12 HOURS IN AND AROUND CHURCHGATE
A bayside boulevard that offers a few moments of freedom. Bollywood tales that span from Amitabh Bachchan to Nargis and Suraiya. Cricket frenzy that stretches from long queues outside Wankhede to the sprints of budding cricketers at Oval. Private equity talks and college gossip – all these are at the heart of Churchgate. Within the fortified walls of Mumbai, it was the gate that provided access to St. Thomas Cathedral. It was also where Indian ambitions took root, with merchants opting for Art deco style, rejecting the British Raj's Gothic structures, and where the wealthy converged for Bombay's nightlife. A lot has changed, but neighbourhood’s the character is intact. See for yourself.
Just a few steps from the Churchgate station, Stadium is where regulars line up for egg bhurji, egg masala fry, and omelettes. It's the kheema ghotala, though, that hits it out of the park at Stadium. Unlike its peers at Fort, the Irani joint doesn't come with a list of dos and don'ts, but its rendition of kheema with eggs has earned it the patronage of many, including quite a few cricketers.
Stadium Restaurant, 76, Veer Narmian Road, Mumbai 400 020. Phone: 022 2204 6819
Salt Water Café
The wooden interiors and soft lighting at Salt Water Café are perfect to sink into while loading up on its fluffy 4-cheese omelette. Fret not if that’s too cheesy for you. There's something for every kind of egg-lover on the clipboard here. Take your pick from the classic Eggs Benedict or go with the fuss-free bagel. If, like us, you need a little sugar to jump start your day, there's the banana nutella smoothie and pain au chocolat.
Salt Water Café, Nagin Mahal, Ground Floor, Next to Ambassador Hotel, Veer Nariman Road, Churchgate, Mumbai 400 020. Phone: 070457 97531
Work off all those calories by making your way to the Oval Maidan, but not before gaping wide-eyed at the Gandhi mural adorning the front facade of Churchgate station. The technicolour makeover by Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra makes for an excellent Instagram post, no filters required. Equally vibrant is the Oval Maidan. Once part of a single open stretch called Esplanade, which included Azad and Cross Maidans, it’s the bastion of budding cricketers. No matter the time of the day, you will find men in white overalls, pads on, ready to take the crease. Get in on the action, cry foul at the umpire's decision, or simply soak in the frenzy. Unlike Wankhede or Brabourne, you won't even need tickets to do so.
Oval Maidan, 140, Maharshi Karve Road, Churchgate, Mumbai 400 032
The strategic location of the Maidan means you get to experience two sides of Mumbai. Soak in the Gothic charm of the Mumbai University and the Bombay High Court on one end. Walk the other and you have a series of art-deco buildings such as Green Fields, Sunshine, Fairlawn, and Empress Court. The style, which came to Mumbai in the 1930s, saw architects incorporating geometric patterns, pastel colours, and even porthole windows. While it’s eclipsed by the Victorian edifices of Fort, it reflects the search for an Indian identity, away from the popular architectural styles across the green. Walk this lane all the way to Eros cinema, which is a classic example of the ziggurat V-shaped design.
Double back to Veer Nariman Road and the old-world charm of Kamling. The piping hot crabmeat soup and dumplings make a perfect start to your meal. Tuck into old-school Chinese restaurant’s prawn stew or roast pork as you overhear assertions of authenticity between Indian hosts and their South Asian guests. That’s a conversation you would want to join in.
Kamling, 82, Nagin Mahal, Veer Nariman Road, Churchgate, Mumbai 400 020. Phone: 022 2204 2618
For some soul-satisfying food from Gujarat, head to Samrat. From the green muthia sabzi to fried gawar ki fali, dal, kadhi, matar kachoris and dhoklas, the thalis here are right on the money. As is the all-important farsan. Be ready for endless refills by waiters who won't stop at a mere shake of the head or the feeble no. While you may want to give the panki a miss, Samrat's khandvi, gatta nu saag and masala khichdi have staunch supporters. A meal here and you might just become party to the group.
Samrat Restaurant, Ground Floor, Prem Court Building, Jamshedji Tata Road, Churchgate, Mumbai 400 020. Phone: 022 4213 5401
Skip the dessert on the restaurant menu and opt for a salted caramel popcorn ice cream at this gourmet dessert parlour. Don't be fooled by the bright and colourful motif. The miniature Ferris wheel, full of sprinkles, and seats with pedals may make you think it's going to be a cutesy-bubbly affair. But it's all quirky with flavours like pani puri sorbet and hummus ice cream. Hint: Opt for the Jumbo Doughwich only with company; this chocolate overload isn't made for just one person.
