mughal masjid

Mughal Masjid Is An Urban Oasis


mughal masjid


The Mughal Masjid – also called Masjid-e-Iranian – was built 150 years ago by a merchant named Haji Mohammad Hussain Shirazi in Bhendi Bazaar, a place of reverence for the Shia community. It is distinctive for its blue tiles, said to have been imported from Iran, and the Iranian-inspired architecture. Although women are not allowed in the prayer hall, there is a separate area earmarked for them inside.

Mughal Masjid, Imamwada Road, Umerkhadi, Mumbai 400 009


A walk on Imamwada Road doesn’t prepare you for this slice of Persia. Ambling past nondescript humble eateries and shops selling kites and medicines, the mammoth blue structure springs up suddenly, at once captivating. The mosaic tiles and motifs have you stop and sigh ‘Blue Mosque’ after Istanbul’s famous attraction, but the roots of Mughal Masjid lie a little further away in Iran.

The Iranian connect is clearly visible in the architecture of the mosque, also called Masjid-e-Iranian. Instead of replicating the Indo-Islamic architecture elsewhere in the city, the mosque bears no gumbaz (dome) and has only two minarets. Verses from the Quraan are inscribed on these as well as on the archway. The chandeliers and carpets inside the prayer hall are said to have been imported from Iran, as are the distinct blue tiles that give the mosque its uniqueness.

As mesmerising as the exterior is, it’s hard to forget that first step inside – the palm trees, the pond, the courtyard, and the elegant prayer hall. A silence reigns inside that takes notice of neither the concrete buildings towering above nor the cries of hawkers on the footpath outside. Men catch a wink on the benches around the rectangular pond or hauz, where ablutions would once take place. Older men read newspapers or confer with friends. On the balcony outside the prayer hall and inside, others read the Quraan. The place, at once a sanctum and a refuge. 

That first visit, I’m scuttled out quickly by the guard. Women are not allowed in the prayer hall and have a separate area earmarked for them inside. The courtyard is still accessible, and my subsequent visits are more even-paced. The guards still rankle, but they don’t come in the way. Try noon or the period between Zohr and Asr for a peek inside this oasis.


Victorian Grandeur Meets Railway Memorabilia At The CST Railway Museum

railway museum


Inside the stunning CST building is the Railway Museum, which chronicles the history of the Indian railways. Travel back in time via vintage copies of the Bombay Times, see reproductions of the original design for the building, and explore trains through the miniature models on display. The guided tour runs from Monday to Friday 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Last tickets are available at 5 p.m. Entry is Rs. 200 per person.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Fort, Mumbai 400 001.


The red locomotive is the first thing that catches your eye. The nondescript, partially open gate a few feet ahead of Central Railways courtyard merits no special attention from a city on the move. But despite being slave to its schedules for half of one's life, a quick peek into the glorious railway edifice can halt you in your tracks.

Just past the red locomotive is where the tour to the CSMT Museum begins. The gallery inside chronicles the history of the Indian railways from the inception of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway Company to the first train in 1853 that steamed off from Bori Bunder (CSMT) to Tanneh (Thane) with 400 passengers. Chugging back to the 1900s, the photographs on the walls feature steam engines, electric units, the Punjab Mail to Pakistan, the Calcutta Mail, and the Deccan Queen with its dining car and a "ladies only" coach. There are miniature models for aficionados, not just of the coaches but also of the entire heritage structure.

You can travel back in time via vintage copies of the Bombay Times featuring timetables on the front pages. A first-class ticket to Byculla would cost you a grand sum of six annas; worth it, if you could travel in those coaches, with leather chairs that are straight out of a haughty men’s club, air blue with cigar smoke. You’re introduced to the old-style ticket punching machine and signalling system, which required assistants to punch cards and deliver them to the drivers before the trains could move.

In the glass cabinet are reproductions of Frederick William Stevens's original design for the building. The Victorian Gothic Revival structure took a decade to construct, and its Italian marble and granite columns, teak wood doors, and grand staircase were recently restored. Its first visitors, when it opened in 1888, would have seen what you see – squinches that carve out an octagon, stained glass, and the magnificent dome. You’ll struggle to capture it all in a single frame, but you’ll keep trying until the guide walks past and you have no option but to play catch up. 

railway museum

On the first floor, the vintage aura dissipates to accommodate the familiar lethargy of government offices. This is, after all, the headquarters of the Central Railways, and the nameplates, whitewashed walls, and sheafs of papers lead you to the Star Chamber and its serpentine queues for tickets. The Italian marble columns are faded here, but the stars on the ceiling still shine bright if you look up from the ATVM machines and ticket booths. It’s a view as beautiful as the one from one of the four porches from where you take in the Capitol, the BMC building, and the eddies of traffic outside.

