Australia

A Guide To Dining Out In Adelaide

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A GUIDE TO DINING OUT IN ADELAIDE

WORDS BY JOANNA LOBO

Victoria and Melbourne are considered Australia’s dining capitals, but there’s another contender vying to be recognised as a gourmet destination. Adelaide is a small, laid back city with green spaces, quiet streets, and a brewing coffee revolution.

Unlike in the bigger cities, eating out here, is affordable. There are small bars in tiny lanes and new restaurants where chefs are doing exciting things with local produce. Pair these with world-class wines from the Barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills nearby and you have a dining experience to remember.

This is where to whet your appetite for Adelaide.

Shōbōsho

A modern Asian restaurant with a fire-inspired menu, Shōbōsho is kitchen theatre at its peak. Chefs play with food and fire using a rotisserie, a yakitori pit, a Robata grill, and wooden oven. Japanese and Korean-inspired food is grilled, spit roasted, charred, raw, cured, pickled, and fermented and arrives beautifully plated.

shobosho adelaide

The Salt and Vinegar Korean Seaweed Crisps are salty, speckled with golden brown sesame seeds, and slightly tangy. The highly recommended Leek Roasted in the Fire uses buttermilk to soften the heart of the vegetable, with kelp oil for company. If you have the space, the dry aged Angus Rump is grilled medium rare with shiitake and spinach for flavouring. The coconut-laden Burnt Jasmine Custard is perfect for dessert.

The menu goes very well with saké or Japanese and Korean beers.

Shōbōsho, Leigh Street.

Peel St

Once neglected, Peel Street is now buzzing with bars and restaurants. The restaurant – named after the lane – is a casual, chic space with an open kitchen, exposed brick, and no menus; Specials are written on a massive chalkboard.

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The food is robust, colourful, and big on flavour with a slight Middle-Eastern slant. The Fried Falafel salad is heaped with parsley, fennel shavings, slivers of pistachio, and open falafels. Banana flowers are stuffed with chicken and drizzled with chilli jam, coconut flakes, roasted peanuts, and fried shallots. To finish, a Blue Cheese Ice-cream with pomegranate, slow roasted quince, and walnuts hits the sweet spot.

Peel St, 9 Peel Street, laneway between Hindley + Currie streets.

Lucia’s Pizza & Spaghetti Bar

In 1957, Lucia Rosella set up this iconic eatery within the Adelaide Central Market and introduced locals to pizza and other authentic Italian fare. Today, her children, Nicci and Maria, carry on the tradition using their mother’s original recipes. The menu has remained unchanged, bar a few specials. It is comfort food guaranteed to fill you up.

spaghetti bolognese

The most popular dish is the Spaghetti Bolognese, a bowl of homemade pasta cooked al dente with sauce made from locally-sourced tomatoes. There’s also the Pizza Special, decadent with mozzarella, olives, and anchovies. Friday is when they bring out the big guns – their lasagne, 14 layers of pasta sheets piled with meat and parmesan.

Everything is made in-house and you can pick up cold meats, breads, sauces, or pasta at Lucia’s Fine Foods next door.

Lucia’s Pizza & Spaghetti Bar, Central Market, Adelaide.

Press* Food and Wine

The restaurant is split over two sections. Downstairs, walk-ins will find communal tables, high seating, suspended bulbs, and the kitchen at the back. Upstairs, the loft-style space features an open bar, a tin roof, and velvet sofas.

Press* is known for its offal menu; wood-grilled ox tongue with potato, pan-fried lamb’s brains with a horseradish crème fraîche, and a mixed-grill with brains, minute steak, ox tongue, sweetbreads, and poached egg. In the ‘smaller’ section, the Wood-grilled Squid stands out – its smokiness enhanced by hummus. Beef Carpaccio, from the ‘raw’ section, comes festooned with parmesan, rocket and aioli. A grilled Black Angus rib eye has capers and almonds providing contrasting tastes and texture. For dessert, pick between the Peanut-butter Parfait with chocolate and the Chocolate Mousse – a decadent treat with dense mousse, a buttery vanilla cream, and acidic blackberries.

Press* Food and Wine, 40 Waymouth Street.

Café Troppo

This small café is in Adelaide’s ‘green hippie’ part of town. Their focus on the environment and community is reflected in the interiors and the way they conduct business. They use natural, reclaimed materials and local, sustainable ingredients (like ethically-sourced kangaroo and wild boar and greens foraged from gardens nearby). Coffee is from local roasters De Groot, and teas are from the Barossa Valley. Customers are encouraged to trade fresh produce for a drink.

cafe troppo adelaide

The food is healthy and high on flavour. The Spiced Pumpkin Stack has sweet roasted pumpkin on toasted sourdough with pickled fennel and housemade dukkah. Brekky Pizza is a spelt flour-base topped with red sauce, mushrooms, San Jose bacon, roast potato, plus melted provoletta cheese and a poached egg. It’s a meal in itself. There’s kombucha, kefir, and dirty chai as thirst quenchers but, on a hot day, the cold brew by local brand Mischief is the best pick.

Café Troppo, 42 Whitmore Square.

All photographs courtesy the restaurants, except Lucia’s photograph copyright GMMaira – stock.adobe.com. Peel Street photograph by Vanessa Burton.

 

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A Handy Guide To Tiffin Services In Mumbai

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A HANDY GUIDE TO TIFFIN SERVICES IN MUMBAI

One of the most iconic images of the city is of the dabbawalas carrying bags of steel tiffins filled with a piping hot lunch to feed hungry people across the city. Chances are that every tiffin is different in terms of quantity, quality, and menu. These days, you can find tiffins catering to every whim: ghar ka khana, regional, breakfast items, healthy and diet-conscious meals, modern cooking, and so on.

So, how do you choose from this variety? Joanna Lobo did a trial of some of them, exploring a variety of lunch options. Here’s her verdict.

WORDS BY JOANNA LOBO

Healthy Meals: Calorie Care

Calorie Care caters to different requirements, such as weight loss, muscle gain, and even recovering TB patients.

