Pile on the good Karma as you eat ... By The Way, Seva Sadan, Gamdevi

I found myself at Nandu Pai's studio beside Grant Road Station once again. We were working with his quiet and super efficient editor, Ajit, on the AV for our presentation.

Grant Road is one of those colourful places in South Mumbai which are slowly going out of the radar of a lot of us with offices in Mumbai moving to the suburbs.

But it is some locality! You have crowded, bursting at the seams lanes such as Kalbadevi, Mumbadevi, Gulalwadi which connect Victoria Terminus and Crawford Market to Grant Road. Each road is full of life and has a character of its own. One could be filled with imposing Muslim mosques and dry fruit stores. Another could have ornate Hindu temples followed by car spare parts shops. You can easily lose yourself in these lanes making up your own stories as you walk.

To think that Singapore peddles 'Little India' to tourists. Pshaw! When will we ever learn?

Grant Road is also known for its red light areas and its legendary dance bar, Topaz, shut down by a home minister who was busy closing dance bars while terrorists attacked Mumbai. Another institution, if one can call dance bars that, which could have been such a tourist attraction was closed. While Bangkok counts the dollars at Pat Pong.

Grant Road also offers a mad medley of food. You have Jaffer Bhai, with its rich and heavy Muslim Moghlai food. And then the tiny Irani Cafes which dot it. Irani's are related to Parsis and had migrated to India from Iran centuries back. Irani Cafes are small, dingy, no - nonsense economical places with a distinctive decor and famous dishes.

One such cafe is B Merwan's just beside Nandu's studio at Grant Road E. They had called for Mawa Cakes for us on the first day of the edit from B Merwan's. These Irani, milky cup cakes were warm and quite tasty.My colleague, Ips didn't like it too much though and she bakes great cakes herself. It has a slightly peculiar taste a bit like Chinese Moon cakes. I am OK with them but am definitely not crazy about these tiny cakes.

We felt like some good Parsi food for lunch. B Merwan's only offered us omelet pao (bun) and a variety of other Irani Cafe specialities such as bun maska (butter) and brun (a hard, baguette like bun) maska. I was looking for something for more substantial such as kheema (Irani styles mince curry) and pao.

I called a South Mumbai Bawa (Parsi gentleman) who is quite well informed on matters of food. He promptly directed me to By The Way just beside Gamdevi Police Station close to Grant Road.

I had never been here before and it was a pleasant discovery. It was the sort of place which you enter and know that you will come back to.

By The Way did serve Parsi food but it was everything that the legendary Irani Cafes weren't:

  • Bright and airy
  • Air conditioned
  • Nice wooden furniture, elegant and different from the round tables and chairs peculiar to Irani Cafes
  • It had a full Parsi menu and Goan dishes and sizzlers
  • It was empty
  • It was expensive
  • The staff was very attentive and polite
  • They don't mind if you have a leisurely meal and don't hurry you out

By The Way is run by a charity called Seva Sadan was founded in 1908 by two philanthropists, Shri Behramji Malabari and Divan Dayaram Gidumal to help destitute widows. A hundred years later it works for downtrodden women and girls. By The Way is a new restaurant in the front of an old building which has been very well maintained. They have a snack bar next door for local snack items. The money from the restaurant goes entirely to charity. So for once you can think about karma rather than bad cholesterol while eating.

The Parsi food was apparently cooked by elderly Parsi ladies. It tasted quite home like and simple and was served nice and hot.

We started with akuri on toast. Akuri is an Irani scrambled egg which is spicy, doused in masala with chopped condiments. The one at By The Way was quite authentic and close to what we had at my in law's place. Minus the chopped chillies which my pa in law loves. It had a nice smoked taste to it. Don't ask me why.

We followed this with a mutton cutlet with gravy. The cutlet, as Ips pointed out, didn't taste of mutton. That's because Parsi cutlets are an equal balance of miced meat, potatoes and an egg batter coating. The three come together in harmony without either taste dominating. The cutlets and the tomato gravy which came with it were a trifle salty. I would ascribe it to being cooked by the elderly ladies instead of seasoned chefs. Home cooking can get a bit temperamental. The only problem is that your expectations are high when you are paying a high price (Rs 175, 3 USD per plate).

We followed this with chicken dhansak (lentil gravy with meat served with brown caramelised rice and kebabs). The dhansak was quite domesticated too. Similar to what I get at my in laws or at Mama's. The colour of the daal was dark yellow like home cooked dhansak and not the dark brown daal which you get in Irani restaurants such as Biritannia or Jimmy Boy. The chicken was really tender. It was a leg piece, as promised. juicy as a ripe mango and could be broken easily with a fork. A real pleasure to eat. It was fairly addictive and we kept eating at it even after we knew we were full. At Rs 220 (4 USD), the price was similar to Britannia's and higher than Mocambo's.

We followed this with a laganu (wedding) custard. The first bite took a bit of getting used to as it had an essence. But then rapid spoon fulls cut the air as we couldn't have enough of it. The custard grew on you and this chilled, stiff pudding was just what one needed after the heavy lunch. Definitely one of the best laganu custards that I have had.

