12 HOURS IN AND AROUND FORT
WORDS BY KRUTI DALAL AND SADIYA UPADE
It's the original business district. Art capital. Heritage central. The bustling area, which derives its name from British fortifications around the harbour, best showcases the transformation of Bombay into a cosmopolitan city. The colonial facades and the lanes within Fort abound with stories of the grand past, migration, and a city made one’s own and its ever-changing nature.
Option A – Yazdani Bakery
One of the oldest bakeries in Mumbai beckons you to step in for brun maska and chai. Take in the vintage frames, blackboard menus, old fixtures, and the humongous clock from one of the four wooden benches. See the old-style bread cutter in action, even as the round bruns, loaves, and pavs disappear at lightning speed. For a heavier breakfast, you can choose from mushroom puff, apple pie, carrot cake, and muffins. Regulars also swear by the ginger biscuits.
Yazdani Bakery, 1/11A, Cawasji Patel Road, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2287 0739
Option B – The Nutcracker
Among the newer breed of breakfast options is The Nutcracker, whose corrugated steel sheets, wooden windows, and bright bougainvillea make for a pretty picture that you’ll want to capture for your Instagram account. The urge to document everything continues inside. One look at the Belgian waffles with salted caramel and blueberry compote and your fingers will itch for another photo. The Emmanthel and Truffle Oil Scrambled Eggs will probably go cold by the time you get around to eating them. But the good thing is that the food here tastes just as good as it looks.
The Nutcracker, Modern House, Dr VB Gandhi Marg, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2284 2430
Option A – Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya
If it’s relics from ancient India that pique your interest, there’s no better place than CSMVS. With 50,000 artefacts, the museum has an outstanding and diverse collection of sculptures, bronzes, excavated artefacts, miniature paintings, porcelain, and much more. Get your audio guide and traverse the floors, exploring the regular and new exhibits. It’s an exercise that will take the best part of the day without you even knowing it. Our advice is to take the photo pass, for some artefacts will really speak to you.
The museum has lately started guided tours and workshops especially for kids. But even as an adult, there's joy in printing your own bookmark or a coin. Explore small activities like these along with the museum shop and come back richer.
CSMVS, 159-161, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Fort, Mumbai 400 032
Option B – Art @ Street
If it’s art you are looking for, you don’t have to look beyond Kala Ghoda. With the famed Jehangir Art Gallery, NGMA, and a clutch of smaller galleries, it’s rightly called the city’s art district. But art doesn't always have to be an expensive affair. Right outside Jehangir Art Gallery (and around the corner from CSMVS) are a line-up of artists selling paintings, hand-painted bookmarks, and cards. Right from abstracts to watercolours, tribal art, and landscapes, the diverse array of work comes at just the right price to take home. These talented artists will also sketch you a portrait or draw a caricature in a matter of minutes – just that little pin-up version to cater to your inherent strain of vanity.
Jehangir Art Gallery, 161B, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai 400 001
Option C – ARTISANS'
Sam Kulavoor’s mural in Kala Ghoda pulls you all the way to the gallery housed behind the black, white, and yellow walls. With its wood interiors and warm lighting, ARTISANS’ is the antithesis to white-walled, impersonal art galleries that dot South Mumbai. The focus here is on indigenous art, craft, and design, but the handicrafts at ARTISANS’ go beyond what is usually exhibited in government emporiums. Here you have equal chances of finding intricate pichwais from Rajasthan, Dhakai jamdanis, and collections made in conjunction with handloom weavers. The regular workshops, lectures, and film screenings are a bonus.
ARTISANS’, 52 – 56, VB Gandhi Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai, 400 001. Phone: 098201 45397
Option A – Pancham Puriwala
If there’s one word to describe Pancham Puriwala, it’s “legendary”. The story of how the founder Pancham Sharma walked to Bombay from Uttar Pradesh in the 1840s to set up shop is legendary indeed, but what’s truly epic are the puris at this iconic institution. Patrons travel miles for these perfectly round, fluffy, hot puris that emit steam when the top layer is poked. Plain, masala, palak – there’s a puri for all tastes. Pair these with chhole, aloo, kadhi or aam ras, grab a glass of their frothy chaas, and you’ve got yourself a nap-inducing meal.
Pancham Puriwala, 8/10, Perin Nariman Street, Borabazar Precinct, Ballard Estate, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 090041 88052
Option B – Cafe Military
Cafe Military may be the only Irani restaurant in the city that doesn’t have tea on its menu, but the chilled beer certainly makes up for this glaring omission. The single-paged menu is concise, with separate specials for each day of the week. You can start your week with chicken cutlet and gravy and end it with mutton dhanshak. Kheema of all kinds is available daily, along with other traditional Irani egg, chicken, and mutton preparations. Caramel Custard is listed in the “extra” section of the menu, so don’t get unsettled if you don’t spot it at first glance.
Cafe Military, Ali Chamber, Nagindas Master Road, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2265 4181
Option C – Taste of Kerala
The banana leaves fly off the counters at this no-frills eatery on Pitha Street. Waiters move about with heaps of rice and swirling bowls of chutneys, cabbage thoran, pickles, rasam, and sambhar for the sadya. That's not to discount their non-vegetarian fare. Taste of Kerala's chicken nadan curry and porottas have earned it the patronage of even the most ardent Keralites. As has the pollichathu, a special banana leaf preparation in which fish is wrapped with onions and tomatoes. It goes without saying that meals here wouldn't be complete without extra papadams and bowls of payasam.
