“Hi, so hope you are all set for the walk. Here’s the plan. We meet at Bombay Stores tomorrow (16th March) at Fort’s DN Road in the Citibank lane after Mocambo and Vodafone. Quite easy to find.
We meet at 11 am and will assemble in the seating area inside Bombay Store. The Bombay Store has kindly allowed us to wait inside till we start out. We start off by 11.15 am. The ice breakers & intro happen before that. We would be walking around close by and there’s a lot to cover.
Here’s a Fort secret. The Bombay Stores has loos on the first floor which you can quietly amble into. They have a good stock of stuff though in the Store and I must admit I rarely come out without buying anything. While on the topic, places like Apoorva, Mahesh and Mocambo which have AC sections have washrooms. We won’t eat in any of the AC sections. Not because I am stingy but because one rarely went there while working in Fort. In fact the AC sections are often pretty musty.
Why the obsession with loos? Because no one lives at Fort nowadays and we have folks coming in from Kharghar, Pune (that was amazing - KK), Thane, Andheri and Bandra to start with for the walk.
Here’s what to expect. It is not a Fort heritage walk. Nor is it a ‘best of Fort Walk’. It’s basically a walk around places I used to go to eat in everyday when I worked here for 4 months and places I head back to when I go there nowadays. We can’t cover everything. As I have realised that there’s only that much one can eat. We will miss out some stuff but I will try to tell you what we have missed and you could come back for.
The group is slightly larger than what I had planned. About 12-14 odd of us. Could be a bit chaotic I agree but if we all work as a team then we should have a great time. The group includes at least 4 to 6 food bloggers, a lawyer, an expat who have eaten across the streets of India, the director of trade for Catalonia in India who is a trained gourmet, a social media expert, an online grocer.
This means two things. One, I can’t pull any fast ones, “Nehru and Lady Mountbatten would often meet at Yazdani over khari biscuits and chai” types. It also means that there is a wealth of knowledge to tap into from those around you.
We could also have two little ladies with us, 7 & 9 years old, whom we have to impress that upon that the heritage of South Mumbai can be as exciting as the Swedish House Mafia.
There will be two restaurant halts. Hopefully most of us will get tables but it won’t be one joined table. Apart from that there will be an Irani cafe where, if we are lucky, we could see the oven. If you know Iranis and how temperamental they can be, that is a big ‘if’. I must warn you though the oven could be shut at around 11 as they take a break but we could go in and see it or come back later. Apart from the 2 restaurants there would be some places where we would duck in for a bite but some of us might have to stand while others get a seat. I have a menu planned but as those who went to Bohri Mohalla would know that we did try out some stuff on the spot beyond the schedule. Logistics might require us to take in a dessert in between meals. We will cover about 5,6 lanes during the walk and no, no Mocambo, No Mahesh, No Britannia, no Starbucks...
Wear comfy shoes, cottons, charge your camera batteries if you get them...the place is a veritable photographer’s delight of some great architecture, a riot of colours, faces with loads of characters and big smiles, and food that is real and beautiful.
See you tomorrow,
This is the mail which landed in the mailbox of the participants of the second Finely Chopped Walk. The Fort Tasting Walk.
Luckily K and I managed to wake up early and reached Fort by 10. Everything was shut then…Bombay Store, Apoorva…it was too early but Yazdani was open, as was Ideal Corner and of course Vidya Dairy where we spotted our chubby driver who had already started his walk it seemed over chai and jalebi.
Folks started coming in by 11 am at The Bombay Store who very kindly offered their premises to be used as a lounge for folks when they came in with tea and coffee on the house. That’s the big heartedness of Fort.
A rather longish warm up by me, I forgot I was doing a walk and not a focus group (sorry guys), and then off we went.
We started with a bit of history, a reminder of Tilak and his Swaraj Movement against the British for which he set up the Bombay Store and then crossing the road to Laxmi building to see an obscure plaque commemorating the laying down of its foundation stone in 1938 by a fellow Bengali named Subhash Chandra Bose. This is where I worked for four months when I was in Fort.
Next Stop Yazdani with the warm aromas of freshly baked bread welcoming us in. It seemed as if Yazdani was waiting for us as it suddenly had become empty, a rare sight. Our posse sat down with brun pau, bun maska and chair with ginger snaps on the side being laid out with the youngest member in our group pointedly saying “I Iove butter, I want more butter”.
Good old Tirandaz was sitting in a corner reading his newspaper and kindly allowed us to go into the bakery. Folks trooped in oohing and aahing as they saw the sacks of flour lying around, the huge dough mixers, baking trays and then the deep wood fired oven with a sea of little paos baking inside. Suprio, the Director of Trade in India for the Government of Catalonia, observed that the brun was exactly like a bread he had see in Chile.