Behind the walls made of sandstone brought from Porbunder in Gujarat is the peacock arch that is festooned with grotesques. In this version of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, rendered in stone, you’ll find rats, alligators, snakes, and eagles. There's a lion playing catch and an owl peering over the courtyard. Pastoral elements show up as well; roses, grape vines, and flowers drape over the arches. 

railway museum

We walk up to the second floor still trying to capture that incredible dome, but this is a great vantage point to see the Lady of Progress atop the dome outside, a torch in one hand and a wheel in another. There’s also the gryphon to ward off evil. You’ll also find the old statue of Queen Victoria, dethroned after the terminus was renamed in honour of the Maratha ruler Shivaji in 1996. When you walk back down to the courtyard, your back to the selfie taking tourists, you will find the bas-relief portraits of founders, directors and important personnel, among them J. Shankarseth and J. Jejeebhoy.

The entire structure is a confluence of British and Indian aesthetic and symbolism. A tiger (for India) and a lion (for British) stand guard at the gate, and the coat of arms features an elephant along with the British flag. The left facade also bears small portraits representing 16 different Indian communities. The closer you look, the more you’re likely to find, each nook a rabbit hole to new references.

As with the bustle of the terminus, the guided tour of its interiors entails being scuttled around up and down, plied with rushed anecdotes, without much pause for soaking in the atmosphere.

Change tracks, linger on after the tour, and retrace the trail once again to really appreciate what you’ve seen. Then you can walk into the Star Chamber and become part of the unseeing crowd again.

Photographs by Suruchi Maira


Dig Into Creamy, Hand-Churned Flavours At Taj Ice Cream


taj ice cream


Taj Ice Cream is a small ice cream parlour at Bhendi Bazaar that serves hand-churned ice cream in fresh fruit and dry fruit flavours priced at Rs. 60. They also serve some fruit-flavoured falooda at Rs. 120.

Taj Ice Cream, Shop No. 7, 36 Khara Tank Road, Kumbharwada, Mumbai 400 003. Phone: 022 2346 1257


It's easy to miss Taj Ice Cream amidst the blue board sheets and din of redevelopment at Bhendi Bazaar. Sure enough, I double back each time despite earmarking Tawakkal Sweets as a pointer.

Taj is one of the last hand-churned ice cream parlours left in the city, its sancha ice creams dating all the way back to 1887. Sanchas are nothing but wooden barrels with copper canisters inside that need to turned by hand. Go on a quiet day and Aamir Icecreamwala, whose great-great-grandfather Valiji started the enterprise, may oblige to your request to see it.

When Valiji started off, he sold milk sweetened with dates and cooled in earthen pots. The first ice cream he concocted was mixed fruit – made of chickoo and pineapple – which became instantly popular. It still hits all the right notes. Make it your first at this tiny outpost with just four tables. As you linger, not quite through with the childlike yearning for more, pick from the 15-odd flavours it now offers that include kesar, tender coconut, and roasted almond chocolate chip. Of course, summers demand mangoes, and Taj delivers. Make that your second and walk away satiated. For winter there's the sitaphal to dig into!

Feature photograph by Suruchi Maira


Books, Berries, And The Rustic Charm Of Bhilar



Bhilar is a village in Satara near the hill station of Panchgani that is India’s first “books village”. Modelled after Hay-on-Wye, the village hosts as many as 25 artistically decorated locations that have been turned into reading spots. Currently, the books available are only in Marathi, with English and Gujarat books to be added soon.

Bhilar is approximately 250km from Mumbai. You can drive there or take an ST bus to Wai and then use local transport to reach Bhilar.


The sprawling villas on both sides don't point to a village. I'm about to double-back when the signboard declares that I'm still a kilometre away. The signs are all over the place, even before you reach Panchgani – a book and strawberry over red type declaring Bhilar as India's first "books village".

Located between the popular hill stations Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar, the village is modelled on England's Hay-on-Wye. The Welsh village, with as many as 40 second-hand bookstores and an annual literary festival, has become a prominent tourist destination over the years. The Maharashtra government harbours similar ambitions for this hamlet in Satara.

As many as 25 artistically decorated locations around the village have been turned into reading spots. The first is Kadambari, or the novel section, with rich hues of yellow and red, painted by artists from Thane. The murals at these houses reflect the books inside, which range from literature, poetry, religion, women and children, history, environment, folk literature to biographies. While animals dot the white walls housing children's books, caricatures, Warli art and even a makeshift fort and Maratha ruler Shivaji rule elsewhere.

The art is a giveaway, but spotting the houses is easy even otherwise, with signboards pointing the way and a holistic map at the start. Inside are rotating book racks, green cupboards reminiscent of government offices, plastic chairs, and in some cases bean bags. I was canvassing the landscape as the only outsider a hot summer day, some of the houses shut, their owners away. Within the two-kilometre periphery, most doors are open. Walking in, however, feels like an intrusion, like stumbling on to a domestic scene, especially as the smell of prawn curry whiffs by. Then, the appetite to go through titles is suddenly lost, replaced by the urge to barge into the kitchen.

bhilar books village

In some, you might just get away with it. Not barging into the kitchen, but partaking homemade thalis and snacks. A small outpost at the beginning also has all the right words – thalipeeth, pitla bhaat, poha. That's not to say the village has not been corrupted by outside influence. Huge boards with Chinese items are more prominent than the ones selling thalis. At Kingberry farms, on the periphery, is the added option of a Gujarati thali.

