'Only a truly satisfied customer would come back repeatedly'. Piyush Pandey, Pandeymonium
It's been a while since I have gone to a new restaurant and wanted to write about it the moment I got back home. Our breakfast this morning at the new Social at Khar made me want to do just that!
Social is a chain of concept restaurants started by Riyaaz Amlani of the Impresario group. Some of my favourite restaurants in Mumbai are run by him.
Funñily enough, I had not managed to eat at a Social till today though I've been to many of their launch parties. The outlets have always been packed whenever we have tried to go there. Launch parties never give you an idea of a place and I often wonder why I go to them. I've drastically cut down the number of parties I go to. Not that I went to too many of them in any case.
Social has finally opened close to home at Khar near Mumbai's Bandra. It's in the lane behind the Oh Calcutta here. This is the 4th Social in Mumbai and I think they are there in Delhi and Bangalore too.
The concept of Social is that they offer a shared work space. So you pay about 5,000 Rs a month which you can redeem against what you eat and drink. You can use the free wifi (yet to work in Khar), use charging points for your phones and there is a reserved section to sit in and work out of in the afternoons. They have this section at the Todi Mill Social but are yet to start the scheme at Khar but will soon. They also have regular tables, a bar and the Khar one has a skating section too!
We went for breakfast with a friend who hasn't been able to go out for a while as she has been very busy at home and wanted a break. I suggested Social to her and she agreed.
I wanted to try the Social at Khar too so this worked out just fine.
They have done a grunge look for the Social at Khar. Looks like a grimy car workshop or even a shanty from outside. Not the sort of place you would want to go in unless you knew what lay inside.
They have a warehouse like feel inside and have recycled a lot of second hand furniture sourced from junk sellers. However, the place is big. Two storied. Clean. The aircon works well. The loos are clean. Seating is comfortable. I even found some comfortable old styled office chairs to sit on if I go back there to write. The grunge, reverse snobbery, look is just in the external form as the actual feel and experience is quite comfortable.
They serve the food in aluminium plates which my friend said her dad would have dubbed as fit for serving dog food and Rajyasree Sen on Twitter described as 'jail plates'. That's perhaps carrying grunge element a bit too far. First impressions are important as K said who was a bit put off by the aluminium plates placed on our table while we waited.
The place was empty when we reached at 11 am but got filled up around noon.
We glanced though the menu and wanted to order everything. There is a lot of Indian dishes here and Parsi ones too which you never see in modern restaurants especially in Bandra. Even Punjabi and Mangalorean dishes feature here. They did have international fare such as fish and chips, Indian Chinese and laksa as well and pork belly too. The menu is all over the place but the Indian bits attracted me as the most as you don't usually expect to get Indian food in these sort of cafes and restaurants in Mumbai.
I tried the squids during the launch party earlier and they were quite juicy and well seasoned.
We decided to focus on breakfast dishes this morning (served from 9 am to 7.30 pm) and, if it worked , return for lunch another day for the rest of the menu.
K, the Bawi, decided to go for eggs like all Parsis do. In tribute to Riyaaz's half Parsi heritage, apart from the Parsi dhansak, there are Parsi egg dishes like pora, the spicy omelette, akoori, the spicy scrambled egg and sali per eendu, eggs on chips on the menu at Social.
The Parsis of course consider themselves to be half Brit and expectedly K ditched the Parsi dishes and went for scrambled eggs. She was wowed by the creaminess of the eggs and the fact that they were seasoned just right. I had a taste of her baked beans which were typically sweet. K enjoyed her chamomile tea too.
The food took a while to arrive but they brought it all together as we had requested them to do which is good.
Our friend was in the mood for non-veg and went for the 'Hardy's Istyle' breakfast which was a combo which had chai, khari and Parle G biscuits and keema ghotala. Keema ghotala is a minced meat dish typical of Muslim and Irani restaurants of old Mumbai. Curried mince meat into which an egg is broken.
We were all mesmerised by how wonderfully tasty the kheema was. Robust, spicy and the sort that wakes you up in the morning in a way no ham and cheese omelette can or kanda pohe can for that matter.
I don't think the egg was scrambled into the mince though unlike what they do in Milatary cafe in Fort and the Social version was spicier.
I went for the 'Dhingra Punjabi breakfast' set.
I remembered the time at Taj Goa in my earlier years in Mumbai at an office do where I wondered why my friend Charu opted for an Indian breakfast instead of the European fare on offer. Those days I couldn't stand the sight of masala in the morning. In fact I would never touch the samosas they would make for breakfast in my PG run by a Punjabi family then.
Now I like the occasional Indian breakfast and feel sad that I don't get this in Bandra with all it's westernised cafes.
Such is life.
Well the Dhingra breakfast gave me a choice of parathas and I had a ghee laden, very well made gobi paratha. The dough to stuffing proportion was well balanced and just right. They have alu and paneer versions too. There was a thick lassi to go with it. A huge, very tasty Punjabi samosa, which would have been even more at home in a railway station in Punjab that in it was in Mumbai. The puff shel was well fried and crisp and the inner stuffing made you want I break into a Bhangra. With this there was a chhole, split pea curry, where the sauce was very rich, dreamy and creamy in texture and intricately spiced. Really tasty stuff. Loved the fried alu or potato tiki on the side.
There was chai too and the good thing was sugar was not pre-added so it wasn't overtly sweet. I had a cappuccino as well which was frothy and strong like I like it to be.
Breakfast could rarely get more full flavoured, full fat and desi than this. That too in Mumbai and in Bandra, normally the world of egg Benedicts and granola birch muesli.
It felt good to see a modern cafe take inspiration from the food around us in India and not just from the west and do this so well without holding back any punches. What I liked about the food was that it was simple and uncomplicated with the focus on authentic tastes and flavours and not foam or frills.
With Bombay Canteen, Soda Bottle Opener Wala and Social, 2015 has been a good year for the Indian food renaissance in Mumbai.
The verdict on the breakfast at Social?
The three of us are planning to go back for lunch on Sunday to try the rest of the menu. That's how good the breakfast was.
Keep watching this space for more.