You can read Rhea’s account of Yazdani on her blog here.
We then moved on walked past Horniman Circle (opens at 4 pm on Saturdays), past Starbucks and the cheerful red Bombay Samachar building to Apoorva for some sol kadi, prawn gassi, neer dosa, red rice and curry. Chandra, one of the owners of Apoorva who is there most of time, made sure that we were served properly but shied away when I introduced him to folks.
Yes, as everyone observed, the food in Apoorva is pretty ‘honest and personal’.
We next headed down one of the many Khao Gulleys, after a coffee buying stop at Philips Tea & Coffee and then made an impromptu stop at Pradeep Gomantak. Saee of My Jhola explained to that there is a nuanced difference between the Hindu Goan Gomantak cuisine and Malvani Coastal Maharashtrian cuisine. When I wondered why there weren’t any Mahrashtrian restaurants in Fort. Saee pointed out that the 1950s and 60s when Fort was the CBD of Mumbai was the time when the Maharashtrian middle class was engaged in the Mills in Central Mumbai which is why those are the parts of the city that is more likely have Maharashtrian restaurants.
A lesson in urban history from Saee that we got over some crisp fried bombil standing by a table in the front of the tiny honest eatery. The fish fresh, fried to perfection, crunchy inside, with no rava as Anchal pointed out and soft inside.
Check the picture of the Bombil fry that Jyotika took
Then off we went to Ideal Corner where the very dignified and hospitable garage owner turned restaurateur, Parvez Irani of Ideal Corner, pointed us the mezzanine floor where people got an taste of the rather quaint Parsi love for Raspberry soda followed by moist and spicy akooris or scrambled eggs, juicy mutton lacy cutlets with fall of the bone mutton pulao daal with custards…laganu and caramel followed.
This is a pic Jyotika took of the raspberry at ideal Corner which would make my physio sit up in alarm at my posture
And then we went to Vidya Dairy for jalebis and Ustaad was there with his shiny new glasses, posing as he loves to when he sees the camera and at the same time making jalebis which almost met the high standards of self proclaimed ‘jalebi snob, Jyotika, former Chandigarhi Anchal and Sue who had three plates of them.
The quiet owner of Vidya Dairy always gives me a plate of jalebis the moment he sees me and refuses to let me pay. This time he refused to take money for any of the jalebis even though K and I both tried to reason with him. Feel honoured to be a part of his adopted family.
Check out the rather Rolling Stone’ish pic that Jyotika took of Ustaad
In fact that’s one thing that struck me about all the folks at Fort. Tirandaz of the Irani Cafe Yazdani, Chandra of the Mangalorean Apoorva, the daughter of the owner of Pradeep Gomantak, Parvez at the Ideal Corner, the Irani Cafe, the kind hearted mithaiwallah at Vidya Dairy, the folks at Swagath udipi…they all ensured that we were fed well but stayed away from the ‘limelight’ and didn’t come and cosy up to those in the walk. Such a refreshing change to the frenetic pushiness of restaurants today who are so hungry for media plugs. These guys in Fort are secure in what they do and this shows in the honesty and purity of what they serve.
Last stop Swagath for some filter coffee, sugar on the side. We stood on the footpath under the shade of the trees, taking in the day, chatting about where all we went, discussing our plans for the days and exchanging twitter handles and phone numbers and sent facebook friend requests and then Amita headed to catch a train back to Pune and we all dispersed after K distributed out the goody bags of Mava cakes and Khaari biscuits from Yazdani.
We headed to Starbucks for an ice tea for me and cappuccino for K before heading home.
Thanks Anchal, Geetha, Shivakshi, Suprio, Swastik, Suva, Rohit, Saee, Anagha, Rhea, Jyotika, Amita, Sue…you are the reasons why I kept grinning through the day and well into the night and thanks K for dragging yourself out early on a Saturday to manage the walk.
Here are some tweets from those who were in the walk:
This Rhea’s blog post and her comment on facebook:
Joined Kalyan on his Fort Walk today. Started off in the building next to my Dad's office building and ended next to the book shop we were often taken to, as kids. P M Road is simply packed with memories. This area is also where Kurush and I have spent some really great times.
Today I made some nice new ones with Saee, Amita and Anagha , and Kainaz. :)
Anagha blogged about the walk here
This the link to some lovely pics that Saee took and posted on Facebook
This is Suva Ghosh’s Vine on the bread slicing in Yazdani
Check out Suva’s lovely pic of Horniman Circle
For those asking how to join the walks, well I announce the details like I did here on the blog and then folks inform me if they plan to join
Yes, James Bong will be back with more Finely Chopped Walks. Plans include the Colaba Meat Trail, the Bandra Food Institutions Walk, the Oshiwara Bengali Bhoj, The Khar fish market shop and cook & the Fort Kerala Crawl.