The influx from the neighbouring state must be huge, given that the state is planning to introduce Gujarati titles alongside English for the visitors. Bhilar's literary genesis lies in the state department's drive to promote Marathi. So all the titles – over 20,000 of them – are in the regional language. I strain to read a few pages, but it's not easy to go back to a language left behind in school. After a while, I give up and turn to the Muriel Sparks I brought with me. From my spot, overlooking a strawberry field, pausing Miss Brodie's classes, I see families come out and pick up the ripe berries, before scuttling back inside. Strawberries are the main source of income in the village, with all houses bearing green patches, no matter the size. The roads are empty barring a few kids playing and the chickens strutting past. The occasional chiming of the temple bells is the only other thing breaking the reverie. Incidentally, the temples also house some literature besides offering great views; the only other attraction here.


Ahead, at the market square there is more activity. Crates are being filled with strawberries to be exported. Women are chattering, waiting for the Sumo to take them to Panchgani. The wait can run into hours, and the vehicle, when it arrives, packs over 15 people. Nobody is in a hurry except for me, the outsider, observing the slow rhythm of village life.

If I had more time, I would have tried my hands at more pages of Marathi literature. Passing the sweater-clad college kids walking home, with the sun about to set, I walk past the few hotels that Bhilar has to offer. The aforementioned villas and a few houses also offer rooms for those who want to live the slow life. Here too the pronouncements are loud – Bharatacha pehla pustakacha gaav. The boards notwithstanding, Bhilar has a long way to go before it can become an abode for book lovers, given that access to literature was restricted to a singe language so far. As this changes, the village can definitely become an alternative to the tried and tested terrains of Panchgani. You won't get the famed strawberries and cream here, but with Mala's and Mapro a stone's throw away and views of the Dhom lake to escape to in the evenings, Bhilar makes a case for a spot on the itinerary.


Spoilt For Choice At Poetry By Love And Cheesecake


poetry by love and cheesecake


Poetry By Love And Cheesecake is a café in Bandra that is kind to the keto (low carb diet), vegan, and gluten-free diets. Of particular note are its desserts, specifically the baked New York cheesecake. Those not dieting needn’t despair – there are plenty of carb-filled and non-vegetarian options as well. Poetry also has outlets at Lower Parel and Fort.

Poetry By Love And Cheesecake. Bandra: Pali Darshan, 33rd Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 082912 95412. Lower Parel: Kamala Mills, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Fort: Machinery House, Ground Floor, Bharucha Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 6237 8411


Scrumptious cheesecake, filled with love,

Humble bread left scorned, sulking

Forgive the poor attempt at a poem, but I am still trying to get over a bruschetta without bread! Then again, that's the beauty of Poetry besides the mellow interiors and framed verses on the walls. With the kitchen serving keto (low carb diet), vegan, and gluten-free meals, the menu needs your attention, or you might just overlook the purple star besides the bruschetta and start penning poetry. You will polish off the plate nevertheless, given the perfectly grilled chicken and fresh tomatoes and sprouts.

Spoilt for choice, you will then move on to the cheesecake, happy to have missed the carbs, leaving room for all the sugar. As you pick from Nutella, salted caramel, Oreo, and tiramisu, to name a few, more trysts will follow. Eventually, you will find your rhyme. The baked New York cheesecake sings for me each time. As does Devil's Desire, which comes with a layer of caramel, Belgian chocolate, mousse, and hazelnut. 

The savoury list here is just as long, with a variety of pastas, salads, and meals cooked around avocado, chia seeds, kale, and cheese. In the mornings, they are also kind to bread. The breakfast spread spans freshly baked focaccia, croissants, multi-grain, along with muffins, herb butter, eggs, and a coffee that can hold its own. Just like Poetry, which can draw in the health-nut and sugar-crazed with equal elan.

Feature photograph copyright skumer -


12 Hours In And Around Churchgate

Churchgate Guide



A bayside boulevard that offers a few moments of freedom. Bollywood tales that span from Amitabh Bachchan to Nargis and Suraiya. Cricket frenzy that stretches from long queues outside Wankhede to the sprints of budding cricketers at Oval. Private equity talks and college gossip – all these are at the heart of Churchgate. Within the fortified walls of Mumbai, it was the gate that provided access to St. Thomas Cathedral. It was also where Indian ambitions took root, with merchants opting for Art deco style, rejecting the British Raj's Gothic structures, and where the wealthy converged for Bombay's nightlife. A lot has changed, but neighbourhood’s the character is intact. See for yourself.

9:00 a.m.

Stadium Restaurant

Just a few steps from the Churchgate station, Stadium is where regulars line up for egg bhurji, egg masala fry, and omelettes. It's the kheema ghotala, though, that hits it out of the park at Stadium. Unlike its peers at Fort, the Irani joint doesn't come with a list of dos and don'ts, but its rendition of kheema with eggs has earned it the patronage of many, including quite a few cricketers.

