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48 Hours in Addis Ababa

 

48 HOURS IN ADDIS ABABA

WORDS BY MEHER MIRZA

In many ways, Ethiopia feels like the crossroads of antiquity—it has an almost Breughel-esque landscape of flatlands, cupped by amphitheatres of hills; it is the cradle of civilisation, where the first band of homo sapiens sprang from; it is the land of 700-year-old churches chiselled from a single rock in Lalibela; a country that follows a pre-Gregorian calendar; and it is, of course, the birthplace of coffee.

But Addis Ababa, its capital, feels quite different. Founded by Emperor Menelik II and Empress Taitu in 1892, it's a fairly modern city, as chaotic and trafficked as any major world metropolis. Boasting of everything from cool contemporary art and medieval ecclesiastical crafts to Ethio-jazz and an ancient coffee culture, it's no wonder that Addis Ababa is the pulsing heart of the country.

Day 1

Morning

If Ethiopia is the El Dorado of coffee, then Tomoca is probably its Golden Fleece. Born in 1953, it is said to be the city's oldest surviving coffee company. The coffee is slow-roasted onsite, and busloads of locals and tourists come to sip on it, then trundle away with bags and bags of freshly-roasted beans.

Ten minutes away by car, Ethiopia's National Museum is a monument to the country's primordial past, home to one of the country's most famous inhabitants — 3.5 million-year-old Lucy. You'll find a cast of her bones on the basement level. Upstairs, the dimly-lit museum is populated by a motley jumble of Ethiopian art and artefacts, including a massive wooden throne belonging once to Emperor Haile Selassie, and pre-Axumite fertility statues that hark back 2,600 years ago. It's an excellent introduction to the country.

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Another five minutes away, the Holy Trinity Cathedral, venerated by orthodox Ethiopian Christians as the highest-ranking of Addis' four Orthodox Christian Cathedrals, is an extraordinary building cupped by a copper dome and girdled by statues and bright gardens. Within the gardens lie the graves of some of Ethiopia's finest, including Meles Zenawi Asres, beloved ex-Prime Minister, Lieutenant General Merid Mengesha, and Sylvia Pankhurst, British suffragette and Addis resident. Within the Cathedral lie Haile Selassie and his wife, interred in grand graves.

Next up, a jewel box of a sanctuary, with its colourful murals and mosaics, the St George Cathedral is where Haile Selassie was crowned emperor. Inside, you'll find a clutch of religious paraphernalia, including scrolls, crosses and holy parasols.

Noon

Ethiopia prides itself on being the only African country that never once buckled to the Western world. Consequently, throughout our travels in the country, we were told constantly about the covetous Italians who muscled their way into Ethiopia (twice) but were met at every stage with opposition. Even so, the Italians did occupy the country from 1936 to 1941, and in their wake, left a rather large culinary footprint—Italian food and Italian-style coffee is available almost everywhere. Ristorante Castelli was built by an Italian soldier who loved Ethiopia too much to leave; the restaurant is famous for homemade pasta and is constantly filled with chattering locals and foreigners.

After lunch, go to nearby Merkato, a warren of wriggling alleyways, with vendors hawking pyramids of everything from frankincense to fruit. Wade carefully through the maze of gritty, messy, higgledy-piggledy shacks, and you may find treasure. However, you may also find that your pocket has stealthily been picked. Stay sharp (and take a guide with you)!

Late Afternoon

The coffee-drinking ceremony is at the heart of Ethiopian life, a ritualised ceremony that can take up to two hours. Enjoy it in the cool climes of the Hilton Addis Ababa lobby.

Night

Refuel at Dashen with a plate of kitfo (spiced minced raw beef) and lamb dulet. Once you've appeased your growling appetite, lie back and enjoy the vibrant tunes of the Dashen Band. Then dance away the night at the historic Ghion Hotel's African Jazz Village bar.

Day 2

Morning

Go for a run at Meskel Square, site of many demonstrations and festivals. Then, to ease your sandpapered throat, step into the Kaldi outlet on Airport Road; it's the Starbucks of Addis Ababa and offers (wobbly) WiFi as well. Apart from coffee, Kaldi also offers fresh juices, including guava, pineapple, avocado, mango, and papaya, and a variety of eggs and pancakes for breakfast.

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Perched high above the city on a hilly outcrop, Entoto Maryam Church is delightful but alas, usually closed to the public. Next door is its museum, pillowed with dust and feebly lit, but still worth a walkthrough if only for a look at Emperor Menelik II's crown. Fondly regarded as the founder of modern Ethiopia, Menelik defeated the marauding Italian army in the Battle of Adwa and, together with Empress Taitu, founded the new capital city of Addis. His palace (a hop away from the church), however, is singular in its simplicity; it is a sparse, single-storeyed building. The big draw of Entoto is the vista—a grand panorama of Addis Ababa below.

Noon

At Gusto, you can dine on fine Italian fare. Try the Tpetto Di Anitra Al Vino Rosso E Marmellata Di Cipolle Rosse, a hank of duck breast wallowing in red wine sauce and onion jam. Finish with cannoli, with a shiver of chocolate laced through it.

Afternoon

Addis Ababa's garden-hemmed Ethnographic Museum makes an excellent after-lunch pitstop. It is a repository of Ethiopian cultural history, offering chambers brimming with religious icons, crosses and diptychs, anthropological artefacts and, most charming of all, the rooms occupied by Emperor Haile Selassie and his Empress (including his blue bathroom).

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Stroll over to the Yekatit 12 monument, a tumulus rising dramatically from a traffic island, testament to the thousands of Ethiopians killed by the Italians in 1937.