I also wanted share some very encouraging feedback that one has got.
There is this lovely mail from Anchal: Hi! I had a really good time Kalyan. I absolutely know that, but for this walk, I would have never been to these places, so I am grateful to you for taking such initiatives. I am @mohtte on twitter and have interacted a few times with you. Glad to have met you and Kainaz, you both are even more delightful in person than what it seems from the blog!
Also, I am really glad to have met everyone in the group - I follow Rhea as well and ordered Christmas pie from her last Christmas! And Sue - gave me a ride back to Bandra along with very interesting chat about her experiences here. Saee - such passion for food with so much attention to detail, it seems she has done a PhD in food (I so wish one existed)! Amita, Anagha - such nice people to meet and speak with, I really hope to keep in touch with them. It was great meeting Geetha as well and I have just ordered a delivery of grocery from big basket.
So I am actually grateful to you in many ways than one.
Looking forward to being on the next finelychopped walks!
And Rohit: Hi Kalyan, Thanks a lot for the walk. Really enjoyed it esp. Ideal corner. While in Delhi, never had the chance for parsi food, so it was a new thing for me.
And Saee from whom I think I learnt more yesterday than she got out of the walk but then this what she had to say: Yes, I was quite tired, But happy tired. Hadn't had a chance to walk lazily in the area since about 8 years ago, when my grandparents sold their Cooperage home and moved with us to Navi Mumbai. It was evident you'd done your homework, and it was nice to see that you were quite flexible. It helped that we had a nice bunch of people.
She blogged about walk in her bog My Jhola
And Suprio whatsapp’d: “Thanks for the chance to share this experience with all of you. We really had a great time and now we are on our way home with our bellies home”
And Swastik commented: ‘Thanks Kalyan. Had a wonderful time’.
And Geetha mailed: .”I totally enjoyed the walk and looking forward to more walks with you”
And Sue texted: “Excellent walk although I think I am not going to be able to eat anything else today!”
And I just had to add this mail which has come in from Suprio Bose. I am completely overwhelmed:
“To sum it up in a few words would be a total injustice to the real experience. It was an overwhelming experience and It was like one of those rare moments, where good things happen to you one after the other. Before I could get over the delicious delights of the breads at Yazdani, I was presented with the exquisite Sol Kadi (Had never had one like this ever before!) and the awesome Prawn Gassi(Arohi, who is a bit finicky about prawns absolutely loved it!!)…..by the time I could get over the taste of these two stars, my palate was tickled again by the Bombay duck fry of Pradeep Gomantak….my earlier experience of Bombay duck fry was full of rava and the taste of fish was always overpowered by the rava and spices. Here not only the fish was the super star but the batter was perfectly seasoned and very light with a slight kick of spice at the tail end and the fish was absolutely buttery in flavor.
As if this wasn’t enough, you threw another googly by taking us to Ideal where I still can’t get over the taste of fall-off-the-bone mutton and the amazing DaalPulao. Unfortunately, to me, the Akoori and Lacy cutlets were totally overshadowed by this delicacy.
Being someone who grew up in Agra and having enjoyed the true Braj flavors, the jalebis were a bit of a letdown for me (Simply because it didn’t have much suji, and the batter had been sitting in the sun for a while so there was a distinct sour after taste), but that did not dampen at all the spirit and the awesome fun I had during the day. The group was perfect, had some very nice conversations with many of them and the kids totally felt at home with everyone. The joke moment was hilarious!!
Just to put things more into perspective, 4 hours on a sunny Saturday morning/afternoon (when the kids usually prefer to be playing in our pool) - the kids not only completed the walk without any tantrums, (save for the occasional Pizza and Ice-Cream on a stick by Ayana) They came back home SUPER EXCITED and both of them had stories to tell their mother when they reached home. Arohi was in love with the walk and kept on gushing about the Sol Kadi and Gassi and Ice Cream Soda at Idea. You definitely have a new Fan in her!!
True to your words, each dish we tasted shone through with flavors and certainly did not kill the main ingredient with an overload of spices. Even while I write these lines, I am drooling with the thought of the amazing dal pulao we had at Ideal.
To sum it up, it was an awesome experience and I would look forward to your future ones for sure. Keep them coming. I do look forward to some interesting ones in Bandra (which is still an unexplored treasure for me). “
Till the next walk I leave you behind with three pics that Saee took which are probably some of my happiest looking pics…yes I was Fort enchanted once again and with such lovely feedback am over the moon