Stadium Restaurant, 76, Veer Narmian Road, Mumbai 400 020. Phone: 022 2204 6819

Salt Water Café

The wooden interiors and soft lighting at Salt Water Café are perfect to sink into while loading up on its fluffy 4-cheese omelette. Fret not if that’s too cheesy for you. There's something for every kind of egg-lover on the clipboard here. Take your pick from the classic Eggs Benedict or go with the fuss-free bagel. If, like us, you need a little sugar to jump start your day, there's the banana nutella smoothie and pain au chocolat.

Salt Water Café, Nagin Mahal, Ground Floor, Next to Ambassador Hotel, Veer Nariman Road, Churchgate, Mumbai 400 020. Phone: 070457 97531

Churchgate Guide

11:00 a.m.

Oval Maidan

Work off all those calories by making your way to the Oval Maidan, but not before gaping wide-eyed at the Gandhi mural adorning the front facade of Churchgate station. The technicolour makeover by Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra makes for an excellent Instagram post, no filters required. Equally vibrant is the Oval Maidan. Once part of a single open stretch called Esplanade, which included Azad and Cross Maidans, it’s the bastion of budding cricketers. No matter the time of the day, you will find men in white overalls, pads on, ready to take the crease. Get in on the action, cry foul at the umpire's decision, or simply soak in the frenzy. Unlike Wankhede or Brabourne, you won't even need tickets to do so.

Oval Maidan, 140, Maharshi Karve Road, Churchgate, Mumbai 400 032

Churchgate Guide

Architecture Walk

The strategic location of the Maidan means you get to experience two sides of Mumbai. Soak in the Gothic charm of the Mumbai University and the Bombay High Court on one end. Walk the other and you have a series of art-deco buildings such as Green Fields, Sunshine, Fairlawn, and Empress Court. The style, which came to Mumbai in the 1930s, saw architects incorporating geometric patterns, pastel colours, and even porthole windows. While it’s eclipsed by the Victorian edifices of Fort, it reflects the search for an Indian identity, away from the popular architectural styles across the green. Walk this lane all the way to Eros cinema, which is a classic example of the ziggurat V-shaped design.

1:00 p.m.


Double back to Veer Nariman Road and the old-world charm of Kamling. The piping hot crabmeat soup and dumplings make a perfect start to your meal. Tuck into old-school Chinese restaurant’s prawn stew or roast pork as you overhear assertions of authenticity between Indian hosts and their South Asian guests. That’s a conversation you would want to join in.

Kamling, 82, Nagin Mahal, Veer Nariman Road, Churchgate, Mumbai 400 020. Phone: 022 2204 2618

Churchgate Guide


For some soul-satisfying food from Gujarat, head to Samrat. From the green muthia sabzi to fried gawar ki fali, dal, kadhi, matar kachoris and dhoklas, the thalis here are right on the money. As is the all-important farsan. Be ready for endless refills by waiters who won't stop at a mere shake of the head or the feeble no. While you may want to give the panki a miss, Samrat's khandvi, gatta nu saag and masala khichdi have staunch supporters. A meal here and you might just become party to the group.

Samrat Restaurant, Ground Floor, Prem Court Building, Jamshedji Tata Road, Churchgate, Mumbai 400 020. Phone: 022 4213 5401

2:30 p.m.


Skip the dessert on the restaurant menu and opt for a salted caramel popcorn ice cream at this gourmet dessert parlour. Don't be fooled by the bright and colourful motif. The miniature Ferris wheel, full of sprinkles, and seats with pedals may make you think it's going to be a cutesy-bubbly affair. But it's all quirky with flavours like pani puri sorbet and hummus ice cream. Hint: Opt for the Jumbo Doughwich only with company; this chocolate overload isn't made for just one person.

Papacream, 18, Cambatta (Eros) Building, Jamshedji Tata Road, Churchgate, Mumbai 400 020. Phone: 022 6517 7272

Churchgate Guide

Oxford Bookstore

It's time to settle down with some books at the big red Oxford store. Choose from a range of genres and regional picks, or simply grab a graphic novel off the shelves before heading to Cha Bar. The quaint café inside the store offers over 50 varieties of tea. Take your pick from oolong to kahwa and wander off to farther shores. Rest assured, no one will come to zap you out of the reverie.

Oxford Bookstore, Ground Floor, Apeejay House, Dinshaw Vacha Road, Churchgate, Mumbai 400 020. Phone: 022 6634 5241

4:00 p.m.


Unless you start thinking of pies or biscotti. Then it's time to make your way to Mumbai's eternal favourite Gaylord. Watch people going past the busy road as you bite into crunchy palmiers or cut into flaky puffs. We were once brought a dozen meringues from the bakery for a photography lesson! Needless to say, they were polished off. Among the first eateries to introduce “show baking”, they have expanded the menu to include pretzels and baklavas. Whatever you pick up, don't forget to grab a piece of chocolate nougat off the shelves.

Gaylord, Mayfair Building, Veer Nariman Road, Churchgate, Mumbai 400 020. Phone: 022 2282 1259

Churchgate Guide

Priyanka Fast Food

For a street food fix, follow the Air India logo atop the 23-floor commercial tower. Join the humongous crowd of college kids and office folks at the khau galli behind the building, specifically to Priyanka Fast Food. Owner Mohammed Arif believes in adding a twist to traditional favourites. Little wonder, then, that this small stall serves over 30 varieties of dosas and even more sandwich options. Try the samosa cheese and crunchy kurkure sandwiches, and see if Arif's jugalbandi works for you.

