In the first of a series of Food Crawls across Mumbai, I visit the little South India of the city- Matunga. This is an old neighbourhood in central Mumbai that has been the hub of South Indian food, traditions and produce for decades. The area has a sizeable population of the gentle people of the South and their mouthwatering delicacies are to be found in no-nonsense eateries that line the by lanes. If you want to understand the true meaning of ‘efficiency’, visit one of these old-world restaurants for a meal. The staff have their own rhythm and the owners, their own mild-mannered charm. People of all castes come here to savour the delicious fare and most are regulars, on a first name basis. I like the warmth and familiarity of eating here. The fact that nothing goes to waste. Even an empty seat finds a taker. And you often find yourself eating with another family at their table. It’s communal. It’s okay to share your space. And it’s actually quite interesting, in this age of neutrality.
It’s almost impossible to have a bad meal here. Probably because nothing changes in these tiny, ‘upstairs-eating-also’ restaurants. Recipes remain the same. Flavours follow suit. The next generation of restaurant owners follow the same customs. And whenever I loose myself in a packet of spicy, salted-just-right potato wafers (crisps) from Cafe Mysore, I always think that this is exactly how they ate in 1936.
Here’s a look at the first restaurant in the crawl- Cafe Mysore. The oldest restaurant in Bombay for South Indian food – as the packaging and signboard suggests.