Away from the bedlam of car horns is the Addis Fine Art Gallery, home to some of Ethiopia's finest contemporary artwork. This is the ideal place to shake off your post-meal slump. If shopping floats your boat, then  it is onwards to Salem's Ethiopia, purveyor of stylish (and ethically-produced) clothes, accessories and home decor; the focus is on empowering the local craftspeople and supporting their indigenous art. End the evening with a jaunt to Ariti Herbal Products for essential oils, frankincense, and medicinal herbs.

In the gloaming, hopscotch across to the Addis Ababa Railway Station for a look at the statue of the Lion of Judah, fabled for centuries as a symbol of Ethiopian royalty.

Evening

At Yod Abyssinia, dig into shiro (chickpeas, onions and spices, cooked until it all collapses into a spicy, smoky puddle) and doro wat (nubs of chicken stewed with spices until they turn silky-soft, then tossed with creamy boiled eggs), spooned up with injera, thin like a dosa, faintly sour and spongy. Then pour yourself some tej (honey wine) while watching musicians and dancers perform on its stage.

 
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Wayword & Wise Is A Readers’ Paradise

wayword and wise
 

WAYWORD & WISE IS A READERS’ PARADISE

Wayword & Wise is an independent bookstore in Fort that, unlike many other bookstores in the city, is about books and books alone. Authors available here range from the popular (Philip Roth, Ruth Ware) to the niche (Han Kang, Bohumil Hrabal) and everything in between.

Wayword & Wise, Strategic house, 44, Mint Road, Ballard Estate, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 6634 9946

READ MEHER MIRZA'S STORY

I don't know what I can attribute my voracious appetite for books to. Parents, who read widely and deeply, perhaps. A childhood fettered by constant visits to hospitals, maybe. Complete antipathy to any physical activity (still true). A pantheon of lunchbox friends in school whose relationships with me never quite tightened to closeness. Whichever it was, the corridors of my mind were always constructed from the swashbuckling worlds of my books.

My books. The shared ownership of a copy was not for me; it had to be mine, to have and to hold, to pluck out of my library and peruse whenever the fancy struck. They were solid things, both enclosing and mirroring me, armouring me against shadowed days, their infinite realms lifting me past the tedium of my days. Naturally, half my life unspooled in bookshops; and so, when one by one, Danai, Lotus, Landmark, and then Strand shut down, I felt an icy wipe of fear.

Thankfully, there is now Wayword & Wise set up by bibliophiles Atul Sud (investment banker who runs a food importing business) and Virat Chandok (once the manager of the long-lamented Lotus)—a little cubbyhole, intimate, yielder of a small harvest but a rich one that I spend hours reaping. Chandok and Sud are connoisseurs of stories, of authors both vanished and new, of knowledge they are eager to share. Once I name my favourites, Chandok gently coaxes me to new texts that seem at once familiar and unknown. Not all books are for all eyes, after all.

Unlike its peers, the store does away entirely with the pap and pabulum of bestseller lists, stocking everything from food and travel writing to music, literary theory to poetry, philosophy to graphic novels, science fiction to history, a delightfully offbeat children's section to a fiction section that unfurls all the way down the room. Even better, it stocks no gewgaws, no toys, and no tchotchkes to lure the dithering customer. Just books, rows upon glorious rows of books.

wayword and wise

Its shelves carry many titles I'd like to pilfer (I cannot possibly afford them all): everything from Bohumil Hrabal's palavering, fantasist, sorrowful novels to Caridad Svich's savagely political plays; Alain de Botton's popular philosophy to Andrés Neuman's Latin American narratives; David Lebovitz's warm adventures of baking in France to Lucia Berlin who fashioned her rich life into forensically candid short fiction; Clarice Lispector's oeuvre to the incisive yet mannered texts by that other underrated genius Barbara Pym. It is as Jorge Carrión writes in his marvellous Bookshops—"Every bookshop is a condensed version of the world".

Wayword is an exuberant labyrinth of paper and ink in which I happily lose myself, sifting through manuscripts, turning pages, greedily looting the shelves, then going home thick with thought and concepts. But it is never enough. Always, there is something else to be read, and it is usually to be found at Wayword.

Photographs by Suruchi Maira

 
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Your Guide To Buying Comic Books In Mumbai

 

YOUR GUIDE TO BUYING COMIC BOOKS IN MUMBAI

WORDS BY MEHER MIRZA

Most people seem to assume that, as a writer with two MAs in English Studies, I ring out my days with the works of Foucault, Genet, Pynchon, and such. For the most part, they would be right. But smuggled into my edifying literary library lies a filthy secret—a slab of beloved comic books, powder-fine from age.

Comics, I suspect, are still seen by people as being not quite the thing, old chap. To these people I say, “Go away”. Go away, and take your barren, strait-laced pleasures with you. There is a time for Jane Eyre and a time for Hawkgirl: comics are far too pleasurable to be sullied by the vapidity of a bunch of sanctimonious puritans. For many of us, Phantom, Mandrake, and Flash Gordon are the plinth on which our library of reading is raised. Which is why, every so often, you may catch me stapled to the comics section in your friendly, neighbourhood bookstore, dribbling over Art Spiegelman, surrounded by shambolic piles of Justice League Dark and Mister Miracle comics—in short, happy. Here is a smattering of stores that I frequent to get my fix of favourites.

Granth

Upstairs at Granth, cocooned from the bedlam of car horns on Juhu Tara Road, is a small sanctuary for superheroes. If you pan its shelves for glimmers of comic gold, you'll find plenty of Watchmen, the luminous Mandela: The Graphic Novel, a watermelon-hefty Drawn & Quarterly anthology, and Black Hole (Charles Burns's graphic novel about teen angst generously leavened with horror) together with a hank of DC, Vertigo, Dark Horse, and Marvel collections.

