Cosmopolitan Mumbai is a melting pot of different communities, making it a real treat for those who love to eat! The city has an enviable mix of iconic old and trendy new restaurants, serving up everything from experimental modern Indian to traditional local Maharashtrian cuisine. Don't miss trying the various dishes at these diverse restaurants in Mumbai for a culinary voyage across the country.
The fine dining experience at innovative Masala Library is all about molecular gastronomy, which uses scientific principles to present classic Indian dishes in unconventional ways. The restaurant opened in 2013 and was conceptualized by Jiggs Kalra—a renowned Indian food columnist, author, consultant, and gastronome. Unfortunately, the location in an upmarket suburban business complex is out of the way for tourists staying in South Mumbai. However, it's not too far from Mumbai airport. If you're a diehard foodie, you won't regret making the effort to go there! Masala Library's menu focuses on indigenous ingredients, cooking techniques, and age-old recipes. Opt for the nine-course Chef’s Tasting Menu to try small portions of all the signature dishes. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily. Expect to pay around $100 for two people.
Bombay Canteen is another relatively new restaurant that gives creative twists to regional cuisine in India. The brainchild of Top Chef Masters winner Floyd Cardoz (a late Indian-American chef who was born in Mumbai and moved to New York), it opened to much fanfare in early 2015 and quickly established itself as one of the most acclaimed dining destinations in India. The restaurant has been designed to resemble a cozy heritage bungalow, complete with stained glass windows. It transforms itself from casual daytime cafe to hip and happening bar at night. Cocktails, with an Indian twist, are a highlight in addition to the food.
For rich, traditional Northwest Frontier cuisine from India before The Partition, head to award-winning Khyber, conveniently located in the Kala Ghoda Arts Precinct near Colaba. One of Mumbai's landmark restaurants, it opened in 1958 but completely burned down in 1985 and was rebuilt. The regal interiors of this cavernous restaurant are decorated with paintings by famous artists and graced by a marble staircase leading to the upper floors. Numerous international celebrities have dined there. The chef's recommendations include several tandoori and stewed lamb dishes. However, the menu incorporates a good selection of vegetarian items too. In that regard, the maa ki dal is known to be outstanding. The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner. Expect to spend around $50 for two people.
A few doors down from Kyber, Chetana is another of the top places to eat in Mumbai's Fort neighborhood. This long-running establishment opened in 1946 as a "cultural cafe" for the city's intellectuals and elite to gather and have philosophical discussions over snacks and coffee. It incorporated a book store, chess corner, and later a handicraft center. These days, Chetana is renowned for its inexpensive vegetarian thalis (platters) from the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra. The menu also includes a healthy option, which has dishes cooked without oil and dairy. The rotis (flat bread) are made with unrefined jowar and bajra flour.
Also in Mumbai's Fort neighborhood, Mahesh Lunch Home was founded in 1977 and specializes in seafood from the Mangalore region of Karnataka in South India. The cuisine is similar in style to that of Trishna in the same area. However, Mahesh Lunch Home is a cheaper and less touristy alternative for those on a budget. It's more spacious too (although there aren't any windows), so you'll feel less crammed in. The restaurant has suburban branches in Juhu and Andheri East near the airport. An annual Crab & Wine Festival, featuring more than 25 crab dishes, is usually held at the Juhu branch in September or October.
North Indian Cuisine: Gaylord
A legendary Mumbai restaurant that's been in business since 1956, Gaylord has evolved with the times and continues to flourish. It serves authentic North Indian food, which is much harder to find in Mumbai than in Delhi. Not surprisingly, butter chicken tops the list of the most popular dishes, along with rogan josh and lasooni (garlic) fish tikka. The classic Continental cuisine at this versatile and reasonably-priced restaurant is also excellent, making it ideal for groups of diners with varied preferences. Apparently, Gaylord was the first restaurant in India to have an open-air bakery as well. Opening hours are from 9.30 a.m. until 11.30 p.m. daily. Dome, one of Mumbai's best rooftop bars, is just around the corner for a sun-downer!
When in Maharashtra...Diva Maharashtracha (Light of Maharashtra) is a classy place to sample Maharashtrian cuisine from all over the state. The restaurant aims to introduce diners to dishes beyond the typical Maharashtrian fare (such as vada pav, misal, sabudana khichdi, and Malvani-style cooking). Hence, the menu also includes cuisine from lesser-known Maharashtrian communities and regions. More than 200 items are on offer, with a generous balance between vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. If you're feeling adventurous, try the bheja (brains) fry and paan ice cream for dessert. There are happy hours during the week. Sometimes, there's live folk music too.
South Indian Cuisine: Cafe Madras
Lively and unpretentious Cafe Madras, near King's Circle in Matunga, is often referred to as the best south Indian food joint in Mumbai. It has been dishing up delicious dosas, idli, appams, bisi bele bath (a spicy mixed rice and lentil dish), panpoli (a banana and jaggery dessert) and filter coffee since 1940—before India gained freedom from the British. Go there when the cafe opens at 7 a.m. for breakfast and you'll find a line already forming outside the door, especially on Sunday mornings. To fill in time while waiting, browse the owner's new Cornucopia gourmet food store next door. Cafe Madras is open daily, except from 2.30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
After taking North Goa by storm, Mustard came to Mumbai (in Worli Atria Mall) in 2018 and swiftly wowed diners with its unique culinary experience there too. The food menu is, as the restaurant's name suggests, inspired by the integral use of mustard in Bengali and French cuisine. It brings together the best of both, featuring carefully curated heirloom recipes. In particular, attention is given to the often underrated and under-explored food of East Bengal. Many dishes on the menu originated in the rustic kitchens that catered to Muslim rulers in Dhaka before the Partition of Bengal. The bar menu is equally as exciting, with exotic cocktails expertly crafted by an award-winning in-house mixologist. Mustard is open daily for lunch, afternoon snacks, and dinner. Do note that dinner is an adults-only affair. Children under the age of 18 years aren't allowed.
Regional Indian Cuisine: Bombay Vintage
Bombay Vintage relaunched in Colaba in 2018, and is dedicated to showcasing the regional soul food of the city's immigrant communities, as well as traditional local favorites. The restaurant is an eclectic combination of nostalgic and chic, with downstairs bar area and upstairs dining area decorated in bright colors, and peppered with retro posters collected from Chor Bazaar. The sumptuous Bombay Vintage Thali is a hit for lunch during the week, comprising an assortment of dishes from multiple cuisines. Warning: you may need a nap to digest everything afterwards! If you decide to have dinner there instead, happy hours are on until 8 p.m. Read more about what and where to eat in Colaba.