The food comes inside a box, packed in plastic containers* with bio-degradable cutlery, salt sachets, and the menu. It’s a complete meal that includes a soup, salad, dal, rice, and curry. My one-day lunch trial had small portions of a chunky and filling creamy soup, a lightly seasoned methi dal, Parsi brown rice (a pulao with onions) and a Parsi veg stew – slightly sweet and filled with chunky of carrots and potatoes. There was a handy little note about the nutritional content of the tiffin: mine had 540 calories, 13gm fat, 4gm fibre, and 15gm protein.

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You can choose between low, medium, and high calorie meals, depending on your requirements. They also try to customise the meal; on request, the food they sent was low on spice.

Call 022 2412 2100 or book online. Cost starts at Rs. 179 (breakfast), Rs. 215 (lunch) and Rs. 225 (dinner); trial meals cannot be ordered online.

Coastal Treats: Round the Plate

Round the Plate is a small operation in Khar that serves Goan and Malvani food (with a heavy emphasis on the latter). I chose the non-vegetarian (fish or chicken options) tiffin. The trial tiffin had dal, rice, fluffy rotis, and two chicken dishes. The Malvani curry was fiery red and coconut heavy, and the chicken fry was probably the best I’ve tasted, coated in masala, with a few charred bits, and cooked just right. The dal was satisfactory, mushy, and without any tadka. They also have a vegetarian tiffin option.

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There’s also a limited menu of fried fish and curries (orders to be placed 48 hours in advance), biryani, and chicken preparations. This was the only meal that came in a steel tiffin.

Call 84337 63437. Cost ranges from Rs. 120 (veg, full) to Rs. 150 (non-veg, full); delivery in Bandra, Khar, Santacruz, Vile Parle, VT.

Vegan Fare: Vegan Bites

As the name would suggest, Vegan Bites’s food has no dairy or meat, is plant-based, and is oil-free.

My meal consisted of coleslaw salad, jacket potatoes, masoor pulao, vegetable and tomato curry, masala chaas, and bottle gourd soup. The masoor pulao was delicious (although the dal and rice were served separately); the jacket potatoes were cut in half and stuffed with a cashew-cheese corn mix; and the coleslaw salad was crunchy and lacked dressing. Vegan Bites are the only tiffin I received that serve a drink.

The food is a mix of Indian and world cuisine and is extremely filling. Their quantities are generous – it’s like having a thali.

Call 76665 86430 or email info@veganbites.in. Cost is Rs. 396 (one-day trial) and Rs. 3360 (10-day trial); delivery is extra, and there’s a security deposit of Rs 650. Delivery is across the city.

Good VFM: Spice Box

The most recommendations I received were for Spice Box’s tiffin. It has just two meal plans, making ordering an easy process. The Non-Veg Standard Meal offers rice, rotis, one chicken or egg dish, dal, and a dessert or salad. The trial tiffin, like most others, was packed in plastic containers, with cutlery and a little sachet of pickle. It being a Friday (they have “special items” on the day), there was chicken biryani, raita, and sheera. The flavours reminded me more of restaurant food than ghar ka khana.

The food is, and has always been, spicy, and it’s not very healthy. But it is tasty and affordable.

Visit the website to order; monthly meal plans start at Rs. 85 (veg, mini) and go up to Rs. 105 (non-veg, standard), per meal. They offer a one-day trial.

The Gourmet Option: Savor

Savor’s gourmet lunch subscription promises a culinary exploration of different cuisines – Thai, Indonesian, French, German, Spanish, Italian, etc. They take dietary preferences into consideration as well.

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The meal – a main, a side, a salad, and dessert – came in a neat brown paper bag with a wooden clip that contained a menu and cutlery. The sample meal had a distinct Japanese flavour with Okonomiyaki – a grilled (and slightly dry) savoury pancake with noodles and chicken mince as well as a sesame-studded sweet chocolate. Other dishes were steamed green peas with salt and a soft-boiled egg. As a meal, it tasted satisfactory but was not very filling.

Call 70454 51777 or visit their website. Lunch plans start at Rs. 575 (one meal) to Rs. 9,500 (20 lunches monthly). Delivery in Bandra and Colaba only.

Keto: Food Darzee

The low-carb, high-fat Ketogenic (Keto) diet has become so trendy there are dedicated delivery services catering to it. Food Darzee is one such place, offering nutritionist consultation, a tailored meal plan, and four meals a day.

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Everything is made in-house, from nut flours to bread. You can’t choose your menu, but they don’t repeat a dish for at least 25 days, and their cuisine spans Indian, Continental, and Asian. The food comes in microwavable plastic containers and is adequately greasy – there’s lots of cheese and ghee – but delicious. Though heavy on the masala, it is tasty. Of note are paneer makhani, grilled chicken, and innovative dishes like mushroom cheese zucchini vada and vanilla almond flax custard.

Call 095905 10520 or visit Food Darzee. The cost is Rs. 1,000 (one-day trial), Rs. 9,200 (10-day plan). Delivery is done twice a day across Mumbai and some areas in Thane and Navi Mumbai; beyond that is an additional Rs. 100 charge.

 

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Your Guide To Food And Drink For A Mumbai Summer

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FOOD AND DRINK FOR A MUMBAI SUMMER

Across the city, the rising mercury has people turning to their kitchens to fire up dishes that help combat the high heat and humidity. The focus is on food that is healthy, tasty, and helps cool you down. Mangoes find mention in many recipes, enjoyed both raw and ripe and added to curries or drinks. Some drinks cool down the system and provide comfort on a hot day.

We speak to people from different communities for their favourite seasonal summer treats.

READ JOANNA LOBO’S STORY

Kokum Sherbet

In author Tara Deshpande Tennebaum’s childhood home in Belgaum, kokum sherbet was an important summer tradition. “In Saraswat cooking,” she says, “kokum is used in a lot of dishes – fish curries, amti, solachi kadhi – and it is a staple in the Konkani kitchen.” The kokum sherbet is made by boiling dried kokum with water and adding sugar till the liquid gains a syrupy texture. Powdered cumin and black rock salt can be added for variety.