Granth, 30/A, HM House, Juhu Tara Road, Mumbai 400 049. Phone: 022 2660 9327

VL Nayak

What VL Nayak lacks in square footage it makes up for in density of choice. As a child, I teetered and tottered through the tiny shop, pillaging the shelves like a bandit, carting away heaps of MAD magazines, Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha, and (as a tremendous treat), DC and Marvel singles. It is a river I continue to drink from—it still stacks a whole coterie of pulp writing.

VL Nayak, Plot No. 8126, Surajpati Bhavan, 1st Road, Opp. Rly Station, Khar (w), Mumbai 400 052. Phone: 022 2648 4082

Title Waves

Over at Title Waves in Bandra, you'll find a sort of Top 20 hits of the comic world; nothing terribly esoteric, no Cable or Birds of Prey, just the usual Marvel and DC titles, Neil Gaiman, Peanuts, and Tintin. Title Waves also ventures into collectables territory, with a small shrine to memorabilia such as t-shirts, figurines, mugs, and other baubles.

Title Waves, St Pauls Media Complex, 24th Road, Off Turner Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 2651 0841

Trilogy

Raghuvanshi Mills’ Trilogy store is scalpelled into two sections—the library and the bookstore. The collection at the store reads like a roster of high art comics, all beautifully rendered but haphazardly stacked. What can you buy here? Shigeru Mizuki's bizarre, protean manga, Showa: A History Of Japan. Joe Sacco's Journalism, a ferocious comic that scrapes at the wounds of the world's worst war zones. And among many others, the extraordinary graphic novel based on Martin Luther King's life, I See the Promised Land, written by Arthur Flowers and illustrated by a Patua scroll artist, Manu Chitrakar.

Trilogy, 1st floor, Building No. 28, Above Mercedes Service Center, Raghuvanshi Mills Compound, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 080805 90590

Crossword

Once a fine bookshop chain of some stature, Crossword has now mutated into a sort of portmanteau of DVD toy/book store—a Frankenstore if you will. Still, it does venture briefly into the comic realm; a small collection (mostly DC's Justice League) reposes on its shelves, an excellent gateway to those who came to the comics via their live-action movie versions.

Crossword Bookstores across the city.

Leaping Windows

It would be folly to leave out Leaping Windows, a space reverential of comics, packed with perfectly organised pages and pages of Neil Gaiman, plenty from the DC and Marvel multiverses, as well as the ubiquitous Tintin, Calvin & Hobbes and Asterix. All this, and a cheery café to boot.

Leaping Windows, 3 Corner View, Dr. Ashok Chopra Marg, Off Yari Road, Andheri (w), Mumbai 400 061. Phone: 097699 98972

*Special mention: Kitab Khana, which has shelves heaving with Amar Chitra Katha, Asterix and Tintin, a collection hidebound by nostalgia.

 
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Get Your Fill Of Pani Puri At Kailash Parbat

 

GET YOUR FILL OF PANI PURI AT KAILASH PARBAT

Kailash Parbat is a vegetarian restaurant in Colaba that has an excellent chaat menu, the highlight of which is the pani puri. It is also famous for the Sindhi food it serves.

Kailash Parbat Hindu Hotel, 5, Sheela Mahal,1st Pasta Lane, Colaba Market, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005. Phone: 022 2287 4823

READ MEHER MIRZA'S STORY

Scarcely a week goes by that I don't hanker for chaat — a plinth of crunchy puris under a carpet of potato, sev, green mango, and dahi, lacquered by a rainbow of chutneys; crisp patties juddering under a heap of ragda, and a scatter of chopped onions; papdis, smashed and soused with dahi and chutney, with a streak of pomegranate seeds. But most of all, I yearn for the charms of pani puri.

In my inexorable quest for “the best one”, I have devoured puri after puri, sputtering and gasping next to chaatwallahs as they pierced, stuffed, and handed over pani puris with a quicksilver torque of the wrist, while a grumbling, restless queue swelled behind me. I am not a speedy eater. This was not my way.

And that is how I found myself with a friend, sitting on the rather dingy mezzanine section of Kailash Parbat Hindu Hotel in Colaba, faced by an abundance of chaat dahi sev batata puri, mix chaat, dahi wada, and ragda pattice to start. But these were merely ellipses to the little envelopes of pani puri waiting for me to stuff them with the perfect troika of fierce, spice-infused pani, boiled potato with boondi (or chickpeas?), and a slick of sweet chutney to muffle the sting of the spices that ripple through the dish. There is almost a sanctifying joy to stabbing the eggshell-thin puris with your thumb, watching their roofs cave in, scooping in the potatoes and chutney, and dunking it all into the bowl of spiced tamarind water. It is a dance of crunch and collapse and indignity — wide open mouths, water dribbling down to the chin, laughter. I ate all of mine, then, finding that my friend couldn't finish her plate, ate hers too.

But Kailash Parbat is an eatery with many strings to its bow. For instance, it is one of few (the only?) places in the city that serves Sindhi food. The late Mr. Parsram Mulchandani, a chaat vendor with roots in Pakistan, settled down in Mumbai, opening Kailash Parbat in Colaba way back in 1952. His first menu was sparse — just pani puri and ragda pattice. Along the way, he added more chaat, a vast Punjabi and Tandoori menu, and a handful of Sindhi specialities that are rare in the city: koki (Sindhi-style paratha), matha, Sindhi curry, bhee masala (spindles of lotus root), bhee channa, and dal pakwan.

It is a dance of crunch and collapse and indignity — wide open mouths, water dribbling down to the chin, laughter.

The Mulchandani family's entrepreneurial instincts are on point; Kailash Parbat has recently built up an entourage of branches that are spidering their way through the city, embracing new converts to their folds (this includes a Bandra Kailash Parbat that serves kooky concoctions such as Thai Bhel and Pani Puri Tacos with Chipotle Water).

