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12 Hours In And Around Lower Parel

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12 HOURS IN AND AROUND LOWER PAREL

WORDS BY KRUTI DALAL

Tall, crumbling chimneys peek out between sleek office towers. Vibrant chawls, once home to the city’s mill workers, are dwarfed by glass high-rises with swimming pools. Sloping, wooden beams lend support and character to new restaurants built inside skeletal textile mills. You’re never too far away from a physical reminder of Lower Parel’s former glory. This is where the old and new co-exist, and spending a day here is akin to a roller coaster ride that dips you into the past and then accelerates you into the future. Strap in for the ride.

9:00 a.m.

Option A – La Folie Patisserie

If you shut your eyes, soak in the sunshine and inhale the aroma of freshly ground coffee, you could be in Paris. Open your eyes and you’re seated at the little nook by the window at La Folie Patisserie, watching the early office bunch trickle in, dreaming about Eggs Benedict. A few things to remember: you can’t share the croissant because it’s too flaky to cut; don’t be surprised to see copious amounts of avocado in your Avo Bowl; everything off the girdle is worth the wait, especially the Belgian waffles with Nutella and maple coulis. La Folie Lab, Unit no. 10, Trade World ‘B’, Kamala Mills, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 096999 93350. Opens at 8 a.m. daily

Option B – D:OH

Green chairs, comfort food and a quick game of Scrabble – D:OH is the perfect embodiment of starting your day right. The airy, sunlit cafe offers fuss-free breakfast favourites like French Toast, Banana Pancakes, and Akuri. Hash browns are crispy and buttery, and the coffee feels like home. Time saved by the concise breakfast menu can be spent wisely in front of the beer display. D:OH, Ground Floor, Unit 2B, Trade View, Kamala City, Kamala Mills, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 6237 2829. Opens at 9 a.m. daily Lower Parel Guide_004

Option C – Poornima

Get in the thick of the action by leaving Kamala Mills and making your way down Tulsi Pipe Road to Poornima. An outpost of the iconic eatery in Fort, this non-descript South-Indian joint is where the locals fuel up for the manic day ahead. You’ll find corporate workers, bank managers, and mill workers tucking into Mangalore buns, rasam vada, and onion uttapams while students share a single plate of sheera. You can’t go wrong with Poornima’s quick service and dependable food. No bad morning ever started with pudi dosa and lassi. Poornima, Shop No 9, 237- A, Rustam Handere Building, Opp. Peninsula Lower Parel Compound, Ganapatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013. Phone: 022 2495 7600. Opens at 8 a.m. (closed on Sundays)

11:00 a.m.

Option A – Piramal Museum Of Art

Once you’ve demolished your pudi dosa, just cross the busy road and waltz into Peninsula Corporate Park with a full tummy. Walk into the central atrium of the Piramal Tower to find refuge from all the corporate humdrum. The Piramal Museum of Art is one of only two private art museums in the city and is luckily unknown to most tourists. The private art collection of Ajay and Swati Piramal boasts works by Akbar Padamsee, Jehangir Sabavala, MF Husain, FN Souza, and many others. The venue has an active calendar filled with regular thematic art exhibitions, talks, workshops, and seminars, as well as a tiny shop selling gift items. Piramal Museum of Art, B Wing, Ground Floor, Piramal Tower, Peninsula Corporate Park, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 3046 6981 Lower Parel Guide_002

Option B – Trilogy Bookstore and Library

Follow the signboards in the Raghuvanshi Mills Compound until you reach the tiny slice of sunlit heaven known as Trilogy. Apart from the usual literary fare, this library/bookshop stocks graphic novels, rarer titles, coffee table books, and illustrated material. If you get lost inside the book labyrinth, follow the neon Post-Its with hand-written recommendations from the owners, members, and regular customers. They have an extensive children’s section as well as a separate library membership for the tiny tots. Trilogy, 1st floor, Building No. 28, Above Mercedes Service Center, Raghuvanshi, Mills Compound, Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 080805 90590

1:00 p.m.