“My grandmother made bottles of this,” says Tara, “and my sister and I, accompanied by our dog, would hop from house to house in Belgaum gifting them to her friends. In return, they gave us their homemade summer specialities like Coorgi bitter orange (kaipuli) squash, sour mango pickle, or Goan dried seafood pickle.”

Try kokum sherbet: Aaswad, 61, Sadanand, Opp. Amar Hind Mandal, Gokhale Road, Opposite Chandrika Automobiles, Dadar (w), Mumbai 400 028, or Prakash Shakahari Uphar Kendra, 9/10, Horizon Building, Gokhale Road North, Dadar (w), Mumbai 400 028
Where to buy kokum: Parlekar Masalas Supermarket, Shop 15/16, Vanmalidas Compound, 53-a, Tejpal Road, Vile Parle (e), Mumbai 400 057 or from Delight Foods.

Tok Dal

“This typical Bengali dish is a sweet and tangy thin masoor dal made with green mango,” says home chef Madhumita Pyne. This dal is eaten with rice and fried vegetables like alu bhaja during the summer because it cools down the body.

The dal can be made with yellow split peas too. The key to making it is choosing the right mango – raw, not super sweet, and green in colour. “You want the tanginess of the mango to shine,” says Madhumita, “and it needs to hold its shape after cooking. I’ve always liked the taste of green mango. If there was no tok dal on the table, I would mix green mango chutney with plan dal to get that tangy flavour.”

Where to eat/buy: Bijoli Grill, Hakone Bumpers & Rides, Opp Nirvana Park, Hirandandani Powai, Mumbai 400 076 and Just Bengal, Divyam Heights, Gilbert Hill Road, Gaondevi Dongri, Andheri (w), Mumbai 400 047 

Tok Dal

Bilimbi juice

The Pathare Prabhu community uses bilimbi (or bilimba) in many dishes including sheer, chutney, jam, or juice. Bilimbi, also called cucumber tree or tree sorrel, is a pickle-shaped fruit known for its astringency and short shelf-life.

“The Pathare Prabhus were early settlers and used to live in bungalows across Bombay,” says Sunetra Sil Vijaykar, a culinary expert who runs a pop-up kitchen called Dine With Vijaykars in Jogeshwari. “They would grow fruit like amla, nimbu, bilimba, mango and make sherbets out of them. In time, these juices became part of the tradition.”

Bilimbi juice is tangy and refreshing. To make the juice, Vijaykar suggests boiling the bilimbi in water with jaggery and a little salt. Transfer this to a mixer and blend until it becomes a pulp; sieve and the concentrate is ready. “It is rare to find a bilimbi tree in Mumbai,” she says, “but for bulk orders, we go to a veggie market on Mira Road.”

Where to buy: Mira Road vegetable market
Where to find bilimbi juice: Dine With Vijaykars pop-up meals at their Jogeshwari home sometimes offer bilimbi sherbet or chutney.

Kuhireen Khichdi

The lunch table at a Sindhi home in summer is usually laden with bhugha chaanwran (rice cooked with caramelised onions), taryal patata (shallow fried potatoes spiced with chilli powder, coriander and turmeric), and mango. In food blogger Alka Keswani’s home, another much-loved summer dish is patri khichdeen (diluted/loose khichdi).

“Sindhi khichdi is simple,” says Alka. “You add green cardamom and black peppercorns to ghee, then soaked rice, salt, turmeric, and water and cook this till soft. It is then mashed with a wooden whisker and consistency is adjusted to semi-solid.”

Khichdi is chosen because it is easy to digest and not heavy on spices. This is eaten with a simple turi (smooth gourd) subzi, karela basar (bitter gourds with onions), singhi tamate mein (drumsticks in tomato gravy), and kaat (salted sundried karela peels that are flash fried).

Kuhireen khichdi is easy to make. Keswani’s blog has more details.

Ambe Poli

“[Ambe poli] is very popular in my family,” says Nandita Godbole, a cookbook and fiction author from Mumbai now living in Atlanta. “I can trace it back to a mention made by my great-grandfather in his book, about travelling with it from Konkan to Alibaug at the turn of the century. We [the Konkanasth Brahmin community] make a version of it each year.”

Ambe Poli is a sweet and tart sun-dried mango leather made with mango pulp and spices. It is made in the summer to take advantage of the summer heat, since it is dried outdoors or in the sun. Nandita’s family makes it a few different ways – some with a pinch of soonth, others with red chilli powder, one with cardamom, another with kesar and another, more recent version with dried fruits. The ones with added flavours, especially with dried fruits, are more decadent. The kesar one is Nandita’s favourite.

“These are eaten during summer and often just as the monsoons start,” she says, “made using the ripe mangoes. This is the time when body defences are weak. Dried ginger and saffron are warming; a pinch of dried ginger is good for digestion and makes the fruit leather spicy. It is good for an after-meal snack.”

Where to eat/buy: Ladoo Samrat, Shop No.: 1-2, Habib Terrace, Lalbaug, Dr Ambedkar Road, Parel, Mumbai 400 012 or Ramanlal Vithaldas & Co outlets

Panna Pakodi

“My chachi’s summer treat was panna pakodi,” says columnist and curator Anoothi Vishal. “We would eat this with arhar ki dal cooked with raw mango, parwal alu, and aamchur. It was a comforting summer dish.” Panna pakodi is essentially a side dish consisting of moong dal pakodas served in an aam panna (yes, the drink).

“You make the panna the same way as you would otherwise,” she says, “except it isn’t diluted as much, and then add in crispy pakodi. You get a thin soup-like dish, which can be mixed with rice and eaten.”

In Kayasth homes, the aam panna is made by using very raw and tender mangoes and flavoured with cumin, black salt, and mint.

