Developed by the British, Fort is a popular tourist and business district next to Colaba in south Mumbai. Due to its diversity, you'll find all kinds of eateries there including historic Parsi cafes and bakeries, simple street food joints, restaurants serving traditional Indian cuisine, and fashionable healthy food places. Many are located in the groovy Kala Ghoda Arts Precinct. Here's what to eat in Mumbai's Fort neighborhood.
One of Mumbai's must-try Indian cuisine restaurants, Khyber serves up authentic dishes from the Northwest Frontier of undivided India (now Pakistan). This landmark restaurant with regal interiors, founded in 1958, is named after the ancient Silk Road Khyber Pass between central and south Asia. Over the years, many international celebrities including Paul McCartney and Richard Gere have dined at the restaurant. Its menu has more then 250 items, with the highlights being the tandoori and stewed lamb dishes. However, vegetarians will find a good variety of options too.
Trishna is another famous and long-standing restaurant in the Fort neighborhood. It's renowned for its fine south Indian seafood, which is among the best in the city. There's not much space inside the restaurant and not surprisingly it always draws a crowd, so do book in advance to avoid waiting. The signature dish is crab in butter pepper garlic sauce. Other popular dishes include Hyderabadi-style fish (coated in ground pepper and barbecued), squid or prawns koliwada (marinated in batter and deep friend), and chilly garlic lobster.
Feeling really hungry? Look no further than Chetana on Kala Ghoda's Rampart Row for a simple but satisfying vegetarian thali (platter), spanning states such as Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra. The restaurant opened as a sandwich and coffee shop in 1946 to serve the city's intellectuals and elite, who engaged in philosophical discussions and games of chess. However, it has evolved over the years, and was further expanded and renovated in 2001. Choose the Chetana Health Thali for dishes cooked without oil and dairy, and rotis made with unrefined jowar and baajra flour.
Parsi Cuisine: Britannia & Company
Historic Britannia & Co is one of the last remaining restaurants started by the Parsi and Iranian Zoroastrian communities in Mumbai. It has been in business since 1923, in a suitably grand vintage building designed by Scottish architect George Wittet (who's best known for designing the Gateway of India) in the Fort neighborhood's tree-lined Ballard Estate. What's interesting is that the restaurant's much-loved signature mutton berry pulao wasn't introduced until 1982. The restaurant initially served Continental food to the British, followed by Mughlai and Mangalorean dishes after they left, before finally returning to its roots. The exact recipe of the pulao, which is topped with imported Iranian barberries, is a closely-held family secret.
Chai and Baked Goods: Yazdani Bakery
Yazdani Bakery was set up by an Iranian Zoroastrian baker in 1950, on Cawasji Patel Street, in the congested heart of the Fort neighborhood's Bora Bazaar precinct. Like Britannia & Company, it has the same dingy old-world ambiance of a bygone era. Join the loyal following of regulars who go there for hot chai and brun maska (buttered crusty bread roll), freshly baked on the premises in a traditional wood-fired oven. The eccentric elderly proprietor was a boxer in his youth, and he may even strike a pose for you!
Snacks, Street Food and Juice: Badshah
When Badshah (a term for a Mughal king) was established opposite Crawford Market in 1905, the British were still ruling Mumbai and the Gateway of India wasn't even in existence. The restaurant continues to be respected for its hygienically prepared south Indian snacks, local street food, and juices. It's a convenient place to rest and refuel while shopping at the surrounding markets. Try the pav bhaji (spicy mashed vegetables with butter and bread, a Mumbai specialty), royal falooda (an ice cream dessert drink with vermilcelli noodles and dried fruit), or Mysore sada dosa (a plain dosa with spicy chutney).
Although 145 Kala Ghoda is situated next to Khyber and is owned by the same family, what it offers is totally different. While there have been very few changes to the menu at Khyber, in contrast 145 Kala Ghoda is all about experimentation. The owners decided on vibrant quirky decor and an eclectic menu featuring an array of cuisine types from across the world, with an emphasis on comfort food. There's everything from macaroni and cheese to Sri Lankan pork curry. Those with a sweet tooth will salivate over desserts such as chocolate chip cookie dough pizza, chocolate brownie with salted caramel filling, and cookie crumble ice cream sundae. Note that this contemporary restaurant by day turns into a cool party place by night.
When it opened in 2012, this cute all-day bakery cafe led a trendy new wave of restaurants focused on using locally-sourced ingredients in Mumbai's Fort neighborhood. Despite having chic French industrial interiors and serving European-style fare, The Pantry aims to reintroduce diners to local farm-to-fork produce including organic seasonal vegetables, Indian coffees and teas, and cheeses. The menu has been extended to feature nourishing healthy and vegan dishes.
Conceived as an alternative to coffee shop chains, the Kala Ghoda Cafe is a hip yet informal intimate local hangout that's housed in an early 20th century barn opposite Trishna. The cafe also doubles as a gallery and retail space, with art and modernist design products on display. Plus, free wireless Internet is available. The menu is quite short but what it does, it does well. There's organic teas and coffees, Continental and Parsi breakfasts, waffles, salads, soups, sandwiches, and yummy baked goods. The house-blend coffee is outstanding, as it should be because the owner is a photographer and coffee connoisseur.