Taste of Kerala, 6/A, Prospect Chambers Annexe, Pitha Street, Near Citibank, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 098921 21538
Option A – CST Heritage Museum
CST station, used by all and sundry, is not only one of the busiest stations in the country but also a defining landmark in the city. If, like us, you have always wanted a peek inside, this heritage tour is your cue. Head to the right wing of the station, close to the bus stop, and you will see the sign. The guided tour will take you through the history of Railways, from the shift to electric trains and more. But it’s the moment you lay your eyes on the central dome that you will get transported to a different era. Soak in the wide staircase, with the lion holding the crest, stained glass, starry ceiling, gargoyles, and peacocks, and you can almost imagine walking down the red-carpeted stairs in a Victorian gown for the Ball.
The tour is open from 3 to 5 p.m. on weekdays at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Area, Fort, Mumbai 400 001.
Option B – Bombay Heritage Walks
Now that you’ve broken the fast and tackled social media, it’s time to get those feet moving. Walking tours of South Mumbai can be found a dime-a-dozen, but you’re a sucker for anything Bombay (just like us), you’ll be instantly drawn towards Bombay Heritage Walks. They’ve been conducting heritage walks long before heritage walks became a thing. Now in their 18th year, BHW offer three route options. You can choose between the Kala Ghoda walk, the Horniman Circle trail, or the longer combination of the two. If you want to know the juicy titbits about Asiatic Library, Old Customs House and Flora Fountain without having to bury your nose deep into guidebooks, this is a good option.
For more information on the walks, you can visit their website.
Option C – St. Thomas Cathedral
Though we don’t advocate sleeping in churches, St. Thomas Cathedral is a rather serene space to rest your tired feet after exploring the area. The lush garden, towering steeple, and marble fountain make for an oasis in the middle of the bustling financial district. But before you switch on a rickety fan and sink into the pew, take a walk around the nearly 300-year-old church to find ornate marble memorials and plaques for surgeons, soldiers and sailors.
St. Thomas Cathedral, Horniman Circle, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2202 4482
Option A – Aram
If you are hankering for an early evening snack, there’s vada pav. Even better, there’s Aram vada pav. The latter can only be eaten at leisure, because its size and spice quotient makes it impossible to chomp it down in mere minutes while on the move. The original Aram, which started over 75 years ago as a milk bar, is still housed in the Capitol Cinema building opposite CST, but the newer outlet at Fort is popular as well. The gigantic portions, generous amount of garlic chutney, and the absence of turmeric in their potato mixture set Aram’s vada pav apart from the rest. If for some reason, you’re still hungry after your vada pav, try their sabudana vada, and kothimbir vadi.
Aram Restaurant, 126, Capitol Cinema, Dr. DN Road, Fort, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001. Phone: 022 2207 3947 and 42, Mint Road, Opposite GPO, Fort, Mumbai 400 001
Option B – Moti Halwai
Set up by a Punjabi family that migrated from Karachi during Partition, Moti Halwai goes back to the 1950s. Stop by for some home-style food, especially the Sindhi chaap, samosa chole, and dal pakwaan. Join the queue of people standing outside having thick creamy lassi topped with chunks of malai or find yourself some parathas and thalis at this unassuming little place close to Yazdani Bakery.
Moti Halwai, Salva Chambers, 40, Cawasji Patel Road, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 098200 58249
Option A – Mulji Jetha Fountain
Your Fort walk won’t be complete till you walk through Ballard Estate, with its wide tree-lined streets and European-style architecture. Stop by the Mint Road junction and look up at the boy who refuses to look up from his book: the Mulji Jetha Fountain, a memorial by a grieving father for his 15-year-old son. Newly restored, it also boasts of 42 sculptures of animal heads, with alligators, elephants, iguanas, and lions included. It’s fitting the fountain is located in Fort, home to some of the city’s best bookstores.
Mulji Jetha Fountain, 311, Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Ballard Estate, Fort, Mumbai 400 001
Option B – Wayword & Wise
Speaking of books, you can’t go wrong with possibly the best bookstore in Fort. With books spanning music, performing arts, and food besides some lovely fiction by little-known authors, Wayword & Wise is the perfect place to pick up some literary gems. Like Kurt Cobain's Journals that includes poetry, doodles, and letters by the musician. Or Vladimir Nabokov’s lectures on literature. There's plenty for graphic novel lovers too. And as always, there's owner Virat Chandok to help out with the recommendations.
Wayword & Wise, Strategic house, 44, Mint Rd, Ballard Estate, Fort, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001. Phone: 022 6634 9946
Option A – Burma Burma
The distance between Mangalore and Myanmar is only a few streets. Walk down a narrow alley, push open the heavy wooden door to Burma Burma, and you will apparate to Naypyitaw in seconds. The samosa soup will tickle your fancy and your taste buds. The khao suey will leave you licking your lips for traces of any remnants after the bowl has been wiped clean. Dessert might turn into a battlefield with friends, families, and colleagues wrangling over the last bite of smoked avocado ice-cream. But everyone will leave a winner.
Burma Burma, Kothari House, Allana Centre Lane, Opposite Mumbai University, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 4003 6600
Option B – Apoorva
Apoorva is a haven for Mangalorean coastal fare. The dim lights may not seem alluring at first, but a bite of their prawn gassi is enough to convert you. The classic coconut-milk gravy paired with neer dosa is a favourite of office-goers and food critics alike. Apoorva is part of the Fort seafood triad that includes Trishna and Mahesh, so it's not surprising that seafood specialties run the whole page. Go for the surmai fry and prawns koliwada or choose a preparation of your liking. Appams work on the side of everything.
Apoorva, Vasta House, Noble Chambers, SA Brelvi Road, Near Horniman Circle, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2287 0335