Where to eat: You can dive into aam panna at Revival Restaurant, 39-B, Chowpatty Seaface, Chowpatty, Girgaum, Mumbai 400 007; Punjab Grill outlets, or 29 – Twenty Nine Address: 11, Padma Nagar, Main Link Road, Near Vijaya Bank, Link Road, Malad (w), Mumbai 400 064. It isn’t panna pakodi but a close cousin – and one you won’t regret eating.

 

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Curry Tales Dishes Up Fried Fish And A Taste Of Home

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CURRY TALES DISHES UP FRIED FISH AND A TASTE OF HOME

Curry Tales is a restaurant that specialises in coastal cuisine with a seafood and meat-heavy menu including mutton sukha, Allepey fish curry, and chicken gassi. Vegetarians needn’t despair – the vegetarian menu portion of the menu has plenty of options to choose from.

Curry Tales, Shop 5, Bhavya Plaza, 5th Road, Khar (w), Mumbai 400 052. Tel: 022 2648 3851

READ JOANNA LOBO’S STORY

The whiff of frying fish wafts its way towards me as I navigate the busy junction in Khar. A fisherman with a boat welcomes me at the entrance of Curry Tales. Inside, the enclosed space gives off a distinct shack-like vibe, but not a hippie one dotting Baga’s beaches. This has a thatched false roofing, wooden pots masquerading as lamps, and a centrepiece of copper pots and pans, adding warmth and a cosiness I associate with tiny Goan places.

The vibe may lull you into a false sense of sushegaad, but Curry Tales doesn’t serve Goan food. Instead, their menu features traditional dishes from Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala. The brains behind the restaurant are Sandeep Sreedharan, known for his gourmet coastal food pop-ups under his Esca Brahma brand, and restaurateur Suved Lohiya. “I believe there is a market for good, simple, home-cooked food,” says Sandeep. “We are not targeting only south Indians. Whoever comes here should feel like they are having a meal at home.”

It certainly does feel like home, redolent with the fragrance and sizzle of prawns frying in coconut oil. It’s the fish dish I order. The Prawn Dry Fry looks appealing, a crusty covering, bits of fried meat shining through and surrounded by crispy curling kadipatta. It tastes even better: the rice flour coating is light enough to allow the prawns to shine. “These have been shallow fried so they retain their taste without being too oily,” says Sandeep.

It’s a hot and humid day so I pass on the tomato rasam for the refreshing spiced buttermilk Samabaram. Squid Sukha is a coconut heavy, dry dish filled with the heat of pepper and red chillies and bite-sized perfectly cooked squid. Sandeep mentions that the secret to the taste is coconut oil, which is used to fry fish or sometimes just drizzled on top, adding warmth and flavour to the curries.

During his research, Sandeep’s focus was on sourcing quality ingredients. His kitchen, thus, is stocked with ground masalas and whole spices from his home in North Karnataka, and the sukka, gassi and other masalas come from a home chef in Mangalore. He even collects recipes. The spicy Malabar fish curry is an 80-year-old recipe sourced from a Muslim family in Calicut. The secret to it is the addition of kodumkalli (fish tamarind), an ingredient that Sandeep says is “packed with flavour”.

“We ensure we get quality food and try to stay as honest to the cuisine as possible,” says Sandeep. “Some may say it’s not authentic, but it is representative of a region. There is a story behind every dish.” The plan is to keep changing the dishes, bring in more coastal flavours and perfecting recipes. He is still searching for the perfect Goan fish curry.

For most of the day, Sandeep can be found at the restaurant, interacting with customers, getting feedback, suggesting changes and, when necessary, even tweaking things to suit individual tastes.

the secret to the taste is coconut oil, which is used to fry fish or sometimes just drizzled on top, adding warmth and flavour to the curries.

It is on his recommendation that I order the inviting Seafood Thali. My plate has small katoris with the perks: lightly seasoned chana dal, pachadi cooked with coconut and topped with fried bhindi, a rich fish curry, and a slab of pomfret, topped with fried kadipatta – all placed around a mound of fragrant unpolished rice from Kerala. At the side, hidden under papad are spongy soft dosas and dabs of vibrant carrot pickle.

There’s also a bowl of dessert. The Paalpayasam comes with a topping of grated coconut mixed with jaggery and Sandeep’s little twist: a little chocolate.

By now, the belt on my waist is begging to be readjusted. I stumble out of Curry Tales, happy to have another seafood restaurant on dining list. Goan or not, it’s a meal that demands a siesta.

Feature photograph copyright weera – stock.adobe.com

 

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The Ghosthunters’ Guide To Paranormal Mumbai

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THE GHOSTHUNTERS’ GUIDE TO PARANORMAL MUMBAI

WORDS BY JOANNA LOBO

In India, there is a small crew of people that go out at night, armed with EMF sensors or detectors, EVP recorders, motion sensor cameras, and touch sensors, to explore myths about the paranormal. Yes, you can call them desi ghosthunters.

One such team is The Parapsychology and Investigations Research Society (PAIRS), group of paranormal investigators and researchers, parapsychologists, demonologists, spiritual healers, and counsellors. Their modus operandi includes heading to “active spots” armed with equipment to try to record and, later, analyse these abnormal energies.

“Before we go to a location,” says demonologist Sarbajeet Mohanty, “we try to get a recent picture of the location so that psychic mediums can give a reading of what to expect or find at the locations, which provides a roadmap for the investigators.” Mohanty founded PAIRs with psychic developer Pooja Vijay.

Disclaimer: PAIRS and The City Story highly recommend you do not venture into these places without proper knowledge. All PAIRS investigators have been researching this field since the past 6 to 10 years and are certified. Enter at your own risk.

Amar Dham Crematorium, Panvel

Cemeteries and crematoriums are apparently common hunting grounds for ghosts – location certainly does matter. This particular burial ground has spooked many a passer-by. One story goes that a woman crossing the street outside at night suddenly got goose bumps, and at that very moment the nearby lights went off, including those on her scooter. Others have spoken about seeing apparitions and moving shadows and hold them responsible for the accidents that happen in the area.