We followed this with a caramel custard which was irritatingly sweet and was disappointing after the laganu custard.

Someone ordered a sizzler just as were leaving. It smelt so good that we felt like a second lunch.

By the Way is expensive. The food largely left you with a good feeling of home cooked food. It's open from lunch till dinner. It's expensive but the money goes to charity. And it's a nice place to sit too. Truly a hidden treasure. A great recommendation.


  • They have a simple and clean rest room
  • You can buy little handicrafts there (envelopes, cards)
  • They don't offer you beds which is sad as a good Parsi meal HAS to be followed by a snooze


Sharmila said…
LOL .. that is what I call a perfect foodie ... wants a bed with the menu. :-)
Your reviews and posts and snaps and descriptions make me want to go to Mumbai for a weeklong holiday. Maybe sometime. :-)
Pallavi Sharma said…
Hi there. I am reading your blog after a break but must say its as interesting as ever and never disappoints. Also wanted to share that some of my bong friends in mumbai recommended SOULFRY in Bandra Palli Market and ofcourse the first thing I did is look it up here on your blog but couldn't find it and was infact surprised that you havn't written a review on that one.. coz it was def a hit with all fish eaters. ( I am not essentially a fish eater but i still loved the place) In case you haven't visisted it, then you must..and if already have then please do write a review on it sometime.. :) Thanks and look forward to reading more stuff in here.
Unknown said…
Trust me, am surprised as well as happy that you went to this place...I have been to this place just once way back in '04 when I used to stay near Bhatia hospital...The drawback of this joint I feel is the location coz not many will notice it and at the same time willing to try it....
Unknown said…
There used to be this restaurant Bombay A-One in Grant Road East, just at the beginning of the Grant Road station bridge...Not sure if its still there, but if it is then do try their kheema pao... during school days it used to be our one of those Sunday breakfast
Gaurav said…
Merwans is on my walk home (when i do decide to walk home) although i have never picked up anything from there.

As for By the Way, its not very far from where i live (near Celejor) i ate there once and it was HORRIBLE. i dragged a friend to check it out and he has hated me ever since.

glad you had a better time !
That is really awesome. I don't know of any restaurants here that are charities. There is a catering space in NJ that is, but I haven't been there.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Sharmila... at least Oh calcutta should have a bed. Actually a perfect parsi afternoon consists of dhansak, beer and a snooze

Pallavi...great to hear from you, hope you are settling in and all 'straightened'. I live in the lane opposite Soul Fry. Actually I am not a big fish fan and Kainaz who is, is not fond of malvani, but will keep the place on my radar

Kashi...I should call you the next time for a reco...Grant Road is your ilaka after all

Gaurav...what did you eat? Will put a red flag against that. I've seen that home cooked places such as RTI and By The Way can be a bit inconsistent. But that's not on at these prices

Jessica...that's what I loved about the place..ate with a clear conscience
Gaurav said…

its been a long looong time since i ate there. cant recall what it was. just never went back...
Miri said…
I managed to squeeze in lunch at Jimmy Boy last year while on a business trip - the dhansak was disappointing :(

Thanks for these little gems!
You couldn't have captured this better !!!
S said…
Hi...amazing post. and it entirely echoes my feelings - amazing food. True a little expensive, but it's for a good cause. Have raved about its close to home cooked quality to whoever cares to listen, but didn't know that it was actually cooked by elderly Parsi ladies...thanks for all the information. And yes, the apple pie there is really good.
Unknown said…
I've been following your scrumptious blog for a while now, mouth-watering stuff, this.
This post took me back in time, to precisely a year ago, when I was put up at a hostel a couple of buildings away from By the Way, and hasty/ pocket friendly breakfasts were grabbed from the Seva Sadan canteen, their Saboodana Khichdi came close to my grand mum's and their idli chutney wasn't too bad either. And those lazy Sundays, when I wasn't up to venturing far, so I'd treat myself to dhansak at By The Way. *shudder of nostalgie*!
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Sorry for the very late replies folks

Miri, jimmy Boys has gone down the drain. Next tiem try Britannia or Mocambo

Ipsita...a good lunch is made up by great company

Sayantani, yes I could sense a certain grannie touch in the food. I must have the apple pie the next time. i am a sucker for apple pies

Hey rave, thanks so much for dropping by. I lived in a PG ages back and thankfully had some ecent wholesome brekfasts dished out by the family I stayed with. Getting good 'pocket friendly' food is so important when you are buy yourself. My favoured hangouts were Crystal in Girgaum, Stomach for chinese in bandra and Lucky for biriyani
Sunshinemom said…
I like the bed and snooze part very much! I would like every thali serving restaurant to have it. Zyaada kuchh nahi, even a charpoy will do. I have a good recipe for mawa cake though I haven't tried it for about six or seven years now! Merwans has good cashew cups. Tried them? I remember I had put on so much weight in Andheri just because Merwans was on the way to station and I would make regular visits! The cashew macaroons were nice too. I had had them three years back.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@harini, you must suggest this the next time you go to a Thali joint.

I am not much of a maccaroon person but love the chicken patties of Merwan at Andheri

This is the one at Grant Road though