Since that first day, I've returned to Colaba’s Kailash Parbat several times, sometimes alone, often with friends. No matter who I go with though, there is usually an avalanche of snacks on my table; sev puri, pav bhaji, samosa chaat, dahi wada, chole bhature. Often, I order the matha on the side, a cool swallow of buttermilk with a slick of masala. Sometimes, Kailash Parbat's voluptuous gulab jamuns end our meal, sometimes its saffron-stained shrikhand, sometimes a cornet of kulfi. But always, always, there is pani puri, simple, delicious, gratifying.

Feature photograph by Yusuke Kawasaki (Flickr: Pani Puri Rs.15/-) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 
Colaba-Guide-band

How To Spend A Day In Colaba

colaba guide
 

HOW TO SPEND A DAY IN COLABA

Everyone knows Colaba Causeway – that long stretch of road lined on both sides with shops and stalls selling everything from antiques and kolhapuri slippers to clothes and jewellery. But Colaba is also home to restaurants across world cuisines and beautiful heritage architecture.

WORDS BY MEHER MIRZA

First, a heap of minced mutton, spiced and simmered to an almost-gravy, served with bread to soak up the gravy. Then, a bronzed “egg omlet” ringed by a lacy fringe. Or perhaps a marriage of the two, a swiftly-fried egg cooked on a bed of kheema.

At Olympia, reputed to be one of the first restaurants to open in Colaba, the chef's Midas touch stretches to all things meaty, and evokes opulent north Indian cooking — biryani, kebab, khichda, paya. It is how we begin (and end) our Colaba stroll – with a full belly.

After breakfast, walk backwards to Wellington Fountain, named for the Duke of Wellington's victories in battle — Colaba unspools from here. To your left, the palimpsestic Gothic Maharashtra State Police Headquarters, whose history unravels to reveal a stint as the Royal Alfred Sailors Home, which was pitched on Mendham's Point, the oldest English cemetery in Mumbai. (A nugget: Joseph Conrad once stayed here in the 1880s).

regal cinema

Across the road is Regal Cinema, an art deco masterpiece designed by Charles Stevens, and diagonally across is Sahakari Bhandar, once the Majestic Hotel designed by the same firm that worked on the Taj Mahal hotel. Wedge your way through the tourists to reach the Prince of Wales museum, now CSMVS, the glorious Indo-Saracenic building prefaced by a crescent of lawns. Outside, a clot of belching cars, dust-dried streets and crowds. Inside, a tesserae of antiquities, salvaged from across the country – think Mughal miniatures, Rajput art, and Maratha relics. Afterwards, the charming museum shop.

Just before the sun scalds the skies at noon, walk down Colaba Causeway to Kailash Parbat. Born in 1952, KP serves an underrepresented sliver of Indian cooking i.e. Sindhi food, but also the sour, sweet, spicy, savoury alchemy of chaat. I am especially besotted by its pani puri with its low hum of heat, an igniting, bracing snack that has often stitched together days that have threatened to fall apart. Today, it threads body and soul together in the long interval between breakfast and lunch.

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Now we yo-yo back to the NGMA, not just a shrine to art, both Indian and international, but also a space for freedom rallies, concerts and exhibitions. Colaba is speckled with art galleries and spaces, most of which are worth at least a gander — think Project 88, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, TARQ.

For lunch, I usually choose to dock at one of four restaurants — unostentatious Paradise, run by a chatty Parsi couple from Gamadia Colony, is an homage to humble yet full-flavoured Parsi cooking; Baba Ling's Ling's Pavilion for its bacon pot rice, crisp bean sprouts with a staccato of prawns, and buoyant, tender, pork soup dumplings alchemised with freckles of ginger and soy sauce; Kainaz Messman's Theobroma, which serves plush chip butties and bacon butties, the soft bread generously lacquered with butter; and Martin's, which answers the siren call for exemplary beef chilly fry and Goa sausages.

afghan church colaba

After lunch, stagger out of the crushing heat and into the Afghan Church, a Gothic Revival dirge to all those martyred in the Anglo-Afghan war of 1838. Made memorable by its finely-embellished Gothic architecture, 42 panels of delicate stained glass, and a grand altar, it was opened to the public in 1858. Then pootle over to what may possibly be my favourite street in Mumbai, Wodehouse Road (now Nathalal Parikh Marg). Start at Buckley Court and end at Woodside Inn, walking past the Cathedral of the Holy Name, the Archbishop's House, Fort Convent School, Tanna House, and my favourite building in Mumbai, the crumbling, faded Schoen House: once a grand mansion built by a Parsi gentleman, it is today a ghostly echo of a vanished world.

In spite of wincing prices, I would encourage you towards tea at Taj Mahal hotel's Sea Lounge, a Mumbai icon in itself and a hop, skip and jump from Woodside Inn. For your money, you get a blithe gentleman plunking away sprightly, old-fashioned airs on a piano, an unparalleled view of the Gateway of India, five-star service, and a pageant of teatime treats i.e. demure cucumber sandwiches, scones crowned with jam and clotted cream along with a retinue of pastry. Or you could choose to go further afield with Sea Lounge's extended high tea, which includes a bacchanal of Indian, Western, and South East Asian dishes.

taj hotel colaba

Downstairs, veer off towards Good Earth, spangled with expensive curiosities. Then onto Merewether Road (now Boman Cowasji Boman Behram Marg), where the sea is flanked by handsome 19th Century arcaded buildings, for "a glimpse of the well-planned Port Trust residential housing development...Although it contains many small hotels and guest houses, the area still retains a welcome calm from the chaos on the main roads," Sharada Dwivedi and Rahul Mehrotra write glowingly, in Fort Walks.