During their investigations, the PAIRS psychic team found that the location had multiple spirits, as recorded through changes on the temperature sensor and EMF sensor.

Amar Dham Crematorium, HOC Colony, Panvel, Navi Mumbai 410 206.

Mumbai Pune Highway

The story goes that PAIRS member Jignesh Unadkat was riding his motorcycle on the highway, near Bhingari, Old Panvel, when a wayward car forced him to the side of the road. It was then that he realised there was someone standing in front of him, and he veered off the road to avoid hitting the person. His bike was damaged, but he survived. When he went to look for the person, he realised there was no one there.

A few days later, Jignesh, along with Mohanty, returned to the spot to investigate this strange phenomenon, armed with a PAIRS Spirit Box app (developed by Brian Holloway of Soul Seekers, Javier Sanz of  Spain Paranormal). “Jignesh got two replies to questions,” says Mohanty. “One was, ‘Do you recognize me…my bike overturned here some days back’ to which he got a ‘yes’. The other was ‘How did you die?’ to which he got a one-word reply, ‘accident’.”

While this may be a “real” story, there are many legends associated with the place. Another story has a well-dressed lady asking for a lift. Those that don’t stop are treated to a vision of the women running alongside their vehicle, with an evil smile, saying, “You’re next”. Many crashes have been attributed to it. Mohanty says there is also a ‘fake road appearing out of nowhere, which if taken leads to death’.

Vasai Fort

Vasai Fort, or Bassein Fort, is a sprawling structure built by the Portuguese that overlooks the Arabian Sea. The fort has been under the control of the Portuguese, the British, and the Marathas and has been silent witness to many deaths. It is one of the many places in the city that locals truly believe is haunted – though that didn’t stop Coldplay from shooting their video there.

Shishir Kumar, former journalist and founder-president of paranormal research organisation Team Pentacle, and his team conducted an investigation at Vasai Fort. Initially, they didn’t think it was haunted because it still had many people living in the vicinity. “The first time,” says Kumar, “everything went smoothly and none machines worked. Then I used this trick where I asked the spirits to clap as I clap, and that started happening.”

Mohanty adds that their psychic readings reveal a woman who was murdered and whose body was dumped near the well in the fort. Village lore says a lady, assumed to be a witch, committed suicide in that same well, but her body was never found.

Vasai Fort, Killa Road, Police Colony, Vasai (w), Vasai 401201

Mukesh Mills

Mukesh Mills was built in 1870s by the East India Company and was shut down in 1892 after a strike. Soon after, a fire broke out, killing thousands of people. This dark history is possibly what led to it being considered haunted. The mill is a popular shooting location, and there are many stories of how no one, not even film crew, venture there after dark. In fact actor Bipasha Basu has claimed she was unable to speak her dialogues in one room because of some strange power.

PAIRS’ investigations and psychic readings reveal that the location has “some evil and negative spirits from its dark and painful history”. “Such psychic readings are a warning for us not to venture in there,” says Mohanty, “especially if you’re a beginner.”

Mukesh Mills, Narayan A Sawant Road, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005

St John Baptist Church

This Portuguese Jesuit Church was abandoned in the 1800s after an epidemic. Although no one visits the place any more, a Mass is conducted once a year. The claim is that the church is haunted by the evil spirit of a bride who scares anyone who enters the place.

In 1977, an exorcism was conducted there, and everyone present suddenly heard a loud moaning sound and maniacal laughter. It was believed that the exorcism destroyed the spirit.

In 2016, a PAIRS team visited the space to check if it was an “active” location. “We were about to enter,” says Mohanty, “when Pooja told us that a woman was watching us from the wall nearby. When inside, we heard footsteps running away from the place. Later, one of the team members told us that while he was texting, out of the corner of his eye he saw an apparition near him. All this happened in broad daylight.” Mohanty intends to return to do proper investigation.

St John Baptist Church, Seepz Road D, Andheri (e), Mumbai 400 096

Feature photograph copyright – mimadeo

 

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A Goan Girl’s Guide To Goan Food In Mumbai

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A GOAN GIRL’S GUIDE TO GOAN FOOD IN MUMBAI

WORDS BY JOANNA LOBO

Goan food is the new flavour of the season in Mumbai. Tourists who travel to the sunshine state clearly can’t get enough of the food – the choris or cutlet pao; the Portuguese-influenced rissois, vindalho, and sorpotel; the coconut and amsol-filled curries; and the coconut-milk based dodol and bebinca.

It’s an experience that is now possible to avail of – sometimes at a price – in the city. There’s no feni or shack, and the sunshine and sand are missing, but a few restaurants in the city are doing their bit to provide a feel and a taste of Goan cuisine.

Gables

This eating house is often ignored by those seeking out the more popular New Martin around the corner, but a visit to this four-seater restaurant will surprise you. Gables – which offers free WiFi – has a faux tiled roof inside and two glass-fronted stands showcasing chops, cutlets, and other fried snacks, and even a bookshelf filled with old magazines and the odd cookbook.

Mel, the in-house cat, will keep you company you while you eat. There are also a few Italian dishes on the menu, but skip those and opt for the sorpotel (with chunky bits of pork) or sausage chilly fry mopped up with fresh pao. The prawn rava fry or calamari fry will satiate your seafood cravings.

Gables, Glamour Building, Colaba Causeway, Opposite Shiv Mandir, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005. 092242 69773

Snowflake

Walking into Snowflake is like going back in time. Nostalgia oozes out of the marble topped tables, sepia-tinted photos stuffed in dusty shelves, and creaking fans. The day’s specials, a stock list of about 10 dishes, can be found scrawled on a whiteboard in the corner. The cats at the entrance all seem to embody the susegaad feeling of the place – you may sometimes feel like stretching yourself out and curling up into a ball after a good meal here. It is here that I find food that comes closest to what my mother prepares at home – offal laden sorpotel; the tangy fish curry, ambotik; tongue roast with browned onions and just a hint of gravy, and quite the best fish cutlets I’ve eaten in the city.

