My all time favourite: 8 iconic cafes from Bombay

Bombay wasn’t my favourite city when I lived there. But it grew on me. And now I miss the city so much so that I find reasons to go back and spend some days with my friends and family there. When I first arrived in Bombay, my friends often directed my attention towards the awesome places of the city: the sea, the nightlife, Bandra, celebrities, glamour & glitz, a chilled out vibe and great food. I found everything in Bombay except great food. True story! I kept visiting good, great cafes and restaurants but never really found the kind of food that would blow my mind. Stomach, may be, yes! 😀 But in that pursuit, I stumbled upon a few places that became my home away from home. These cafes soon became the choice of place for dates with my girlfriends, for after-office gossips and thinking time with self.

Of all the places that I visited, here is the list of my absolute favourite cafes from Bombay where I have met many of my friends, had deep and meaningful conversations and made memories.

1. Taj Mahal Tea House

Situated in Reclamation, Bandra West, this place is often crowded and you have to patiently wait in a queue to be able to enter. The interiors are really superb with nice cutlery and a nicer vibe. My standard order is – a high tea platter with a masala chai teapot. They have a selection of teas; you can pick and choose. You can find a corner table, order in some tea and snacks and write. Oh, how amazing! This cafe provides space to everyone – artists, people who enjoy their own company, friends, couples and crowd (from office, college or families).

Cost for two: 1200

Address: 36-A, Ground floor, Sanatan Pereira Bungalow, St. John Baptist road, Reclamation, Bandra West, Mumbai.

2. Grandmama’s

If you are in Bombay, you have to visit Grandmama’s. And then love it so much that you keep visiting this place again and again. There was one nearby my place in Chembur. Quickly it became my place of choice and I spent many weekends there thinking, browsing social media, talking to friends and (mis)planning my life.

The good thing is that there are several Grandmama’s cafes in Bombay: Chembur, Kemp’s Corner, Bandra, Vashi, Mulund, Juhu…and a few more. Wherever you are in Bombay, there is one nearby waiting to welcome you.

Cost for two: 1200

Address: Habib Mansion, 76, Ground Floor, August Kranti Marg, Kemp’s Corner, South Bombay

3. Leopold’s

I first heard of Leopold’s when I read Shantaram in 2015. Situated on Colaba Causeway, Leopold stands for the spirit of Bombay – unbreakable! If you don’t believe me, try living in Bombay for a year and experience it first-hand. You will meet people who will tell you stories of Bombay’s resilience through the many periods: drug mafia, terror attacks, bomb blasts, torrential rains and everyday crises. They will tell you that Bombay has got a vibe and an unbreakable spirit. Initially you will laugh it off. Then you will become frustrated with the daily stories and everyday crises. And after a roller coaster of emotions, you will finally realise that no matter what happens – Bombay gets up and moves on, every single time. That’s the unbreakable spirit.

Leopold demonstrates that quintessential Bombay spirit. The cafe survived the attack of 2008, and reopened after 4 days. You can still see the blood stains and bullet marks on a wall inside the cafe.

In terms of food, most dishes are nicely made. I have ordered pasta and spaghetti (a lot) and never got disappointed. In terms of vibe, it’s all superb.

Cost for two: 2000

Address: 27, Floor G, Rustom Manzil, Nawroji Furdunji Street, Colaba, Mumbai

4. Sodabottleopenerwala

This is a restaurant chain and chances are that you might have visited them in Delhi, Gurgaon and Kolkata. Because I did. And I was quite disappointed with their food and service. Decor – yes, quite nice. But food, no no! You don’t serve average food, in suboptimal cutlery in Delhi NCR and charge a premium.

With this kind of a background, when I visited Sodabottleopenerwala in Bandra (which was only 10 mins. away from my office), I was surprised. The food was decent, ambience was perfect and prices were low. This was jus the perfect hangout place, and that is how I treated this outlet for a good 10 months. I kept visiting this place, kept meeting my friends here and made plans (lots of plans) over tea, cookies and bun maska.

Cost for two: 800

Address: Ground floor, G block, BKC, Bandra East, Mumbai

5. Prithvi Cafe

I think a visit to Prithvi cafe is a must-to-do thing for everyone who lives in Bombay. The decor, food, prices – everything is amazing here. The place is always crowded. So you would have to time it well. And while you are in Prithvi Cafe, do watch a play or two. It’s a different world there – more relaxed, more creative and more free.

I loved this place because it combines two of my favourite things: drama and good food.

Cost for two: 500

Address: Prithvi Theatre, Janki Kutir, Juhu Church Road, Juhu

6. Breeze

I first visited ‘Breeze’ in April 2017 with an office colleague. It was our second week at work. We had met only the previous week during onboarding in Pune. I haven’t seen many vegetarian restaurants with such a killer vibe and enviable views. Breeze is an aberration. Gorgeous, aberration!

Technically it’s a lounge and a bar, and not a cafe. But hey, they serve vegetarian food and I have included Leopold’s in the list too. So forgive me for derailing.

This is a gorgeous place. You can just keep enjoying the views while the staff will serve you food at a phenomenal speed.

Cost for two: 2500

Address: 8th floor, A wing, Supreme Business Park, Hiranandani Gardens, Powai

7. Cafe Irani Chaii

This place opens at 8 am and is a paradise for non-veg lovers. As you enter, it reminds you of old (really old) world that I saw in movies while growing up. Close seating, checkered floors and mirrors all over – give it a unique feel. I must have ordered innumerable plates of bun maska in this place over many visits. The whole neighbourhood looks like it’s from a different world altogether, and is not part of Bombay. But it is. I wish I could visit this place more than I did, but distance was always an issue. I was located in Chembur and my office was in Bandra. We would normally remain on this route or go to Juhu, Andheri, Colaba or Marine Drive.

But whenever I visited, it was worth every penny and every moment of my time.

Cost for two: 500

Address: 9, Rosary Chawl, Mangireesh CHS, MMC road, Mahim, Mumbai

8. Cafe at the NCPA

Located at a distance of 45 mins., from Chembur (where I lived), this place was my favourite. Many a time, I visited NCPA just because I wanted to (and not because I was hungry). I have lost the count of number of days that I spent watching the sea, or finishing delectable pizzas from Pizza by the bay, and finishing the evening with a coffee/ tea at NCPA.

The fact that the place hosts some of the finest plays and musicals add to its charm. You can spend your whole weekend in and around NCPA, not get bored and leave still wanting for more. An absolute, absolute favourite.

Delhi people – this is just like India Habitat Centre but in Bombay. So don’t go cribbing about the space.

Cost for two: 1200

Address: NCPA, Nariman Point, Mumbai

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