At the close of Merewether Road is the sea-facing, rooftop Cafe Marina, best approached as a bar, offering snacks designed to abet drinking. Gazing at the sea limned with the haze of twilight, with a companion beer, is how I choose to still my heart after long, noxious days.

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But at the end, there is always Bademiya. Its soaring success usually means waiting in lines that spiral into the street, but your patience is rewarded with plates of satisfying kebabs — tongues of chicken and mutton, smothered by spice, skewered on a naked flame, and served with coils of onion and lemon. A full stomach is a beautiful thing.

Olympia Coffee House, Rahim Mansion No.1, Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg, Next to Police Station, Colaba, Mumbai 400 039. Phone: 022 2202 1043

Wellington Fountain and Maharashtra Police Headquarters, SP Mukherjee Chowk, Near Regal Cinema, Colaba, Mumbai 400 039

Regal Cinema, Old Custom House Road, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005. Phone: 022 2202 1017

Sahakari Bhandar, Colaba Chamber, Ground Floor, Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), 59-161, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Fort, Mumbai 400 032

Kailash Parbat, 5, Sheela Mahal, 1st Pasta Lane, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005. Phone: 022 2287 4823

National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Sir Cowasji Jahangir Public Hall, M.G. Road, Fort, Mumbai 400 032. Phone: 022 2288 1969

Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, 2, Sunny House, 16/18, Mereweather Road, Behind Taj Mahal Hotel, Colaba, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2202 3030

Project 88, Ground Floor, B.M.P. Building, Narayan A Sawant Road, Azad Nagar, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005. Phone: 022 2281 0066

TARQ, F35/36 Dhanraj Mahal, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 6615 0424

Paradise Restaurant, Sind Chambers, Causeway Road, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005. Phone: 022 2283 2874

Ling’s Pavilion, Building Number 19/21, Mahakavi Bhushan Road, Behind Regal Cinema, Colaba, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2285 0023

Theobroma, Shop No 24, Cusrow Baug, Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Colaba Causeway, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005. Phone: 070455 90013

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

Photographs:

  1. Feature photograph copyright alfrag - stock.adobe.com
  2. Regal Cinema photograph by Shivani Shah
  3. Pani puri photograph by Apoorva Jinka [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
  4. Afghan Church photograph by ShanuBoy [CC BY SA-2.0], via Flickr
  5. Taj Mahal Hotel photograph by Bikashrd (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
  6. Bademiya photograph by hasib [CC BY-ND 2.0], via Flickr
 
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Go From Goa To Portugal At O Pedro

o pedro
 

GO FROM GOA TO PORTUGAL AT O PEDRO

O Pedro is a Goan-inspired restaurant in BKC by the team behind the popular Lower Parel restaurant The Bombay Canteen. It serves well-known Goan dishes such as Xacuti, Sorpotel, Vindaloo, and Cafreal along with lesser-known dishes such as Veal Tongue Prosciutto, Red Snapper Poke, and Roasted Cauliflower Caldeen. There is a wide variety of options for vegetarians as well as meat eaters.

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

READ MEHER MIRZA'S STORY

On a Tuesday afternoon at O Pedro, we order — voluptuous sweet potato Peri Peri larded with Goan cheese fondue; buffalo milk cheese and roasted peppers with parsley vinaigrette with toast; duck Feijoada, slow-cooked slabs of duck resting on a floor of coconut-inflected Goan pink beans. And to finish, Aunty Li's Serradura with a shiver of orange running through it.

And it's not just the food that is an homage to Goa. The decor at O Pedro suggests an allegiance to everything from old Panjim bars and Goan villas thick with bric-a-brac to the bustling Mapusa market. Even its picture windows with the light summering in evoke languid days on Goan beaches.

o pedro

O Pedro was opened by the same team that steered Bombay Canteen to its heights, i.e. Hunger Inc Pvt. Ltd. partners Sameer Seth, Yash Bhanage, and Chef Floyd Cardoz, who himself has deep roots in Goa. Some of its menu is taken up by the more traditional dishes like choriz chilli fry and fish curry that Mumbai expects out of a Goan restaurant, but the remainder is restlessly cosmopolitan, cleaving to familiar Goan flavours while inflecting them with a touch of whimsy. For instance, Crispy Pork Chicharones Ambotik dressed up with a chilli and chatpata spice mix; mackerel, wallowing in a coconut gravy that is infiltrated by vivid chilli and green mango with a tousle of crunchy puffed rice, becomes an homage to the Hawaiian poke while simultaneously harking back to memories of Goan fish curry and rice.

The team worked to shine a spotlight on Goa's myriad food traditions. “We experienced Goa’s rich diversity in cooking styles,” says Sameer, “from the Catholic, to the Hindu Saraswat, to the Portuguese influences, to its baking traditions. We saw the culture of brewing that exists till date in Goa that has inspired all the infusions we do behind the bar... While researching, our travels started in Goa, eventually leading us all the way to Portugal.”

In Portugal, a careful study of the cuisine led them to range all across the country, travelling to Lisbon, Porto, and a clutch of small towns. “Mealhada is famous for restaurants serving Leitão or suckling pig,” says Chef Hussain Shahzad, “and it really did live up to its porky reputation. While we all ate our way through Portugal, I also worked at a few restaurants that gave me a deeper understanding of the cuisine, the ingredients used and the techniques involved.”

o pedro

Consequently, the food makes forays into Portugal's more demure flavours like the cataplana – the lobster, red snapper, shrimp and squid sluiced with a bright shellfish and tomato broth with roasted peppers. Or the celebrated pasteis de nata, the Portuguese custard tarts with burnished crusts. Or the Portuguese doughnuts in which water supplants milk to make a fluffier, blither doughnut, soft as goose down.