Priyanka Fast Food, Vidhan Bhavan Marg, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400 021. Phone: 072089 07227

6:00 p.m.

Marine Drive

With the sun lowering its gaze, get the famed ice cream sandwich from K Rustom or find a hawker selling raw mango slices, a spot of shade, and park yourself at Marine Drive. Follow the waves as they wash over the tetrapods, see the smiles on the faces of the old and young, and admire the orange-red hue fill the sky. Turn around and you will spot more of those 1930s Art Deco landmarks. Fill up on the air, laced with the scent of the sea, before making your way to the southern tip of Mumbai. You probably know it as Nariman Point, after lawyer Khurshed Framji Nariman, who suggested sea waters be reclaimed for a commercial hub.

Churchgate Guide


Don't forget to grab some bhel though before heading to the hallowed grounds of NCPA. The multi-genre cultural centre is home to all art forms – music, dance, theatre, film, literature, and photography. Head to see the country's only professional orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra of India, with the hobnobbing Parsis or appraise the perfect photographs at the Piramal Art Gallery. With a number of collaborations with the likes of National Theatre (London), the five theatres that make up the NCPA are home to some great performances. Of course, the night doesn't end without chit-chat at the al fresco NCPA Café.

National Centre for the Performing Arts, NCPA Marg, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400 021


YB Chavan Centre

For some regional performances, head towards YB Chavan Centre. This walk will involve taking on some state bureaucracy (from the outside thankfully!). Located opposite Mantralaya, the centre – named after Maharashtra's first chief minister – is host to some delightful Gujarati, Marathi, and Hindi plays. Take a seat at the spacious auditorium that's seen the likes of Tom Alter play an array of characters and strap on for some slapstick Marathi comedies or poetic Urdu interpretations.

YB Chavan Centre, General Jagannath Bhosle Road, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400021. Phone: 022 2202 8598

9:00 p.m


Switch from regional to international at Relish with crunchy nachos. The six-flavour shooters make for an excellent contrast with the white decor and floral cushions of the eatery. Go nom nom, just as the multiple food quotes on the walls advocate, with the Four Seasons Pizza or kebab sizzler at this vegetarian restaurant. If you order the fondue, be ready to fight to the finish for there is no “we” in chocolate.

Relish, 125, Jamshedji Tata Road, Churchgate, Mumbai 400020. Phone: 022 4213 5419

Churchgate Guide

The Sassy Spoon

The French inspired decor of Sassy Spoon is alone enough to draw you in for a ride. The fuchsia furnishing, wall of crumbling suitcases, and white-and-golden Volkswagen make it one of the most picturesque outposts in the city. The touch of whimsy continues with the food, especially the European fare. Try the nutty ricotta ravioli or spaghetti. It’s the dessert menu, though, that we heart. The dark chocolate and basil fondant or the caramel peanut tart with its crunchy brittle are clearly the way to go.

The Sassy Spoon, Ground Floor, Express Towers, Ramnath Goenka Marg, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400 021. Phone: 099200 03500

Feature photograph by Suruchi Maira


Old Meets New At The XVII Tea Room


the tea xvii tea room


The XVII Tea Room is, as the name suggests, a tea room in Bandra. In addition to serving several black and green tea blends, it also serves a few types of coffee, hot chocolate, desserts, and carb-heavy vegetarian snacks such as smoked chilli cheese toast and bun maska. Most of the food can be ordered in half-portions as well.

The XVII Tea Room, Shop No.1, Darvesh Royale, Perry Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 098209 29810


The yearning for Bombay still takes ones down the lanes to Irani cafés and their famed bun maska-chai. At the corner of Perry Road, The XVII Tea Room polishes up that age-old combination, adding blends to go with the high-back lavender chairs and long windows.

The bun here is softer and comes with a tinge of sweetness. Grilled and served hot, the butter may be less copious than at the Irani cafés but feels just right. A slightly more upscale version of the famous combination comes with orange marmalade and cheese. For that shot of nostalgia, go no further down the menu than the classic or masala chai. Leave the cardamom saffron tea and Kashmiri kahwa for when you want to escape the confines of the city.

That's not to say the food is restricted to the humble bun. There's the smoked chilli cheese toast given a twist with pickled jalapenos, Mediterranean sandwich layered with hummus, basil, and tomatoes, and the pesto pasta.

The tea selection also includes, of course, a string of black and green teas. The fruit flavoured ones include the apple mulled tea and jasmine spearmint. The iced versions are even more creative, but it's the hibiscus ginger and apricot sage they recommend.

Housed with a basement, where you can lose track of time altogether, The XVII Tea Room allows you to experiment without burning a hole in your pocket. Saunter down sometime to taste the old at the new.


