In Bombay, a city surrounded by the sea, seafood is fresh and available in abundance. And feasting on it is a regular and exuberant activity — almost a birthright. Bombayites, raised on the spoils of the sea, crowd into famed spots for favourite dishes. Mahesh Lunch Home for Jumbo Crab and Butter Pepper Garlic Prawns. Trishna for Tandoori Lobster and Squid Koliwada. Or Gajalee for Clam Masala and Stuffed Pomfret.
All of these establishments take their influence from Maharashtrian cooking — just one cuisine in Bombay’s varied palette, which also includes influences from China, the west, and elsewhere in India. Malvani cuisine, from the South Kongan region is especially popular in Bombay and makes delicious use of coconut and fish. If ever the opportunity presents itself, do try some crisp morsels of Bangda (mackerel) Fry.
Yet more seafood-loving Bombayites can be found at Sassoon Dock, the raucous fish market in South Bombay. There, sea creatures of every shape, size and flavour, from baby sharks to blue crabs, are laid out in baskets, on tarpaulins, or piled in vast heaps on the floor. (If you visit, consider wearing an old pair of shoes that you are happy to throw away afterwards). Impromptu fish auctions often break out (open only to wholesalers), and the chefs of famous restaurants can be spied shopping.
At the centre of the market’s trade are the Koli people — the fishing community who inhabited the original seven swampy islands long before Bombay ballooned into a city of twenty million. There are still Koliwada districts in Bombay and, for the Koli people, fish and fishing are core to their identity and everyday life.
It is the Bombayites’ loving relationship to fish and seafood — their traditions, history, local delicacies — that inspired the new lunchtime special at our Canary Wharf café: the Lobster Roll.
Lobster claw meat is marinated tenderly in butter, fried garlic, lime and chilli dressing, and chilli flakes, before being piled into a soft, homemade pau in indulgent quantities. Fried onions and fresh herbs dress this resplendent roll, and we invite you to pour on chilli garlic butter, squeeze over lemon and tie your napkin around your neck to protect your best workwear from the zesty juices. Or to take crunchy respite from the richness with a side of café crisps.
It is available 16th October until 19th November between 12pm and 5pm, and is £25 — a modest price for a little lunch-break luxury, and an evocative culinary connection with Bombay.
With each new café that we open, we write a story deeply rooted in Bombay history or culture. This story, known to us as the founding myth, informs all aspects of the restaurant’s design. We spend months researching the Bombay of the period and combing the city for the right furniture, both vintage and new. In a way, you walk across our thresholds into our stories.
Bedecked in their annual finery of baubles, tinsel and lights, our cafés are ready to receive you for your Christmas celebration. So too are our chefs, who have assembled a most excellent array of festive fare for your table.
Our soft launch will run from 27th November to 2.30pm on 5th December. And to express our gratitude for being among our first guests, all food can be enjoyed at 50% off across breakfast, lunch and dinner – yes, really.
Stop by any Bombay tapri (street stall), café, or home, and you will likely find yourself with a gently steaming glass of chai in hand. Before the invention of chai, Bombayites drank kadha, an ayurvedic remedy for coughs and colds made of boiled water and spices like cardamom, cloves and nutmeg. Eventually locals started adding tea leaves, milk, honey and sugar to their ‘kadha’. Chai was born.