Snowflake Restaurant, 18, Ribeiro Building, Ground Floor, 1st Dhobitalao Lane, Mumbai 400 002.

Snow Flake_002

Soul Fry

Soul Fry is 20 years old and enjoys iconic status in Bandra, not the least for those weekly karaoke nights that, I’m told, also serve as good matchmaking venues! Festivities apart, Meldan D’Cunha, the affable owner the place, loves experimenting with food. This finds the form of lesser known Goan, East Indian, Koli, and Manglorean food. Here, the cafreal, prawn recheado, and sausage fry find place with the Portuguese-influenced crab xec xec, caldeirada (Portuguese fish stew) and Guisado De Galinha (chicken stew). These are best washed down with pints of beer for that perfect laidback vibe.

Soul Fry, Ground Floor, Silver Craft, Opposite Pali Sabji Market, Pali Mala Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 2604 6892

Sushegad Gomantak

Sandwiched between shops selling Keralite fare and kebabs in Mahim, Sushegad Gomantak isn’t easy on the eyes. What it lacks in appearance it makes up for with delicious food and warm service. The only wall décor here is a chart showcasing the fish in the Indian Ocean with their local names, a blown-up clipping of a newspaper article mentioning the place, and the day’s specials. There’s a menu of course, but everyone comes here for the fish – eaten fried or in a curry.

It is here that I always manage to find xinanio (mussels), best eaten fried and piping hot; kalwa (oysters), typically had in a thick curry; and muddoshi (lady fish), also eaten fried. The restaurant’s cooking style is Goan Hindu and is heavy on curries, many of which don’t feature coconut. The fried fish comes with a thick coating of rice flour and rava and isn’t oily. Other stand out dishes include prawn cutlets accompanied by a thin, green chutney; tisrya sukhe – shellfish served with a garam masala and coconut mixture; and a crab thali featuring one huge crab in a spicy red curry.

Sushegad Gomantak, Shop No. 1 – 11, Shiv Sagar Coperative Housing Society, Lady Jamshedji Road, Opposite Crown Bakery, Mahim (w), Mumbai 400 016. Phone: 022 2444 5555

goan food mumbai

New Martin Hotel

This iconic institution in Colaba is a simple, no-frills place. The formica topped tables, high seating, two blackboards announcing the day’s specials – the interiors may not have changed even if the owners did. “Goan meals served here” is proudly painted on the door shutters and on a small board hanging outside.

The hotel now has Manglorean owners, but the food is still Goan, heavy on the spices. The beef chilly fry is succulent and spicy, prawns pulao has golden long grained rice heaped over a masala prawns, and pork sorpotel is adequately greasy and flavourful. Their specialty is beef steak, cooked until tender and served with generous helpings of onions and potatoes. Here, just like at Udupi restaurants, you might have to sometimes share a table with strangers. There’s no need for conversation, everyone is too busy eating.

New Martin Hotel, 11, Glamour House, Strand Road, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005. Phone: 022 2202 9606

Fresh Catch

A pelican with his catch of the day greets you at the entrance of Mahim icon Fresh Catch. It’s an indication that, if nothing else, you can get good fish here.

The interiors remind me of an old aunt’s home – patterned napkins, red checked tablecloths, black chairs, sepia-tinted photos on the wall, and music from the ’70s and ’80s. The service is warm and the food homely. Best known for its butter garlic crab, Fresh Catch also dishes up stellar bangda jeera meera, a spicy and tangy balchao, prawns sukka, and a wholesome seafood pulao filled with juicy prawns, crabmeat, and shellfish. The prices may be a tad expensive for Goan grub, but the food is delicious, which makes it worth it.

Fresh Catch, 144/C, Diamond Court Chawl, PN Kotnis Road, Mahim (w), Mumbai 400 016. Phone: 022 2444 8942

goan food guide bombay

Mangoes

Mangoes, a rooftop restaurant in Orlem, gets its name from the fact that the owners are Goan and Manglorean (they serve both cuisines). The décor here is spartan with plastic chairs and tables. It doesn’t matter, because Mangoes serves some hearty Goan fare, largely focuses on non-vegetarian food. There’s both beef and pork roast – both of which are so popular, people freeze them and take them abroad; tongue jeere mere, caldin, the street staple rice omelette, cutlets, and potato chops.

Mangoes, 601, 6th floor, Almar Arcade, Near Punjab National Bank, Orlem, Malad (w), Mumbai 400 064. Phone: 022 2801 5552

O Pedro

The food here isn’t Goan the way I’ve grown up eating it, but it is delicious and inspired by Goan food, which makes for some interesting dishes. There’s rissois stuffed with crab (rather than prawns) and coated with Panko crumbs; kalchi koddi served as a sauce with boiled eggs, kismur with raw papaya and shrimp, red rice sannas, and serradurra with orange segments. There’s even a sourdough poee, best paired with chorizo butter. The best dish is the veal tongue prosciutto, a take on salted tongue with pickled cucumber and a garlic-mustard aioli.

The interiors – some call it granny chic – are filled with knick knacks and elements expected in an old house: cane backed chairs, hanging creepers, red tiles, and plates on the walls. A good place to hang out at is at the polished wooden bar, sipping on the homemade Vasco Sour with its hit of Goan toddy vinegar while tapping your feet to the music.

O Pedro, Unit No 2, Plot No C-68, Jet Airways – Godrej BKC, Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai 400 051. Phone: 022 2653 4700

o pedro goan food guide mumbai

Photographs:

  1. Feature photograph copyright manubahuguna – stock.adobe.com
  2. Snowflake photograph by Suruchi Maira
  3. Sushegad Gomanak photograph by Suruchi Maira
  4. Thali photograph by Praveen (originally posted to Flickr as Fish curry rice) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
  5. O Pedro photograph courtesy O Pedro

 

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Discover Stories Amidst The Dust At Smoker’s Corner Bookstore

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DISCOVER STORIES AMIDST THE DUST AT SMOKER’S CORNER BOOKSTORE

Smoker’s Corner is an assuming bookstore in Fort that has been around since 1954. The best part about visiting this bookstore is that you never know what treasure you will find for a mere 50 rupees. 