The menu also offers wood-fired seafood roasts that are fuelled by mango and jackfruit wood, but the oven, looming in a corner of the restaurant, is operational only at night. “Cooking over open fire and coconut wood is deep-rooted in Goan culture,” says Chef Hussain, “from the hot smoking of choriz in Velha Goa to the beach barbecues at Baga and Calangute. In fact, even on our travels to Portugal, one of the best dishes we tasted was the grilled sardines cooked over an open fire in a small seaside town near Porto. More importantly, we wanted to celebrate the bread baking tradition from Goa at O Pedro and that is also done in wood-fired ovens. So when we were designing the restaurant, it was a no-brainer to have a wood fired oven built into the kitchen.” From the oven comes Goa's beloved poee as well, served here (thankfully at both lunch and dinner) with a variety of butters warmed by choriz, pork fat, cheesy black pepper, and balchao flavouring. I would return for the poee alone.

O Pedro_003

At O Pedro, drinks are accorded equal importance to the food, the alcohol also acting as emissaries from Goa and Portugal. Take the Ginja, Lisbon's sour cherry liqueur. "Since we don’t get Ginja here, we made our own,” says Beverage Manager Rahul Raghav, “where we infuse maraschino cherry and brandy along with spices and use this in the Lisbon Cooler cocktail on our menu.” Excise laws stifle O Pedro from bringing in local alcohol from Goa; the staff get around this by working on various infusions — kokum-infused rum, a tirphal tincture, and an aamchor syrup, amongst others. “One of the things I noticed in Goan homes was how people infuse seasonal fruits and spices to mellow the harshness of the local alcohol,” says Rahul. “Infusions, therefore, became a great way to bring the flavours of Goa into the drinks."

But in the end, we finish our afternoon with three beers: IBC's Belgian Wit and Four Grain Saison and Pedro's Naariyal Pani, which blends beer with coconut water — artful, intriguing and proudly local. Just like the food.

Chef Hussain Shahzad's Menu Recommendations

I would recommend they eat the Raw Papaya Kismur or the Silgardo’s Bean Hummus to start with and follow that with either the Nishte Rawa Fry or Grilled Pumpkin Foogath Toast, as these would be a nice mix of what is traditional and what is inspired on the menu.

For mains, I would suggest the Panji Green Watana Rassa with a side of the Goa Bun or the Portuguese Tomato Rice with House-made Buffalo Milk Cheese. And of course you can’t go wrong with the Beryl’s Fish Curry with a side of the Goa red rice. For desserts, it’s either the Lisboa Pastel De Nata or the Bebinca.

Rahul Raghav's Favourite Places to Drink in Goa

Curlies Beach Shack near Anjuna and Joseph’s in Panjim, where Uncle Gundu behind the bar, plays songs from his phone, and serving small bites made by a neighbour.

Sameer Seth on his Favourite Places to Eat in Goa

Bhatti Village and Anand Bar for typical Goan fare, Pinto’s for their tongue sandwiches, Ras Omelet at the Mapusa bus stand, the seafood thali at Ritz, Ashok Bar for the best Xacutti, and Nostalgia for Portuguese influenced Goan food.

For non-Goan food, Gun Powder for South Indian food in a beautiful setting, and Bomras in Candolim for modern Burmese food.

Photographs courtesy O Pedro (except seafood cataplana photo by Shivani Shah)

 
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12 Hours In And Around Babulnath

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12 HOURS IN AND AROUND BABULNATH

WORDS BY MEHER MIRZA

Babulnath is usually dwarfed by the zaftig charms of Mumbai's more touristy localities. This tiny sliver of the city has an allure that is mostly residential and medical (Bombay City Eye Institute, Ruxmani Nursing Home). Naturally, very little tempts the idle traveller to stop here — most skitter past on their way to other localities. But Babulnath is no part-time peregrination for me: I lived my first years in Mumbai here, and it has tethered me to it ever since, thanks to the gracious home of a dearly beloved aunt, a phalanx of resident friends, and the undeniable lure of Soam. This is all to say that this trail will be refracted through the prism of my own life — be warned.

9:00 a.m.

Our morning begins, predictably enough, with a stroll to Babulnath temple. The road slopes gently upwards, nubbled on either side by flower sellers. At the top, temple bells flare. Incense brightens the air. Quiet, massed figures throng the marble temple in its many-storied grandeur. It is a chance for the weary and the faithful to step beyond their ever-accelerating lives, to read sermons from stone. No matter how large the crowd around it, Babulnath mandir remains a structure that exerts a calming magic – it dissolves all crises of faith.

Babulnath Temple, 16, Babulnath Road, Near Chowpatty, Mumbai 400007. Phone:  022 2367 8367

11:00 a.m.

From the sacred to the profane. A breath away from the temple gate stands Dave Farsan Mart, a tiny, hole-in-the-wall establishment specialising in a smorgasbord of snacks. Alleviate the rigours of worship with bites of Dave's popular samosas. Then take away packets of its kachoris for those friends not fortunate enough to accompany you on this walk.

Dave Farsan Mart, 10, Babulnath Road, Babulnath, Chowpatty, Mumbai 400007.  Phone: 097696 70384

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11:30 a.m.

Just before the sun crests the sky, walk down the (relatively) straight finger of Babulnath's main road to Khareghat Colony, a Parsi colony built in 1912 to shelter lesser-privileged Parsis. Or you could take the longer route, meandering through the capillaried lanes of Babulnath, threading a maze of century-old stone houses, shady yards, and somnolent street dogs. Khareghat is no different, with its colonnaded balconies and broad pathways. Soon, its Alpaiwalla Museum, home to Parsi arts and antiquities, will open to the public (it is temporarily closed for renovation). Until then, you can photograph the elegant massifs of its buildings, immortalised in Vidhu Vinod Chopra's film Ferrari ki Sawari.

Khareghat Colony, Hughes Road, Mumbai 400 007.

12:30 p.m.