Obsessing Over Chocolate At San Churro


san churro chocolate bandra


Chocolateria San Churro is a café serving – naturally – chocolate con churros that are a must-have dessert. Served with a choice of milk, dark, and white chocolate, the fried churros are dusted with sugar and guaranteed to be polished off in the blink of an eye.

Chocolateria San Churro, Shop No 11, Silver Pearl Building, Waterfield Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 2640 0044


If this were Spain, there would be chocolatiers lining the streets and chocolate con churros the breakfast table, like they should. Roughly 5,000 miles away, everything at Chocolateria San Churro – right from the wall motifs to chocolate-heavy menu – mirrors that Spanish obsession.

Push open the doors and you can immediately hear that bubbling sound of churros being fried. The well-stocked display counter is full of tall pastries, chocolate truffles, and candies. My advice would be to follow the cocoa trail upstairs to the girl with the marshmallow and chocolate-dipped one liners. The service may be a tad slow, but you can polish off the fried donuts in peace. 

The three-piece poco works for a lone soul. Company, of course, demands a fondue, with the addition of fruit, brownies, and marshmallows so there is no growing mistrust as the plate starts to empty. There's complete impunity to acting like a kid here, dipping fingers and licking spoons. Like it says on the walls, chocolate doesn't discriminate. I don't either. Milk, dark, and white, I have licked all the bowls clean at San Churro, time after time, from that first visit, when the fried churros, with dusted sugar, and melted couverture chocolate found its way to the table. 

If you don’t have quite the sweet tooth (unlike the Spaniards and me), the folder-shaped menu offers everything from sandwiches to nachos to pasta. The coffee is strong enough, and the iced tea comes with just the right amount of infusion. The Spaniard in me would, of course, ask you to go for hot chocolate, maybe with a hint of mint. For a quick European detour, though, just stick to the time-tested recipe for churros

Feature photograph copyright ld1976 -


Swiping Right With Indu Harikumar

indu harikumar



Editor's note: All the images are links to the illustrations on Indu Harikumar's Instagram account, where you can read the stories that inspired them.

Modern love may be a swipe away, but it's still messy. Ask Mumbai-based illustrator Indu Harikumar. When she started "100 Indian Tinder Tales" in 2016, it was through the prism of her own experience. As the circle expanded, out came stories of gay men finding love, extra-marital affairs, fleeting encounters, couples tying the knot, rather funny tales involving hair dressers and bad breath, and even that of a woman hand-holding a man who had lost his virginity!

"I didn't expect it to go beyond eight or nine stories," says Indu, who cleverly stitched together the subtle shades of grey, admissions, love, and longing with her illustrations. "The series took shape based on the stories that came in. After a point, people's reactions were that these are all sad stories, give us love stories!" The tales were crowdsourced from Indians and expats dating Indians.

It was the urge to try something new that spurred Indu, a children’s book illustrator. Offhand conversations with friends and her own experience in Vienna culminated in the social experiment, which ran for seven or eight months. "I was on a residency in Vienna when I first used Tinder,” says Indu. “It was scary. I didn't know anybody there, didn't know the language, didn't even know whom to call if there was a problem. But the date went wonderfully. We went for a walk for six hours, saw local art, and a connection was made. In eight months of listening to [other] people's stories, I learned that we look for love in all sorts of places. The project made it easier for me to lean in, be vulnerable, to accept my flaws and be more at peace with myself. It became a platform for people to connect, to feel less isolated."

Indu’s own story, which is ninth in the series, is special to her.  The "Vienna guy", in fact, is also the inspiration behind her self-published colouring book, Beauty Needs Space. The artist, who finds inspiration in the works of Rainer Rilke and Gustav Klimt, has gone on to illustrate physical and social prejudices through "Body of Stories". Her latest endeavour, "Girlisthan", is about getting women to talk about what they love about themselves – putting the focus on "female gaze". Self-love remains a tangled web to decipher. For now, we got the artist to pick her favourite Indian Tinder Tales.

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12 Hours In And Around Fort




It's the original business district. Art capital. Heritage central. The bustling area, which derives its name from British fortifications around the harbour, best showcases the transformation of Bombay into a cosmopolitan city. The colonial facades and the lanes within Fort abound with stories of the grand past, migration, and a city made one’s own and its ever-changing nature.

9:30 a.m.

Option A – Yazdani Bakery

One of the oldest bakeries in Mumbai beckons you to step in for brun maska and chai. Take in the vintage frames, blackboard menus, old fixtures, and the humongous clock from one of the four wooden benches. See the old-style bread cutter in action, even as the round bruns, loaves, and pavs disappear at lightning speed. For a heavier breakfast, you can choose from mushroom puff, apple pie, carrot cake, and muffins. Regulars also swear by the ginger biscuits.

Yazdani Bakery, 1/11A, Cawasji Patel Road, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2287 0739

yazdani fort

Option B – The Nutcracker

Among the newer breed of breakfast options is The Nutcracker, whose corrugated steel sheets, wooden windows, and bright bougainvillea make for a pretty picture that you’ll want to capture for your Instagram account. The urge to document everything continues inside. One look at the Belgian waffles with salted caramel and blueberry compote and your fingers will itch for another photo. The Emmanthel and Truffle Oil Scrambled Eggs will probably go cold by the time you get around to eating them. But the good thing is that the food here tastes just as good as it looks.