Papacream, 18, Cambatta (Eros) Building, Jamshedji Tata Road, Churchgate, Mumbai 400 020. Phone: 022 6517 7272
It's time to settle down with some books at the big red Oxford store. Choose from a range of genres and regional picks, or simply grab a graphic novel off the shelves before heading to Cha Bar. The quaint café inside the store offers over 50 varieties of tea. Take your pick from oolong to kahwa and wander off to farther shores. Rest assured, no one will come to zap you out of the reverie.
Oxford Bookstore, Ground Floor, Apeejay House, Dinshaw Vacha Road, Churchgate, Mumbai 400 020. Phone: 022 6634 5241
Unless you start thinking of pies or biscotti. Then it's time to make your way to Mumbai's eternal favourite Gaylord. Watch people going past the busy road as you bite into crunchy palmiers or cut into flaky puffs. We were once brought a dozen meringues from the bakery for a photography lesson! Needless to say, they were polished off. Among the first eateries to introduce “show baking”, they have expanded the menu to include pretzels and baklavas. Whatever you pick up, don't forget to grab a piece of chocolate nougat off the shelves.
Gaylord, Mayfair Building, Veer Nariman Road, Churchgate, Mumbai 400 020. Phone: 022 2282 1259
Priyanka Fast Food
For a street food fix, follow the Air India logo atop the 23-floor commercial tower. Join the humongous crowd of college kids and office folks at the khau galli behind the building, specifically to Priyanka Fast Food. Owner Mohammed Arif believes in adding a twist to traditional favourites. Little wonder, then, that this small stall serves over 30 varieties of dosas and even more sandwich options. Try the samosa cheese and crunchy kurkure sandwiches, and see if Arif's jugalbandi works for you.
Priyanka Fast Food, Vidhan Bhavan Marg, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400 021. Phone: 072089 07227
With the sun lowering its gaze, get the famed ice cream sandwich from K Rustom or find a hawker selling raw mango slices, a spot of shade, and park yourself at Marine Drive. Follow the waves as they wash over the tetrapods, see the smiles on the faces of the old and young, and admire the orange-red hue fill the sky. Turn around and you will spot more of those 1930s Art Deco landmarks. Fill up on the air, laced with the scent of the sea, before making your way to the southern tip of Mumbai. You probably know it as Nariman Point, after lawyer Khurshed Framji Nariman, who suggested sea waters be reclaimed for a commercial hub.
Don't forget to grab some bhel though before heading to the hallowed grounds of NCPA. The multi-genre cultural centre is home to all art forms – music, dance, theatre, film, literature, and photography. Head to see the country's only professional orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra of India, with the hobnobbing Parsis or appraise the perfect photographs at the Piramal Art Gallery. With a number of collaborations with the likes of National Theatre (London), the five theatres that make up the NCPA are home to some great performances. Of course, the night doesn't end without chit-chat at the al fresco NCPA Café.
National Centre for the Performing Arts, NCPA Marg, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400 021
YB Chavan Centre
For some regional performances, head towards YB Chavan Centre. This walk will involve taking on some state bureaucracy (from the outside thankfully!). Located opposite Mantralaya, the centre – named after Maharashtra's first chief minister – is host to some delightful Gujarati, Marathi, and Hindi plays. Take a seat at the spacious auditorium that's seen the likes of Tom Alter play an array of characters and strap on for some slapstick Marathi comedies or poetic Urdu interpretations.
YB Chavan Centre, General Jagannath Bhosle Road, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400021. Phone: 022 2202 8598
Switch from regional to international at Relish with crunchy nachos. The six-flavour shooters make for an excellent contrast with the white decor and floral cushions of the eatery. Go nom nom, just as the multiple food quotes on the walls advocate, with the Four Seasons Pizza or kebab sizzler at this vegetarian restaurant. If you order the fondue, be ready to fight to the finish for there is no “we” in chocolate.
Relish, 125, Jamshedji Tata Road, Churchgate, Mumbai 400020. Phone: 022 4213 5419
The Sassy Spoon
The French inspired decor of Sassy Spoon is alone enough to draw you in for a ride. The fuchsia furnishing, wall of crumbling suitcases, and white-and-golden Volkswagen make it one of the most picturesque outposts in the city. The touch of whimsy continues with the food, especially the European fare. Try the nutty ricotta ravioli or spaghetti. It’s the dessert menu, though, that we heart. The dark chocolate and basil fondant or the caramel peanut tart with its crunchy brittle are clearly the way to go.
The Sassy Spoon, Ground Floor, Express Towers, Ramnath Goenka Marg, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400 021. Phone: 099200 03500
Feature photograph by Suruchi Maira