttermilk) before you have even warmed the cushions of your chair. The head waiter verifies if there are any folks with Jain diet requirements, and then instructs the waiters. From then on, there is a steady flow of food.

When we went, they started with the most flavouful khaman. We also got patra (a rare Gujju delicacy) and aaloo tikkis. Green chilly chutney and a tamarind (imli) sauce work as great accompaniments.

This is followed up by Gujju Kadi, a spicy dal and several different veggies. All taste awesome. The best part is that it is served with a fluffy light fulka. Actually as many fulkas as you can consume. I lost count at ten.

That isnt the only roti – on our day we got a Bajra roti. This was all followed up by a fantastic dal khichdi.

We finished up with sheera and a burfi for dessert. Totally & utterly stuffed!

The service is excellent. They gently try and persuade you to have a bit more ghee or try the special veggie. They seem to remember which dish you enjoyed most and serve a second heap just as you finish. That is a skill worthy of one ful bone.

The pricing is very moderate and the juicy paan awaiting you at the cashier is a great way to end the meal. 

The best part – this is an all veggie joint!

My recco – Show up for lunch, come with a nice-sized group (5-7 people) and bring your appetite. Plan a nice walk afterwards – you will need it.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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The best pani puri in India, and by extension, the world! I could end the review right there…..

But I won’t!

Elco is an institution to Bandraites and really to many Bombayites. For those coming from Cal or Delhi, try this out to get authentic pani puri (different from puchkas and gol gappas). As I prefer a little spice, these kill anything else out there. A plus for the fussy stomach is that the water is filtered. Street sewage does NOT add flavour and Elco does a great job proving that.

Sev Puri, Bhel Puri, Dahi Alu chaat – all amazingly good. Showing Bombay’s position as the only Indian city with authentic food from different corners of the country (& not just Punjab), you get authentic Gujju & Punju chaat under one roof here. The Bombay dish of Pav Bhaji is better in other places and only ok here.

My favourite Indian sweet is done amazingly well here. Try out the Malai Kulfi (in a matka if you please) to extinguish fires started by the Pani puri or bhel puri.

The first restaurant to compete with Kailash Parbat in Ragda Pattice, the dish is quite good here. I would still give the nod to KP for this dish but that was a close fight indeed.

Situated in the heart of crowded & poorly planned Hill Road, Elco is a clean place that is packed most days. Ambience involves loud groups of families, friends and waiters. All set the mood for a casual meal with great food. The pricing is very, very economical and that is one big fat extra bone for them!

A special note – No one delivers food faster. I often have a total order size of ~ Rs.100 and get it delivered in 20 mins. The pizza places take the full half hour and are much closer to my place. Awesome biking speed by the Elco delivery boys!

My recco – Go for lunch, start with pani puri, order one more dish but save space for kulfi.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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Some times the heart desires good hearty food – no pretences, no fussing around. At such times, Punjab Sweet House at Pali Naka is a great bet.Located in a very competitive neighbourhood for restaurants, PSH is the old boy on the block. They have been around for a long time and I don’t see them going anywhere. The food matches the name and rarely attempts any deviations.The ambience is one of a busy chaat house. You jostle for space to get to the counter and drool on the hot jalebis, samosas and the like.

Their pani puri is passable. But, I would stick to Punjabi chaat dishes. The papdi chaat is divine and the best south of Lajpat Nagar. What I would recommend above all else is the hot samosa (divine in our now 6 month monsoon season). Ask for the chole or green chutney to accompany it, and you will be in heaven. A new discovery is their Dhokla. This bastion of punjabi-ness seems to have a gujju hidden in the kitchen. Very fluffy, light and tasty. You can pretty much try anything which you would opt for in a good punjabi snack joint.

Pricing is low, portions are large and flavour is consistently good.

My reccoShow up hungry and in a casual mood. Get some samosas, lassi and (if you must) sweets.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:punjabsweethouse-dec24.jpg

Having been raised very close to the original Kailash Parbat, I spent a good part of my childhood enjoying their snacks and sweets.

Malad has been starving for a quality snack joint outside InOrbit Mall. Enter KP Express, if you please. A small, efficient, clean version of the Colaba original. Same food, different ambience is the claim.

Thats a lofty claim and we took up their challenge and tested the menu. The fact that they are 100% vegetarian is a nice plus.

The chaat is all excellent – Sev Puri, Dahi Puri, Bhel Puri – all excellent. Pav Bhaji is actually better than I remember. We then tried the “main course” (read heavier snacks).

The Ragda pattice has always been their mainstay and it is awesome. The pattice were slightly overfried on the outside but perfectly done inside. The pattice was the correct consistency – not too thin, not too lumpy. The green chilly paste and onions formed a nice garnish to this simple dish. A must-have. Another fan favourite is Chola Batura. But, this was quite ordinary here. The Bathura were too crisp and the Chole lacked the punjabi richness.

A friend tried the Sindhi Kadi Rice, and that was not too shabby. The Thali meal was perfect for lunch. Not too big, and not too small either. The best part of the thali was the free Gulab Jamun. They could pretty much charge whatever they want for that dish -amazing still after all these years.

The ambience is ok. Pretty basic. We have been there twice and once half the joint was occupied by a kitty party, but I will not hold that against them. After all, everyone seemed happy enough! 🙂

My recco – Focus on the chaat and light snacks and try out the variety. Leave space for the Gulab Jamun and you will leave contented.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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