The Nutcracker, Modern House, Dr VB Gandhi Marg, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2284 2430

11:00 a.m.

Option A – Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya

If it’s relics from ancient India that pique your interest, there’s no better place than CSMVS. With 50,000 artefacts, the museum has an outstanding and diverse collection of sculptures, bronzes, excavated artefacts, miniature paintings, porcelain, and much more. Get your audio guide and traverse the floors, exploring the regular and new exhibits. It’s an exercise that will take the best part of the day without you even knowing it. Our advice is to take the photo pass, for some artefacts will really speak to you.

The museum has lately started guided tours and workshops especially for kids. But even as an adult, there's joy in printing your own bookmark or a coin. Explore small activities like these along with the museum shop and come back richer.

CSMVS, 159-161, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Fort, Mumbai 400 032

fort prince of wales museum

Option B – Art @ Street

If it’s art you are looking for, you don’t have to look beyond Kala Ghoda. With the famed Jehangir Art Gallery, NGMA, and a clutch of smaller galleries, it’s rightly called the city’s art district. But art doesn't always have to be an expensive affair. Right outside Jehangir Art Gallery (and around the corner from CSMVS) are a line-up of artists selling paintings, hand-painted bookmarks, and cards. Right from abstracts to watercolours, tribal art, and landscapes, the diverse array of work comes at just the right price to take home. These talented artists will also sketch you a portrait or draw a caricature in a matter of minutes – just that little pin-up version to cater to your inherent strain of vanity.

Jehangir Art Gallery, 161B, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai 400 001

Option C – ARTISANS'

Sam Kulavoor’s mural in Kala Ghoda pulls you all the way to the gallery housed behind the black, white, and yellow walls. With its wood interiors and warm lighting, ARTISANS’ is the antithesis to white-walled, impersonal art galleries that dot South Mumbai. The focus here is on indigenous art, craft, and design, but the handicrafts at ARTISANS’ go beyond what is usually exhibited in government emporiums. Here you have equal chances of finding intricate pichwais from Rajasthan, Dhakai jamdanis, and collections made in conjunction with handloom weavers. The regular workshops, lectures, and film screenings are a bonus.

ARTISANS’, 52 – 56, VB Gandhi Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai, 400 001. Phone:  098201 45397

1:00 p.m.

Option A – Pancham Puriwala

If there’s one word to describe Pancham Puriwala, it’s “legendary”. The story of how the founder Pancham Sharma walked to Bombay from Uttar Pradesh in the 1840s to set up shop is legendary indeed, but what’s truly epic are the puris at this iconic institution. Patrons travel miles for these perfectly round, fluffy, hot puris that emit steam when the top layer is poked. Plain, masala, palak – there’s a puri for all tastes. Pair these with chhole, aloo, kadhi or aam ras, grab a glass of their frothy chaas, and you’ve got yourself a nap-inducing meal.

Pancham Puriwala, 8/10, Perin Nariman Street, Borabazar Precinct, Ballard Estate, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 090041 88052


Option B – Cafe Military

Cafe Military may be the only Irani restaurant in the city that doesn’t have tea on its menu, but the chilled beer certainly makes up for this glaring omission. The single-paged menu is concise, with separate specials for each day of the week. You can start your week with chicken cutlet and gravy and end it with mutton dhanshak. Kheema of all kinds is available daily, along with other traditional Irani egg, chicken, and mutton preparations. Caramel Custard is listed in the “extra” section of the menu, so don’t get unsettled if you don’t spot it at first glance.

Cafe Military, Ali Chamber, Nagindas Master Road, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2265 4181

Option C – Taste of Kerala

The banana leaves fly off the counters at this no-frills eatery on Pitha Street. Waiters move about with heaps of rice and swirling bowls of chutneys, cabbage thoran, pickles, rasam, and sambhar for the sadya. That's not to discount their non-vegetarian fare. Taste of Kerala's chicken nadan curry and porottas have earned it the patronage of even the most ardent Keralites. As has the pollichathu, a special banana leaf preparation in which fish is wrapped with onions and tomatoes. It goes without saying that meals here wouldn't be complete without extra papadams and bowls of payasam.

Taste of Kerala, 6/A, Prospect Chambers Annexe, Pitha Street, Near Citibank, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 098921 21538

 3:00 p.m.

Option A – CST Heritage Museum

CST station, used by all and sundry, is not only one of the busiest stations in the country but also a defining landmark in the city. If, like us, you have always wanted a peek inside, this heritage tour is your cue. Head to the right wing of the station, close to the bus stop, and you will see the sign. The guided tour will take you through the history of Railways, from the shift to electric trains and more. But it’s the moment you lay your eyes on the central dome that you will get transported to a different era. Soak in the wide staircase, with the lion holding the crest, stained glass, starry ceiling, gargoyles, and peacocks, and you can almost imagine walking down the red-carpeted stairs in a Victorian gown for the Ball.