Across the road from the landmark Babulnath temple, Soam draws a cacaphonous thicket of people chattering, laughing, waiting, gorging on its superb Gujarati cooking. Preface your mains with the thick, crisp kand na chilla (purple yam pancakes); the farsan platter – a wreath of Gujarati snacks in a thali, crowned by golden palak patti samosas that are juicy with cheese. Then order the fada ni khichdi, a voluptuous dish of broken wheat that has been gently baptised by ghee. To finish, whorls of jalebi, crisp, bubbled, twilight-hued.

Soam, Ground Floor, Sadguru Sadan, Babulnath Road, Chowpatty, Mumbai 400 007. Phone: 022 2369 8080

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2:30 p.m.

After lunch, plunge back into the roar of the clangourous streets, past the Parsi fire temple, past Westside, until you reach the clot of shops that line Hughes Road. This patch is dense with shops selling jewellery, upholstery, ayurvedic products, even a spa. But stop instead at the shops selling cane furniture – Tropical and General. What can you buy? Armchairs padded with cushions, dustbins, cane trays, lampshades, baskets of all sizes, all piled higgledy-piggledy.

General Cane Furniture Works, 49, Kapoor Mansion, Hughes Road, Mumbai 400 007. Phone: 075064 85829

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3:15 p.m.

Double back towards Kemps Corner until you spot the unassuming RTI building on your left. On the ground floor, you will find yourself at Bambino, a mecca for children's clothes, with designs that are anchored in the past – think whimsical sailor suits and dresses scalloped with cross stitch.

Bambino, RTI, Hughes Road, Mumbai 400 007

4:00 p.m.

For tea, take a short walk across the road to the RTI food outlet. Inside, the space is succinct, tight, with only a couple of seating places wedged alongside a glass counter heaving with snacks. Order your tea or coffee, then surrender your heart to RTI's toothsome sweets – the macaroons, the chocolate fish (size Small or Large), the dainty tarts. My own predilection veers towards the lemon tart, a slush of lemon curd cupped by a crunchy crust.

RTI, Hughes Road, Mumbai 400 007

5:00 p.m.

Babulnath is bookended by the Babulnath Bandstand park (now Seth Tulsidas Kilachand Garden) with its face turned towards Chowpatty beach. My childhood memories pool here, memories of wind-raked playtimes while a band played sprightly tunes in the bandstand. Hasten towards it before the gloaming, when the great broth of champagne light sweeps over the sea. It is a tiny oasis of tranquillity, a mere step away from the tyranny of traffic-blocked Chowpatty.

Seth Tulsidas Kilachand Garden, 1st Lane, Dadi Sheth Wadi, Mumbai 400 006

7:00 p.m.

Dinnertime. Many leafy lanes and bylanes spider away neatly from Babulnath's main road: tucked away in one such is the popular Babulnath Dosa Centre. The headliner here is of course, the dosa, with a greatest hits selection of rava, sada, and masala varieties. But there are outliers too: lace-thin versions that come smeared with everything from Schezwan masala and Maggi seasoning to the (preposterous) cheese-chocolate.

Babulnath Dosa Centre, BN Cross Lane 1, Babulnath, Dadi Sheth Wadi, Mumbai 400 007.

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7:45 p.m.

It has been a long day, but we must stretch it longer still. Walk to the cusp of Babulnath and Hughes Road, until you come to Cafe New York. Sink your weariness into a shoal of jalapeno nacho chips, their crunch undimmed even under an onslaught of cheese. Order alongside a flagon of beer. Relax.

Cafe New York, 44, Dabholkar Building, Hughes Road, Mumbai 400 007. Phone: 022 2363 2876

Photographs:
1. By Suruchi Maira
2. By Elyaqim Mosheh Adam [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr
3. By Kruti Dalal
4. By na9179126124 - stock.adobe.com
5. By Shrads.m (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 
Potato-Chip-Guide-band

A Potato Lover’s Guide To The City’s Best Chips

 

A POTATO LOVER’S GUIDE TO THE CITY’S BEST CHIPS

WORDS BY MEHER MIRZA

Recently, my diet has been absolutely appalling. There is no getting around it. I have eaten potato wafers for lunch, dinner and, one horrifying day, breakfast. And I have done it over and over, again and again. I am a woman given to appetite; I do not apologise for it. In these smug, sanctimonious times of “clean eating” and whatnot, I stand valiantly on the frontlines, wading into the frothy, murky waters of fat and salt. Only this time, I did it for a story. Here is the honest truth. I love a crisp, well-made wafer; thoughts of fried potatoes frequently drive me to distraction. I don't mean that pallid, mass-produced stuff with the blanch of death on it. No, I only bend my knee to the likes of A1, B Wafers and that Bombay behemoth, Camy — it is they who ensure that no potato dies in vain.

THE WORTHY

Camy Wafers

Out of all the kilos I consumed (four, at last count) I believe still, as I believed before, that Camy's true majesty remains undimmed. Its plain-salted flavour, the worker bee of the wafer world, is the crispiest, wispiest wafer of them all, keenly salted, and palely gold in colour. Its Sweet & Salty flavour has a smokiness to it, a barbecue taste that cohabitates amicably with a dip; the Green Chilli has the bite and bitterness of an actual chilli; its Pudina was immensely compelling, refreshing, an instant family favourite. Only its Navratan flavour was too enthusiastically dredged through a mundane masala powder.

5-6, Oxford House, Near Colaba Market, Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005. Phone: 022 2282 8430

B Wafers & Chips

B Wafer store, who thankfully offer 50g instead of the ubiquitous 200g packs, was a surprising challenger: their wafers, fried to a greaseless crisp, are light and elegant. The Cheese is only mildly anointed with cheese flavouring and, as a consequence, goes down very smoothly with a chilled beer.