Smoker’s Corner Bookstore, 4A, Botawala Chambers, Sir PM Road, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 22164060

READ JOANNA LOBO’S STORY

A leering Shah Rukh Khan greets me as I enter the foyer of Botawala Chambers in Fort. The buzz from outside – vehicles honking, people gossiping at the cigarette store on the corner and pedestrians walking – instantly recedes. At the same time, the temperature appears to drop a degree. This, of course, has nothing to do with the actor or the women he shares a magazine cover with.

I’m at Smoker’s Corner Bookstore, a place that gets its name from the sailors who used to come by to stock up on tobacco and cigarettes at the tobacconist just outside the building. Now, there are just ordinary people smoking around the corner. If I breathe in deeply enough, I can smell the cigarette smoke beyond the mustiness.

I’m at a bookstore, but it is unlike any other store or library. There’s no board pointing out the name of the place or offering titles at a discount; there’s no one to welcome us into the space; there’s no registry of what’s available. There’s a collection of dusty wooden shelves and stands decorating the lobby of the building and two small rooms at the side. It appears as if someone just took a collection of books and hastily laid them out on shelves and stands. It’s hot and stuffy.

It wasn’t always this way.

The bookstore has become a part of the wall, unseen by those who see it daily but rich in character for others like me.

The book Zero Point Bombay: In and Around Horniman Circle shares a note about the origin of the bookstore. In 1954, the proprietor Suleman Botawala took over the tobacco shop and filled it with books, turning it into a library. Botawala was pursuing his passion for books and reading, and over the years, built up a steady clientele of readers. He passed away in 2009 and since then, the place has lost its sheen and presumably, its customers.

The available books number to less than 1,000 and are a motley collection. They’re scattered across two wooden stands in the middle, glass shelves hugging the walls, and two little rooms (alcoves) on the side. Some of them are tied with thread, to hold their pages together and to keep them from falling off the stands.

My favourite part about visiting this bookstore is that I never know what I will find, what treasure I can take back home for a mere 50 rupees. Finding that one book, however, necessitates my walking through all the sections, combing through all the titles. The fashion and news magazines are the only ones with up-to-date issues; everything else is older than me, and secondhand. There’s a selection of picture books on the British royal family (back when Princess Diana was part of it), fairytales for children, a Dr. Who collection, Bible studies, magazines with advice on enameling, raising a child, and being a good granny, and unusual self help books such as How to Eat Worms.

My favourite part about visiting this bookstore is that I never know what I will find.

As with any other old bookstore, I spy an assortment of romantic titles, with authors’ names in embossed gold and postcard pictures of fields and castles promising compelling love stories. There’s a nice nostalgia section for ’90s kids like me with books on Destiny’s Child, the Olsen twins, former Bond girl Halle Berry, plus some Reader’s Digest back issues. I pick up a book called Foetal Attraction (reviews call it “screamingly funny”), the diary of Anakin Skywalker, and a mystery novel by the founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard.

As I go through the books, people walk past me without a second glance. The bookstore has become a part of the wall, unseen by those who see it daily but rich in character for others like me. I try to imagine it as a buzzing place at one time, with readers crowding around shelves, eager to pick up the latest sports magazine or bestseller. It’s difficult, because Smoker’s Corner wears an air of neglect that’s hard to shake off.

Suleman’s son Zubair now looks after the store, as a way of remembering his father. He isn’t around when I visit but the man at the counter, who makes note of our purchases in a ledger, assures me that he does spend time here.

As we leave, my friend and I pause for a moment outside, trying to cool down. My friend lights up a cigarette. He is no sailor, but this seems like a fitting tribute for a bookstore indirectly dedicated to smokers.

 
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Harkat Studios Is A Freelancer’s Paradise

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HARKAT STUDIOS IS A FREELANCER’S PARADISE

Harkat Studios is a co-working studio in a green neighbourhood in Andheri that offers a welcoming and cosy space for all creative ventures. It holds events on weekends and a vegetable market on Sundays.

Harkat Studios, Bungalow No. 75, JP Road, Aram Nagar Part 2, Versova, Andheri (w), Mumbai 400061. Phone: 022 26350064

READ JOANNA LOBO’S STORY

A stray cat stares at me imperiously as I pick my way around her. Her amber eyes follow me as I enter Harkat Studios, the city’s hippest and possibly coolest co-working space cum performance venue. Once I’m in, the cat arches her back and goes to sleep.

Harkat, I soon learn, has that effect on people. It makes everyone feel at home.  

The co-working studio has been in the news ever since it opened its doors in the tree-lined, quiet locale of Aram Nagar in Andheri. The founders, Micheala Strobel (or Mika) and Karan Talwar, wanted a space that was quiet, green, and welcoming. Indeed, walking on the gravel path to reach the studio, past bungalows shaded by a green canopy and breathing in the quiet, it’s hard to believe this is Mumbai.   

Harkat has an outdoor and indoor space. Outside is a courtyard, now shaded because of the monsoon, with benches and potted plants. Inside, there is one big room leading off into another, narrow green room, a kitchenette, and bathrooms.

The big room feels like the living room it’s designed to mimic. The all-white space has splashes of colour, from the painted repurposed furniture and yellow girders to framed posters and rugs. CDs hang from the ceiling, competing for attention with low-hanging bulbs. 

harkat studios co-working spaces andheri

I spy little nooks everywhere, different seating zones to cater to every kind of freelancer: a sturdy centre table can be used for a business meeting; retractable side panels on one side of the wall for those who want privacy; mattresses and a painted trunk for those who like sitting on the floor. My favourite is the individual desk, painted in bright colours. “We did all this ourselves,” says Mika, her arm sweeping across the room. She points to a table, painted blue with glass on top. “This was a discarded window frame. We got it in Behram Baug and painted it. It was a team-building activity.”