The tour is open from 3 to 5 p.m. on weekdays at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Area, Fort, Mumbai 400 001.

Option B – Bombay Heritage Walks

Now that you’ve broken the fast and tackled social media, it’s time to get those feet moving. Walking tours of South Mumbai can be found a dime-a-dozen, but you’re a sucker for anything Bombay (just like us), you’ll be instantly drawn towards Bombay Heritage Walks. They’ve been conducting heritage walks long before heritage walks became a thing. Now in their 18th year, BHW offer three route options. You can choose between the Kala Ghoda walk, the Horniman Circle trail, or the longer combination of the two. If you want to know the juicy titbits about Asiatic Library, Old Customs House and Flora Fountain without having to bury your nose deep into guidebooks, this is a good option.

For more information on the walks, you can visit their website.

horniman circle

Option C – St. Thomas Cathedral

Though we don’t advocate sleeping in churches, St. Thomas Cathedral is a rather serene space to rest your tired feet after exploring the area. The lush garden, towering steeple, and marble fountain make for an oasis in the middle of the bustling financial district. But before you switch on a rickety fan and sink into the pew, take a walk around the nearly 300-year-old church to find ornate marble memorials and plaques for surgeons, soldiers and sailors.
St. Thomas Cathedral, Horniman Circle, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2202 4482

4:30 p.m.

Option A – Aram

If you are hankering for an early evening snack, there’s vada pav. Even better, there’s Aram vada pav. The latter can only be eaten at leisure, because its size and spice quotient makes it impossible to chomp it down in mere minutes while on the move. The original Aram, which started over 75 years ago as a milk bar, is still housed in the Capitol Cinema building opposite CST, but the newer outlet at Fort is popular as well. The gigantic portions, generous amount of garlic chutney, and the absence of turmeric in their potato mixture set Aram’s vada pav apart from the rest. If for some reason, you’re still hungry after your vada pav, try their sabudana vada, and kothimbir vadi.

Aram Restaurant, 126, Capitol Cinema, Dr. DN Road, Fort, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001. Phone:  022 2207 3947 and 42, Mint Road, Opposite GPO, Fort, Mumbai 400 001


Option B – Moti Halwai

Set up by a Punjabi family that migrated from Karachi during Partition, Moti Halwai goes back to the 1950s. Stop by for some home-style food, especially the Sindhi chaap, samosa chole, and dal pakwaan. Join the queue of people standing outside having thick creamy lassi topped with chunks of malai or find yourself some parathas and thalis at this unassuming little place close to Yazdani Bakery.

Moti Halwai, Salva Chambers, 40, Cawasji Patel Road, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 098200 58249

6:00 p.m.

Option A – Mulji Jetha Fountain

Your Fort walk won’t be complete till you walk through Ballard Estate, with its wide tree-lined streets and European-style architecture. Stop by the Mint Road junction and look up at the boy who refuses to look up from his book: the Mulji Jetha Fountain, a memorial by a grieving father for his 15-year-old son. Newly restored, it also boasts of 42 sculptures of animal heads, with alligators, elephants, iguanas, and lions included. It’s fitting the fountain is located in Fort, home to some of the city’s best bookstores.

Mulji Jetha Fountain, 311, Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Ballard Estate, Fort, Mumbai 400 001

Option B – Wayword & Wise

Speaking of books, you can’t go wrong with possibly the best bookstore in Fort. With books spanning music, performing arts, and food besides some lovely fiction by little-known authors, Wayword & Wise is the perfect place to pick up some literary gems. Like Kurt Cobain's Journals that includes poetry, doodles, and letters by the musician. Or Vladimir Nabokov’s lectures on literature. There's plenty for graphic novel lovers too. And as always, there's owner Virat Chandok to help out with the recommendations.

Wayword & Wise, Strategic house, 44, Mint Rd, Ballard Estate, Fort, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001. Phone: 022 6634 9946

wayword and wise fort

8:00 p.m.

Option A – Burma Burma

The distance between Mangalore and Myanmar is only a few streets. Walk down a narrow alley, push open the heavy wooden door to Burma Burma, and you will apparate to Naypyitaw in seconds. The samosa soup will tickle your fancy and your taste buds. The khao suey will leave you licking your lips for traces of any remnants after the bowl has been wiped clean. Dessert might turn into a battlefield with friends, families, and colleagues wrangling over the last bite of smoked avocado ice-cream. But everyone will leave a winner.

Burma Burma, Kothari House, Allana Centre Lane, Opposite Mumbai University, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 4003 6600

burma burma fort

Option B – Apoorva

Apoorva is a haven for Mangalorean coastal fare. The dim lights may not seem alluring at first, but a bite of their prawn gassi is enough to convert you. The classic coconut-milk gravy paired with neer dosa is a favourite of office-goers and food critics alike. Apoorva is part of the Fort seafood triad that includes Trishna and Mahesh, so it's not surprising that seafood specialties run the whole page. Go for the surmai fry and prawns koliwada or choose a preparation of your liking. Appams work on the side of everything.

Apoorva, Vasta House, Noble Chambers, SA Brelvi Road, Near Horniman Circle, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2287 0335