Sundowner at Fort. Notes from the Fort by Night Finely Chopped Food Walk

First stop Yazdani Bakery

If you want to read a first hand account of what happens on Finely Chopped Food Walk then do read this lovely post by Nidhi on her blog 

It was around 10.30 pm last Saturday night. 

Our walk had got over half an hour back but folks on the walk lingered on to chat with the new friends they had made. We finally decided to call it a day and I booked my Uber and handed out thank you boxes of mava cakes to the wonderful group of people I had walked with that evening.

As I waited for my cab outside Jimmy Boy, I saw the restaurant manager, Kaushal, stop a Koolfi wala cycling by. Kaushal bought a couple of stick of koolfis. 

It was a busy night at Jimmy Boy. I guess he deserved a treat.

Then something strange happened. Kaushal unwrapped one koolfi and put it in the mouth of a stray dog sitting opposite the restaurant. Then he looked at another dog, sitting beside the first, and told the koolfiwala, ‘is ko denge to usko bhi chahiye’ (If I give this one, the other will want it too).

Kaushal and his kulfi buddies

I looked on as the two dogs chomped on the koolfis.

“Aren’t dogs not supposed to eat sweets?” I asked Kaushal.

“This one loves ice creams” said Kaushal. “We found him when he was a stray pup. He had hurt his leg. People on the streets taunted and teased him and he was an angry pup. We took him and looked after him. Since then he has always been fond of us at Jimmy Boy. He has stayed on here though grown up now. Loves kulfi and wants to have one every night”.

This was my third Finely Chopped Walk in the evening in Fort. The second this week.

From the Finely Chopped Food Walk for a corporate group earlier in the week

Fort in the evening is so different from what it is earlier on in the day. 

The franticness of the day is over and calm sets in. New stories emerge from its streets. Tales like that of Kaushal and the pup which grew up to become Jimmy Boy’s unofficial mascot.

There was a relaxed feel to this walk unlike when we do Fort walks during the day time. The worker bees of Fort after all had left for the day.

When we met in front of The Bombay Store to start the walk, it was more like a group of friends catching up for an evening stroll. Different from the day time Finely Chopped walks where you can feel the buzz and rush around you. That was when you walked surrounded by grim, purposeful faces. 

This walk was more relaxed.

Kunal Vijayakar poses for 342nd picture with us that evening

Perhaps it was no coincidence that we bumped into a smiling Kunal Vijayakar as he dropped to shop at The Bombay Store. His casual shirt and shorts epitomising the chilled out mood around us. Different from the day time when people are walking around in their office formals. 

It is another thing that you will almost always see everyone’s favourite Foodie, Kunal Vijayakar, in shorts.

His fan following is such that Kunal sportingly posed for more photographs with us than Sonam Kapoor did in Cannes. Everyone in the walk wanted to get photographed with Kunal! I had to gently break it to them that meeting Kunal was not part of the plan. It was just food serendipity at work.

We then went into Yazdani Bakery for some unhurried evening Irani chai with brun maska and khari biscuits. This time, unlike earlier this week, we went early as the tea section shuts by 7 pm. We chatted with one of the owners, Mr Rashid Irani, on the way out.

Mr Rashid Irani chats with us

“What does Yazdani mean?” someone in the group asked him.

“We thought it was a reference to Yazd, the village in Iran from which our family originates,” said Mr Irani. “Then someone told me that it means ‘Godly’.”

With the lassi ustaad at Moti

We walked into Moti Halwai for the lassis which the every smiling ustaad makes over there. The day’s rush was over and they were cutting vegetables in the corner for the staff dinner. A far cry from the busy afternoon many summers back when I had first stumbled into Moti on spotting a crowd of people having lassis outside the shop. It has been a lassi love affair since then between Moti Halwai and me.