Option A – Pravas

If you’re ready for an indulgent meal, Pravas will take you on a culinary journey to Gujarat. The only restaurant in the city centred around a railway theme, Pravas offers the experience of dining inside a recreated train compartment, albeit a rather ornate one. Choose between the unlimited thali, traditional Gujarati snacks, and token street food and top up the meal with a bowl of Locha Mohanthal. If not for the view outside, you could well be aboard the Palace on Wheels. Pravas, Gate No. 4, Beside Smaaash, Kamala Mills, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 3997 1887

Option B – Jai Hind Lunch Home

Jai Hind Lunch Home has been saving corporate lunchgoers for many years now. Like its other branches, the Lower Parel outlet of this dependable chain serves spectacular seafood dishes. Regulars swear by the stuffed bombil and prawns Koliwada, vegetarians order repeats of sol kadi. Peak hours could mean a substantial wait, sharing your table with other eager eaters, and shouting above the din to communicate with your companions. But proceed with patience and you won’t be disappointed. Jai Hind Lunch Home, 7/8, Madhav Bhuvan, ‘B’ Block, Opposite Kamala Mills, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai, 400 013. Phone: 022 2493 0010 Lower Parel Guide_006

Option C – 1 Tablespoon Pizza Kitchen

When you’re at Todi Mill during lunch hour, it’s tempting to ignore all the fledgeling eateries and head straight to the bigger names. Dare to digress and you will be rewarded with the most delicious pizza in the vicinity. 1 Tablespoon Pizza Kitchen has little more than one table and just about enough chairs to accommodate a medium-sized group, but the menu runs for pages. With names like Ciao Chili, Blowing Fire, and Maillard Reaction, every pizza sounds promising. When the thin crust pizza arrives at your table crisped to perfection and loaded with toppings, you know they also deliver on their promises. 1 Tablespoon Pizza Kitchen, Unit 1, The New Mahalaxmi Silk Mills Premises, Mathuradas Mill Compound, Between Zaffran & Cafe Zoe, Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 075064 33908 

3:00 p.m.

Option A – Clue Hunt

After lunch, you can shake off the lethargy and engage in a stimulating activity like Clue Hunt. A “room escape” game littered with clues to help solve a mystery in under 60 minutes, Clue Hunt tests your logical skills and ability to work with a team. You can choose between three mysteries: The Stolen Painting, The Diamond Maze, and The Lock-up Mystery. One hour in a closed room, racing against the clock to break free and all traces of lethargy will disappear. Clue Hunt, Ground Floor, CD House, Mathuradas Mill Compound, Behind Cafe Zoe, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 2499 9165

Option B – BARO

If you’d rather give in to your full-belly laziness, take a leisurely stroll over to BARO. Browse through their eclectic collection of furniture, admire the Suzani armchair, intricate Rajasthani phads, vintage lampshades, and lacquered steel trunks. Sink into a couch and curl up next to Laila or Maya. Owner Srila Chatterjee’s dogs know the cosiest spots in the house. BARO, 12, Sun Mill Compound, Tulsi Pipe Road, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 4034 4888 baro srila chatterjee siddharth sirohi

4:30 p.m.

Option A – Blue Tokai

The heady aroma at Blue Tokai is enough to awaken you from your mid-day stupour. Sift through the menu offering cappuccinos, affogatos, and almond croissants before deciding on at least two items. Watch the roastery in action through round glass windows on Wednesdays and Sundays. On other days, you can just concentrate on your cortado and mumble “I love coffee” into your cup. Blue Tokai, Unit 20-22, Laxmi Woollen Mill, Opposite Khazana Furniture, Off Dr. E Moses Road, Mahalakshmi, Mumbai 400 011. Phone: 098200 95887 Lower Parel Guide_003

Option B – The Rolling Pin

If you’re not as finicky about your coffee but go all Masterchef while dissecting your dessert, then The Rolling Pin is the right place for you. On a diet or not, it’s impossible to remain immune to the fragrance of freshly baked goodies. Choose from over 40 types of cakes, tarts, brownies, fudge, and cookies and watch the pastry chefs roll croissants on white worktops while you wait for your coffee. With its mind-boggling variety and vibrant displays, The Rolling Pin could well be the modern version of Hansel and Gretel’s house. No need to leave a breadcrumb trail, the aromas will lead you right back. Pro Tip: Order everything mango on the menu during the summer months. The Rolling Pin, 12, Janta Industrial Estate, Opposite Phoenix Mills, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 4610 4610

Option C – Zen Cafe

Zen Cafe is Lower Parel’s best-kept secret. Located on the mezzanine floor of a furniture store inside a compound filled with similar shops, this vegetarian café is often ignored for more obvious options. The perfect spot for a quick catch-up with a friend or a leisurely date with your current literary flame, Zen Cafe exudes laid-back vibes and churns out top-notch cappuccinos. The couches are inviting and the staff is patient with freelancers, lovers, and bookworms. Zen Cafe, at the Mezzanine of ICasa, Raghuvanshi Mills, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 2498 4825

6:00 p.m.