Harkat is fully equipped for work, and my freelancer’s eye is appreciative of the plug points, the printer, the strong WiFi signal, and that necessary writer’s fuel: chai (there’s kombucha for those drinking healthy). Another creative working staple, silence, is available in plenty – it is the first thing that attracts me to the place.

The coolest thing in the room, apart from a vintage typewriter, is the bookshelf visible in almost every picture of the space; an unmoving background to the proceedings. For once, it’s not the books that fascinate me as much as the other knick-knacks. “It was originally supposed to be moveable,” says Karan. “But once we started putting in the shelves and added in the books and other things, it became impossible to move.” Now, it’s like an open treasure box, scattered with a kaleidoscope, a vintage camera, a matryoshka doll, a tie, a trophy, painted bottles, paintbrushes, and candles. It’s not the prettiest sight; it looks like an elongated stepladder draped with fairy lights. But it certainly is compelling. It fits right in. All the furniture here is repurposed or salvaged antique. I run my hands down the wood, trying to imagine where it came from and the stories it must hold. It’s kitschy without being over the top. “The fact that we had no money proved to be a big advantage,” says Karan with a laugh. “It ensured nothing here is stark or perfect. Everything has rough edges.”

Harkat’s biggest asset is its ability to transform from a laidback co-working space to a performance venue. On most days, it’s a co-working space with people huddled over their laptops, nursing mugs of unlimited coffee and chai. On performance days (over the weekends), it undergoes a 20-minute transformation. The kind of performance – a writing workshop, a film screening, a comedy special – determines the stage area and the décor. Harkat can comfortably hold about 50 people, even 75 if they’re squeezed in together. On Sundays, the outdoor area turns into a vegetable market, selling organic produce.

harkat studios co-working spaces andheri

Hovering in the background and ensuring that everything is on track is a person Mika calls the “life of Harkat”: the office boy Ram. It’s not uncommon to hear someone call out his name several times in the day, asking for his help.

Lunch at the co-working space is a communal affair and often, after eating, people just curl up on the mattresses and take a nap. “Everyone feels at home here,” says Mika.“People come here to work or just to make some tea or coffee and chat with others. It’s a neighbourhood hang out spot.”

As I sink into a plush yellow armchair, sipping on water from a wine bottle (“no free wine here”), I can’t help but agree. Harkat is laidback and comfortable enough for me to work in, and for a break, I can curl up with a good book or just take a nap.

Photographs courtesy Harkat Studios

 
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Saboro Lounge Makes Eating Healthy Easy

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saboro lounge healthy cafe vegetarian restaurant churchgate

SABORO LOUNGE MAKES EATING HEALTHY EASY

Saboro Lounge is a new health-food restaurant in Churchgate. It serves cold pressed juices, smoothies, fruit bowls, and vegetarian rolls, wraps, and sandwiches.

Saboro Lounge, 26, Dinshaw Vacha Road, Churchgate, Mumbai 400 021. Phone: 8291603484

READ JOANNA LOBO’S STORY

Milkshakes and salads bring all the health freaks to Saboro Lounge’s yard. The health-food restaurant, launched in October 2016, is located in a quiet lane in Churchgate. It’s a small space, all white wooden slats with pops of colour from paintings of a beetroot and watermelon slice on the wall. One corner has a display of fresh produce; at another, you can browse through books on recipes and healthy eating. The food can be summed up simply: it’s all healthy. Think vegetables, fruit salads, bowls, fresh shakes, and cold pressed juices.

For those who are particular about nutrition, each dish comes with the calories mentioned and a small note about why it’s good for you. It may be healthy food, but it isn’t boring. Go for the no-sugar, only fruit and herb smoothies and cold pressed juices such as the creamy Bananjeer Smoothie or the Immunity Boost with its mouthful of deep red, apple, beetroot, pomegranate, and basil.

For lunch, the Chicknoa Greens salad comes raw and packed with the protein of chickpea and the quinoa. For something warmer, there’s the Hummus Whole Wheat Pie, or a Ramen Bowl with mushroom and Udon noodles. If you’re still craving sweet, the condensed milk in the Frugurt Parfait – a layered parfait with condensed milk, pineapple, kiwi, walnuts, and pomegranate and basil seeds – should do the trick. An added bonus: the prices won’t hurt your pocket.

Feature photo by Suruchi Maira

 

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Find The Red Door To Kwan Kung Temple

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FIND THE RED DOOR TO KWAN KUNG TEMPLE

Until the 1960s, Mazagaon was the centre of the See Yip Koon community in Mumbai and the city’s own Chinatown. The community was originally from the Canton region of southern China. The city’s only Chinese temple, the nearly 100-year-old Kwan Kung Temple, is still located in Mazagaon, near Dockyard Road Railway Station

Kwan Kung Temple 12 Nawab Tank Road, Wadi Bundar, near Dockyard Road Railway Station, Mazgaon.

READ JOANNA LOBO’S STORY

If you don’t look, you won’t find the Kwan Kung Temple. Because, much like God, this temple in Mazagaon is for the true seekers.

The gate to the building is red, the only indication that something unique lies behind it. You climb up to the first floor, passing a painting of a mural of the Chinese gods of blessing, longevity and prosperity. The temple’s caretakers, who live on the first floor, will give you the (literal, not metaphoric) keys.

The deity is believed to grant wishes, and offerings include fruits, incense sticks, paper money and rice. The ornate altar, to one corner, is built around a silk painting of the Chinese God of Mercy, the warrior Kwan Koon. All around are Chinese figurines, calligraphy, prayers, a laughing Buddha statue and a huge drum that is hit once the devotees finish their prayers. The light in the room comes from a huge red lantern in the centre and flickering diyas. To the side is a cupboard containing paper money, joss sticks and Jiaobei (moon blocks, which are wooden divination tools). The unique feature of the space is a board containing bamboo sheets under different numbers, each of which has a corresponding fortune card.

Here’s the surprising part: all of this – the entire temple – is actually just a small room with a tiny balcony. But if you don’t give up the search and reach your destination, you will be amply rewarded.

Feature photo by Suruchi Maira