Outside Suresh's for vada pao

The lassis primed us for street food and we went down the small winding lane past Ideal Corner for some hot vada pao, the dish that sustains Mumbai’s working crowd, at Suresh’s. A stall named after the owner, whom I have never seen till date, but whose cooks always welcome me back with a smile.

ulundu dosa at swagath

Kaapi time at Swagath

I saw that Swagath was open and I asked folks,  if they would like some filter kaapi. Well who can say no to good coffee? We trooped in for filter coffee and pancake-like ulundu dosa just as I used before heading home every evening when I worked in Fort. Swagath is so different from the Udipi joints of the suburbs. It does not smell of rancid oil here, the dosas are tasty, the kaapi hearty and there is no veg Manchurian, tacos or paneer butter masala on the menu here. Just good Udipi fare.

This started of our South Indian journey as we next headed to Apoorva. We munched on the tangy Mangalorean curry, prawn gassi, which we mopped up with neer dosa. Dusk had set in and there was a languorous feel to Apoorva. Sitting around us were a few families having chicken lollipops and chilli chicken before taking the train home and some battle weary folks nursing a beer with some peanuts before calling it a day.

prawn gassi and neer dosa at Apoorva

Next stop was Hotel Deluxe. A Keralite place where I was once sent to by a Keralite reader when I had first started working in Fort. 'It’s where Mallus like me go to eat Mallu food, ' he told me. It’s a place I have fallen in love with since my first visit. The mad rush of the day is not visible in the evening and we had our mutton sukka and Keralite chicken fry with appam and porota in a unhurried way as if we were floating down the backwaters of Kerala. 

This time I had learnt not to over order porotas and appams. During the walk earlier in the week, the managers saw that we had ordered an excess, and on their account reduced the amount from the bill. That's the beauty of Fort.

appam, porota, Kerala chicken fry

Photographic skills of the wait staff of Deluxe fitted us into one frame
The friendly managers at Deluxe

Then it was time for Jimmy Boy. We were here for the laganu bhonu or the Parsi wedding feast. This is where I had had my first Parsi wedding feast years back, with my then to be Parsi wife, before I had actually been to a Parsi wedding. Folks in the walk tried the celebratory raspberry drink while I stuck to a cola. After all these years this is one Parsi quirk I am yet to take to. 

Lagan nu achar, sarya, sali murgi, patrani macchi, mutton pulao dar (sic), lagan nu custard, Kaushal and his team fed us well. Then came boxes of mava cake, the Finely Chopped Goody Bag.

Raspberries at Jimmy Boy of the Parsi sort

Dinner was done, it was late into the night, Kandivli and Navi Mumbai were some of the far off places folks had to head back to, but still the participants in the walk chatted late into the night.

Seven food stops. Some great new friends to walk with. Old friends revisited.

Fort made me happy as it always does.

Which is why I keep saying I am 'Fort enchanted'.


Nidhi D Bruce said…
The Finely Chopped walk was on my 'gotta-do' list for a long, long time. And fortunately, I ended up being on the fort by (beautiful saturday) evening one. As one can see from the post, there was a LOT of food accompanied by great company and conversation. What I really liked about this walk was the genuine interest in good food that Kalyan brought into the experience. One can easily look up food guides and end up eating at the same 'top ten' food joints - but having someone lead you to a little udupi/kerala restaurant that you wouldn't even have noticed otherwise, is pretty priceless :)
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Thank you so much for your kind words Nidhi. I am so glad that we finally met. Us market researchers on twitter should stick together :) I am so happy that the walk lived up to your expectations. It's the enthusiasm of all of you in the walk that charged me up. Hope to see you soon again
Vikas said…
Fantastic walk, Kalyan. Thanks a lot for all the time and effort and putting it together. :) It was fun to meet a wonderful group of people and it brought back many old memories of the city. The day and time were perfect as the whole Fort area has such a nice leisurely feel to it on Saturday evenings. Looking forward to joining more of your food walks!
Kalyan Karmakar said…
I am so glad you enjoyed it Vikas and was fascinated to hear about the Indian cooking classes that you hold in the US. Thanks so much for your support