Option A – Matterden CFC

Matterden CFC is a restored building with an open courtyard, red-tiled roof, and two white elephants. The erstwhile Deepak Cinema was spruced up a few years ago and now screens classics of world cinema, offbeat films, and documentaries, all for under Rs. 125. Grab a packet of popcorn and sink into one of the recently upholstered red seats to enjoy some Kieslowski, Kiarostami, or Kurosawa. Matterden CFC, 38, NM Joshi Marg, BDD Chawl, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 2492 3399 matterden-cinema-deepak

Option B – Sitara Studio

Sitara Studio is a tiny, tiny venue for arts and culture in a narrow alley on the fringes of Lower Parel. Weaving through the evening crowds, dodging handcart pullers, and asking chaiwallas for directions is a crucial component of the Sitara experience. A relatively new entrant on the scene, Sitara didn’t quite announce its entry with a big bang. The venue usually hosts offbeat theatre and music performances and offers its mezzanine space for rehearsals. Check the schedule before going. There’s not much else to do on non-performance days apart from admiring the street art and enjoying a steaming cup of tea from the chaiwalla at the corner. Sitara Studio, Garage Galli, Kakasaheb Gadgil Marg, Opposite Indiabulls Finance Centre, Lower Parel, Mumbai 400 028. Phone: 022 2422 1666

8:00 p.m.

Option A – Ambience

It can be daunting to choose from over 40 watering holes in a 2-mile radius, so go by what suits your mood. And your wallet. If you’re feeling rather stingy and don’t quite want to scan through pages and pages of cocktails, head to Ambience. A favourite with the journalists, technicians, and crew of news channels housed in the vicinity, this local dive under the flyover can no longer be called dingy after a recent renovation, but it still retains some of its coarse glamour. Come here on a Friday night to sip on Old Monk and coke, chomp on paneer chilly, and pick up juicy tidbits about the television news industry. Ambience Bar & Kitchen, 162/D, Jagdamba Bhavan, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 2498 5654

Option B – The White Owl

One of the earliest entrants on the micro-brewing scene, The White Owl is often ignored these days in favour of the new kids on the block. Their craft beer is made in small batches and is devoid of any preservatives. Depending on your ale palate, you can choose from Diablo (Irish red ale), Ace (apple cider), Spark (Belgian wit), and a few others and see the brewing equipment set up behind glass walls at the back of the bistro. They also serve delicious finger food, salads and sandwiches. The White Owl, One Indiabulls Center, Tower 2 Lobby, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 2421 0231

Option C – The Tasting Room

If wine pairing is as crucial to you as the meal itself, then you’ll find your tribe at The Tasting Room in Raghuvanshi Mills. Housed inside Good Earth, this restaurant has a wine-only drinking list and décor straight out of an anniversary issue of Architectural Digest. The setting is apt for long-flowing conversations over red wine sangria and tiny tasting plates of stuffed brioche and smoked salmon. If you aren’t swaying merrily by the end of dinner, stop at the small bookstore near the entrance for a quick browse. The Tasting Room, 1st Floor, Good Earth, Raghuvanshi Mill Compound, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 6528 5284 Lower Parel Guide_005

Option D – Pa Pa Ya

Walking into Pa Pa Ya feels like you’ve entered an atom in the middle of a chemical reaction. Pretty apt, considering this upscale eatery showcases the finest masterpieces of molecular gastronomy in the city. From the hexagonal light fixtures casting shadows on deep red walls to the chocolate ball that melts away to reveal sweet surprises, everything at Pa Pa Ya has a touch of drama. The Sushi Matrix, a platter of 19 types of sushi, is dramatic just by virtue of size. The potent lemongrass infused vodka could have theatrical repercussions. It’s ironic however that the most exciting course is the one between formal courses – the amuse bouche of rambutan sorbet served in faux oyster shells in a bowl of liquid nitrogen. Pa Pa Ya, Level 3, Palladium Mall, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 088280 31900 Feature photograph by Superfast1111 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Calling All Culture Vultures To G5A Foundation For Contemporary Culture

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 g5a foundation for contemporary culture

CALLING ALL CULTURE VULTURES TO G5A FOUNDATION FOR CONTEMPORARY CULTURE

The G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture is a multifunctional space with a black box, a sun-lit study, a bougainvillea-lined terrace, and a café that’s ideal for extended Sunday lunches. Among the events it hosts are book readings, ghazal renditions, dance workshops, documentary screenings, and experimental theatre. It is a not-for-profit organisation.
G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture, Laxmi Mills Compound, Shakti Mills Lane, Off Dr. E Moses Road, Mahalaxmi, Mumbai 400 011. Phone: 022 2490 9393

WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY KRUTI DALAL

In the old textile district of Girangaon, past the crumbling, banyan-sprouting walls of Shakti Mills, beyond the blue exteriors of Blue Tokai lies a remodeled warehouse that is nurturing creativity and encouraging dialogue one event at a time. The brainchild of architect and filmmaker Anuradha Parikh, G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture is a multifunctional space with a black box, a sun-lit study, a bougainvillea-lined terrace and a café that’s ideal for extended Sunday lunches.
The schedule at G5A is much like the space – well spaced out, yet cohesive. Often, there are no events lined up for days but the blend of book readings, ghazal renditions, dance workshops, documentary screenings, and experimental theatre more than make up for the skeletal calendar. Packed program or not, a trip through Mahalaxmi’s back roads is worth your time just for the sunlit café with potted plants and a tree that extends till the mezzanine floor.
Port is what Prithvi Café was a decade ago. At a time when there wasn’t much to be found between the extremes of cutting chai and classy cocktails, Prithvi Café introduced the city to Irish coffee. Affogato is the new Irish coffee, and nobody does it better than Port. If vanilla ice cream doused with a shot of espresso and homemade caramel sauce is not your cup of coffee, then opt for the lemon iced tea. Dense and chilled with a faint kick of tamarind that’s zingy, tart and yet balanced, this is the best beverage to beat Mumbai’s year-round summer. Lean back on the printed couches, soak in the rays and listen to the quiet babble of artists, theatre personalities and socialites. That’s what you call a complete cultural experience. 
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Blue Tokai Brings Malabar To Mahalaxmi

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BLUE TOKAI BRINGS MALABAR TO MAHALAXMI

WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY KRUTI DALAL

Blue Tokai is a café that is attractive first and foremost because of its coffee.

I remember the exact moment I fell in love with coffee. The extended family had gathered post midnight to celebrate a birthday. I saw my aunt holding a cup close to her body, stirring vigorously with a spoon, and I offered to take over. Over the rhythmic clanking and chatter, I watched the dark brown liquid transform into a fluffy, caramel-coloured cloud. I inhaled the heady aroma, scooped some of the grainy paste and tentatively transferred it to my tongue. Bam! I’ve had one too many cuppa joes since then, but none have sparked off fireworks; until I consumed three cortados in one afternoon at Blue Tokai.

Finding Blue Tokai in the maze known as Laxmi Mills is akin to a treasure hunt for millennials unused to asking for directions or keeping calm when the signboards disappear for a short distance. In theory, you could just follow the sweet smell or track breadcrumbs and find yourself face to face with wide, floor-length windows and a burst of bougainvillea. But it’s probably a safer bet to keep your eyes peeled for the blue square nestled between rectangular signs for furniture boutiques.

blue tokai coffee

If you think dragging your feet through narrow lanes, surrounded by abandoned textile mills is hard work, you’d best return the same way. The truly Herculean effort comes from Blue Tokai, which follows the principles of purity, freshness and transparency. The nautical windows in the café overlook the roastery, so you can witness the journey of the espresso perched on your table – from pale beans to burnished liquid in pretty blue cups.

I head to Blue Tokai on a Wednesday and meet Raymond, the head roaster. The air is thick with the smooth scent of fresh-out-of-the-oven beans, cut only by the apologies flying across the room. Raymond is apologetic about breaking off conversation to alter the temperature and sliding across the floor to prop a barrel to catch falling beans. I’m clearly just getting in the way. Over the next 15 minutes, I grill Raymond even as the coffee beans from Kalledeverapura Estate in Chickamangalur are put through the test of fire.

blue tokai coffee

Blue Tokai sources their beans from 10 estates spread over the lush green ranges of Karnataka, Raymond tells me. There is no standard temperature, but heat graphs have been plotted separately to extract the unique essence of every single type of bean that is rolled in through the roaster’s swinging doors. Additionally, the beans are roasted to different degrees – light, medium and dark – in order to highlight different flavours. After being heated by a gas burner, the beans are cooled down and packed in airtight drums. Then, depending on orders received over the past four days, the beans are either ground to a particular consistency or straight away packed in beautifully illustrated brown paper bags and dispatched to coffee enthusiasts across the country. The coffee retains its zing for two weeks, and then it’s time to let a fresh batch of Malabari java tickle your nostrils.

