Mumbai hardly suffers from a dearth of excellent stand-alone specialty restaurants. But well-meaning Mumbaikers, nervous about sending tender-stomached visitors to what can be rather unatmospheric local favorites, inevitably direct tourists to “safe” fine-dining spots: namely, luxury hotels serving European, Asian, or generic Indian cuisine. The following five spots, however, emphasize home-style regional cooking. The regular diners aren’t exactly looking for anything fancy, but they do have high standards.
Britannia & Co. Restaurant
If you visit only one place on our list, make it this 1923 relic, as beloved for its history as for its food: meat dishes in spicy sauces characteristic of the 11th-century Persian migrants known as Parsis. Large and airy, Britannia serves only lunch and is, for the truly knowing, the one restaurant in Mumbai that makes Berry Pulao. This particular recipe consists of chicken, mutton, or vegetables in a thick gravy, topped with flavored rice and garnished with browned onions and tangy rubylike barberries. 11 Sprott Rd.
Gomantak Boarding House
The Hindu Goan food (cockles in thick sauce, fried kingfish, prawns in coconut curry) at this packed, dimly lit space near Plaza Cinema in Dadar is incredibly spicy. Nevertheless, long lines form during the afternoon rush—especially impressive given that there are about seven similar restaurants on the same road. 301 Miranda Chaal, N.C. Kelkar Rd.
Mani’s Lunch Home
Just off King’s Circle in Sion is this spartan restaurant, filled with rows of four-seater Formica tables. It specializes in pure-vegetarian South Indian cuisine and is one of the few places in the city to get a traditional Tamilian Brahmin lunch: simply prepared vegetables in a variety of thick, coconut-based curries, each served on a banana leaf. Though we’re not wild about it, the absence of air-conditioning doesn’t seem to deter the midday queue. 384 Dadbawala Sadan
Nowhere in Mumbai are the moderately spicy cashew-, yogurt-, and tomato-based sauces of Moghul-style food better than at this home of rich North Indian Muslim cuisine. Chefs from five-star hotels regularly visit to learn a trick or two about this meat-centric fare. Shalimar Corner, Bhendi Bazaar Junction
This Kalbadevi district canteen is where to find one of the city’s best pure-vegetarian Gujarati-style thalis. The dish consists of sweet-sour preparations typical of the western India state of Gujarat and is accompanied by breads, rice, pickles, and sweets, all served on a stainless-steel platter (the thali). The menu changes daily, the service is prompt, the variety and freshness are unsurpassed, and the bustling, air-conditioned dining room is quite comfortable. 31 Dadiseth Agyari Ln.