A/11, Anand Nagar, Forjett Street, Mumbai 400036. Phone: 022 2388 5266

A1 Wafer Company

At A1 Wafer Company, the potatoes meet their oily doom in the room behind the shop; consequently, they emerge fresh, bronzed, and dusted with salt, garlic, lime (ridged! I love ridged), tomato (a tad too sweet), cheese (a strong hit of cheese, like eating cheese-balls), and masala, depending on what flavour you choose.

Victoria Building, Behind Apsara Cinema, Balaram Street, Grant Road, Mumbai 400 007. Phone: 022 2307 7151

Avarya

Avarya breeds a vast variety of wafer, but I picked only the garlic (not hugely garlicky at first shatter, but it builds up), peri peri (ambitious, but too fragile for my dip), and koda masala (did they mean goda masala?) Either way, this last one was a rugged crisp, baked rather than fried, and smothered in a masala whose provenance was, at best, dubious.

Shop No 4, Narendra Bhuvan, 51, Bhulabhai Desai Marg, Breach Candy, Mumbai 400 026. Phone: 022 2351 8400 [Also at Ghatkopar (w) and Santacruz (w)]

THE UNWORTHY

Ramanlal Vithaldas, purveyors of miscellaneous edibles such as puris and dry fruits, also stock wafers: I tried the lime and plain salted. Now perhaps I am too pernickety, but the lime tasted almost sweet, and was therefore deemed unworthy of consideration, and the plain salted was slightly too greasy and brittle for me. I love a crunchy crisp, but this was hard, shattering into shards in my mouth.

Chheda's wafers were dismissed as unremarkable, wilting under a light slick of oil, but alas! It was Foodspot who was the biggest letdown. Its Chilli Potato wafers had no discernable chilli, and were heavily spiked with something tangy. Perhaps we were handed the wrong packet? And its Potato Takiya wafer, although perfectly salted and crisped, left me gagging with a strong oily aftertaste. The packet remains unmolested, to date.

Disclaimer: I realise this is a contentious issue. Mileage may vary, depending on consumer. Also, this review contains an tightly curtailed variety of stores and flavours, in deference to my arteries and waistline.

 
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Discover Topli Paneer, An Elusive Parsi Delicacy

 

topli paneer aban pardiwala

DISCOVER TOPLI PANEER, AN ELUSIVE PARSI DELICACY

Topli paneer is a soft cheese that is difficult to make and hence a lesser-known Parsi food item. While it’s not commonly found in restaurants, you can order some from members of the community such as Aban Pardiwala, who make and sell it from their homes.

To order from Aban Pardiwala, you can call her at 93222 77950. Orders are to be collected from her home at Pedder Road.

READ MEHER MIRZA'S STORY

There's nothing quite like the iceberg-white topli paneer, coiled in its saline bath, to summon memories of my childhood: of large jars of paneer tucked away within the innards of the fridge to evade my ferreting eye; of bowlfuls eaten in my great aunt's house, after lunch, while the lulling afternoon dozed and yawned around me; of my blythe, beautiful mother, ladling out an early birthday breakfast of warm, sugared ravo and cool, salty paneer, the sun squinting through the open windows.

It is a difficult dish to make, an elusive dish, not usually offered at Parsi restaurants whose menus are built around a greatest hits version of Parsi food.

But Aban Pardiwala makes it. Out of the beatific Ms. Pardiwala's kitchen come all the Parsi food staples – sali boti, chicken farcha, kid gosh, dhansak pastes. Most significantly (for me) though, the topli paneer.

To understand what topli paneer tastes like, imagine a panacotta, wobbly, creamy, tangy, and streaked with salt. Ms. Pardiwala conjures up delightful vegetarian versions with the aid of her beloved Rosie, sprightly at 79. "It's very hard to make these," she says. "It has taken me 10 years to get it right."

Those 10 years were well spent. I carry home a dozen delicious paneers, sloshing in their eddies of whey. By nightfall, they are over.

Feature photo by Elvis D'Silva

 
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Mr. Papadwala’s Pickles, Papads, And Preserves

 

ashok papad colaba dried wafers kailash parbat

MR. PAPADWALA'S PICKLES, PAPADS, AND PRESERVES

Mr. Ashok sells papad and dried wafers from his cart outside Kailash Parbat in Colaba. You can find wafer varieties such as sabudana, garlic, methi, and onion. He also sells pickles.

Ashok Papadwala, 5, Sheela Mahal, 1st Pasta Lane, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005.

READ MEHER MIRZA'S STORY

You never know what you will find stacked atop Ashok Papadwala's cart. Plump cylinders of lotus root. Flat fiery papad bombs studded with garlic and red chillies. Stacks of dried palak, guvar, bhindi, and methi. A heap of vividly-coloured pickles. Chubby dal wadis, and puffs of makhana. All manner of dried wafers – sabudana, garlic, tomato, methi, onion – ready to douse in a bubbling bath of oil. Karela, rice, and chilly kachire. A kaleidoscope of mukhwas bottles.

"What shall I buy?" I ask Mr. Ashok, who is smiling his most winsome smile at me. I watch his face grow grave, focussed, as he scans his treasure. Then his face brightens. "You are Parsi, na? You will like this papad. It is just like your saria papad. And this bhee pickle. Try it, you must try it. Arre, I know what Parsis like, believe me." He waves away my weak cries of denial. Ashok Papadwala will not be denied. I crumble in the face of such vehemence.

My bag fills quickly. With bhee pickle. With papad. With dehydrated guvar. With Sindhi mung wadi. With a dollop of makkana. "You must fry these, they are delicious. Arre, I know what Parsis like!"

And it’s true. He does. I go back the next week, and Mr. Ashok's smile is broader than ever.

Feature photo by Suruchi Maira