My hunt for the perfect coffee has been like the Rolling Stones’s hit number. Complete satisfaction has remained elusive, but after years of refreshing myself at coffee shop chains with free Wifi, I’ve finally found a café that is attractive first and foremost because of its coffee. The easy vibe, friendly service and Wifi access are added bonuses. I now have a favourite spot (corner table with a clear view of the roastery), preferred blend (Hummingbird) and sinful snack (almond croissant). I also have a fixed address on Wednesday and Sunday evenings.

Blue Tokai roasts to order every Wednesday and Sunday from roughly 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The roaster is adjacent to the café and open to the public. You can place orders for specific blends on their website or pick up packets from the café.

Blue Tokai, Unit 20-22, Laxmi Woollen Mill, Opposite Khazana Furniture, Off Dr E Moses Road, Shakti Mills Lane, Mahalakshmi, Mumbai 400 011. Phone: 098200 95887
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The Racecourse Is One Of Mumbai’s Last Great Open Spaces

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THE RACECOURSE IS ONE OF MUMBAI’S LAST GREAT OPEN SPACES

WORDS BY BHAVIKA THAKKAR AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY SURUCHI MAIRA

The Mahalaxmi Racecourse is a much-needed patch of green in a city starved of open spaces. In 1883, a man with a vision donated a tract of marshy land spread over 225 acres to the Royal Western India Turf Club. That tract of land was converted into what is today the Mahalaxmi Racecourse, and that man was Sir Cusrow N. Wadia, an industrialist and philanthropist. It has the distinction of being Mumbai’s largest open space, but the racecourse is not without troubles. It is under constant threat by various political factions who want to convert it into a more accessible space because of the belief it is the playground of the elite. This belief is partly true, but that does not mean that the general public is denied use of the space entirely. The racecourse, for racing purposes, is divided into two enclosures – one for its members and the other, known as the first enclosure, for the general public to view the action on the track. While the members constitute the elite crowd, it is in the first enclosure that you will find everyone from a local taxi driver to a college student looking to make a quick buck flocking the turf on race days. And to further debunk the belief that horse racing is a frivolous sport, you need to look behind the scenes at the Turf Club (as it is more commonly known) at the things you don’t see on glamour-filled race days. The stables at the racecourse provide year round employment to riders, syces, farriers – all of whom come from the less privileged strata of society. Farriery – the shoeing of a horse – requires a specialised skillset and is almost an art that is passed down from generation to generation. At the racecourse you’ll find an entire population of people who work only because they are passionate about horses.

Mornings at the racecourse are filled with walkers and joggers, and as the sun rises, there is a poetic comingling of horses and humans as the equines take to the turf to do their workouts and the humans take to the inner track to do theirs.

Mornings at the racecourse are filled with walkers and joggers, and as the sun rises, there is a poetic comingling of horses and humans as the equines take to the turf to do their workouts and the humans take to the inner track to do theirs. Hearing the clip clop of the horses’ hooves always makes my day better, no matter how bad it has been until then. The Turf Club, on its part, is constantly trying to reinvent itself by throwing open its doors to the general public on days where there is no racing, hosting flea markets and bazaars, music concerts and even theatre performances. Where else in the city would one be able to enjoy an Ed Sheeran concert while it rains or be able to watch a rehashed rendition of a Shakespeare play under the stars? The current ownership of the land is under the State Government after RWITC’s lease ended in May 2013 and is due for an extension. Since then, there has been a constant tug-of-war between the State and the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (which claims part ownership) on what should be done with the land to make it more public-friendly. Why anyone would want to take away the city’s green lung to construct something on it is beyond my comprehension. I have a major problem with the lack of open spaces in Mumbai, and my love (read: obsession) for the Mahalaxmi racecourse knows no bounds. I’ve traveled to several racecourses the world over, and the Mahalaxmi racecourse – devoid of shine and glassy facades like many others the world over – exudes charm and character because of its vintage. I could wax eloquent about the virtues of the Mahalaxmi racecourse – how it is a place that has given birth to equestrian champions; how the racing fraternity, for all its fierce competition is surprisingly close-knit; how it gives the common man a chance to feel like Mumbai isn’t all dust and grime and pollution – but I would rather you explore it for yourself and find a story of your own. I suggest you do it soon, while it is still the city’s sole (and the country’s second oldest) racecourse, before it turns into a theme park or memorial site that we already have enough of. Royal Western India Turf Club, Dr E Moses Marg, Mahalakshmi Nagar, Mumbai 400 034. Phone: 022 2307 1401.

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