It’s been a good year in food.
I’ve eaten at more than 150 restaurants, sailed on a cruise ship and spent time in Ireland, one of the countries on my bucket list. I got to meet three living legends; I was on a panel with Mark Kurlansky, the author of Cod and Salt; took Alice Waters, the chef at Chez Panisse who inspired the world to go local, to dinner; and took Claudia Roden, the cookbook writer who introduced the world to Mediterranean cooking, to breakfast and lunch.
But, most importantly, I managed to lose more than 10 kilos – and keep it off. I’m not yet lithe and sylph-like, but I’m not a Goodyear blimp.
So here’s my list of the good, the bad and the downright unsavoury.
The best new restaurants/ menus
- Nara, BKC
The best stand-alone Thai restaurant in the city. I anticipate its success will herald a new wave of Thai restaurants in the city. Needs some work on the desserts.
- Xico, Kamala Mills
The best Mexican restaurant the city has ever seen. If, for nothing else, go for the guacamole which is freshly made to order at the table. You should stay back for the brain and duck tacos.
The complicated description: In an international city populated by global communities, there’s a point where their cuisines intersect and start, not so much to marry, but to cohabit. At T&T Manu Chandra is inspired by the possibilities of the intersection and marries it with regional ingredients.
What you really need to know: Fabulous G&T’s. A great place for the hardcore meat-eater and the staunch vegetarian. Utterly reliable.
- The Blue, Bandra
Impossibly tiny, but excellent Thai and Japanese. Don’t even think about going on a weekend.
- POH, Kamala Mills
While other Asian restaurants will combine 2-3 elements across cuisines, Vikramjit Roy envelopes each dish in layers of technique, ideas and flavours to produce a singular experience. Where other chefs produce music of a 4-piece group, his food is like the sound of a big jazz band.
- Lunch, Bastian, Bandra
When it opened last year, I called it one of the most interesting new seafood restaurants of 2016. This year they opened for lunch with a separate lunch menu. Go!
- Pranzo, Romano’s, JW Marriott
The newly introduced Sunday brunch lives up to the high standards this specialty Italian restaurant. Unlike other brunches it’s a set menu, but it’s a lot of food… very good food.
- Sunday Brunch, Seven Kitchens, St Regis
It’s not just the largest Sunday Brunch in the city, but unquestionably the best. Every week they change the theme, so expect something different when you return. Skip the non-veg sushi.
- Ustaadi, Crawford Market
Zaffran for adults. The restaurant that kept a generation of almost-broke students from going hungry has returned in a more sophisticated avatar. It’s a big, fat multi-cuisine menu that’s full of surprises.
The places I’d happily return to
- Kuai Kitchen, Colaba
Unlike its fancy siblings Royal China and Jia, Kuai is the friendly neighbourhood restaurant you wear your shorts to. It’s simple, fun, value for money Asian.
- Bombay Havelli, Opera House
Great a la carte vegetarian with dishes from across the Indian states and communities. And yes, vegetarian Parsi too.
- Shizusan, High Street Phoenix
Put down those shopping bags and step into this gorgeous restaurant for highly-stylised, yet extremely playful, comfort Asian.
- Bakehouse Café, Kala Ghoda
In a tiny lane bang opposite the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, this sweet British-looking café does some very sensible comfort World cuisine.
- Spice Republic, Byculla
Low-brow, but incredibly tasty, Indian-style World cuisine. Yes, you know what I mean and yes, it’s incredibly bold to try something like this in Byculla!
- Chili’s, various places.
I’m not a fan of international chains, but Chili’s does meat, in every form exceptionally well. Stay away from the salmon.
- Kebabs & Kurries, ITC Grand Central
Though quiet and self-effacing, Mohammad Shareef is the finest Lucknowi chef in the city. He’s already raised the quality of the food several notches. Now it’s time for the hotel to shout about their coup from the rooftops.
- Mirchi & Mime, Powai
Yes, ALL the wait staff are hearing impaired but who cares; it’s simply outstanding Indian food with modern plating.
- Curry Tales, Khar
An excellently curated menu based on the cuisine of Mangalore and northern Kerala. Watch out for spice levels though.
- Charcoal Kitchen, Colaba
Flying completely under the radar they serve the best Lucknowi-style food in South Mumbai. Only home delivery.
The places I’d warily return to
- Botticino, Trident, BKC
Once the best Italian restaurant with a non-Italian chef, all I can say now is ‘Nothing to see here folks, move along, move along.’
- Thangabali, Mahim
Non-vegetarian South Indian food is unexplored territory and Thangabali has curated a great menu. But the quality of the food was dismal.
- Arth, Bandra
Ingredient-focused, diligent sourcing, a gas-free kitchen and yet the food is lack lustre at this Modern-ish Indian restaurant.
The places that I regret going to
- Fish n Bait, BKC
Thirty years ago they may have survived with their archaic multi-cuisine seafood menu. Today, they’re an anachronism that may yet survive if they consider sticking to their forte – Mangalorean seafood.
- Canto, Opera House
A beautiful-looking restaurant that is making a complete hash of world cuisine. There’s not much hope if you can’t get your tiramisu right.
- London Taxi, Kamala Mills
Not enough thought given to the food – too focused on the bells and whistles, and on gimmicks. They’d probably call it Free Style Cuisine; I’d say they’re thrashing about wildly without direction.
- The Fatty Bao, Kamala Mills
Dark and dismal in a way only a ghoul would appreciate. I normally love Fatty Bao, but somehow in this location the food didn’t taste up to scratch.
The place that desperately needs to be resurrected or buried
35th best restaurant in India. Pfft. I shall happily mix metaphors and call it both a white elephant and a dead horse. It’s an iconic restaurant, the granddaddy of the new generation of stand alones in Mumbai and every effort must be made to resuscitate it. But it it’s too late, let it go kindly into the night.
Restaurants I liked in India
- Miso, Gurgaon
Hidden away at the back of an office building, Miso is a speciality Korean restaurant where the food is a good as any restaurant in Korea.
- Café Lota, Pragati Maidan
I had heard so much about this outdoor café and its innovative menu that incorporated dishes from different Indian cuisines but also melding elements of different cuisines into a one dish. I’m glad I finally got to eat there
- Pandora Gastronomy, Yerawada
Yes, it’s a weird name, but let that not dissuade you from trying out the multi-cuisine, comfort Indian restaurant.
Great meals I had abroad
- Long Beach, Singapore
Home of the black pepper crab (not the chilli crab) almost all the seafood there is fantastic. That’s because most of it is fished out of the wall of tanks just before it goes into the pot, or pan.
- Hadskis, Belfast
Possibly my best meal of 2017. Hadskis, in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, does Modern Irish and European using locally sourced ingredients. The food is very simple, yet very elegant and bursting with flavour, the plates uncluttered, but dramatic. The vegetarian fare was even more impressive and memorable than the seafood and the meat. It doesn’t have a Michelin star but it would surely qualify for a mention in the Red Book.
Mani’s Lunch Home, Chembur
Royal China, VT
The Bombay Canteen, Kamala Mills
Romano’s, JW Marriott, Sahar
Desi Deli, Bandra
Thaker Bhojnalaya, Kalbadevi