There is an unwritten rule every time I dine at South Mumbai’s Fort and Colaba areas: I ensure that I dine at a regional restaurant which serves up some local food, or a restaurant that has endured the test of time and is a golden oldie! Enough time, money and calories are spent dining at trendy restaurants and hipster bars, owing to their abundance in the suburbs – Lower Parel and beyond. Which is why my train rides to Churchgate are spent reading up on vintage eateries I haven’t been to yet.
While rambling around in the by-lanes of Fort, I followed my stomach and my heart in the direction of Ideal Corner for some Parsi ‘bhonu’. Located right opposite Ideal Corner, is a tiny eatery that you’ll miss if you blink, and that finishes as soon as you enter. Pradeep Gomantak Bhojnalaya is your no-frills, average Gomantak joint that serves up home style food tracing back to the Goan Hindus. The food here is simple, hearty fare with a menu that focuses on doling out fish thalis to hungry office goers during lunch hours. This place is a dream for the pescatarian, but also does chicken and mutton thalis if you don’t enjoy fish. Vegetarians, stay away!
As I finished my decently average meal at Pradeep Gomantak, I could only think of why we needed more places like these in the city. And why we need to preserve the few that we have remaining.
A Lesson in History:
Pradeep Gomantak is over 50 years old. It started back in the days when Fort was the sole business centre of Mumbai. It still provides a glimpse of Mumbai of the yore. It started off to cater towards hungry office goers during lunch hours and provide them home style meals that are value for money. After all these years, the restaurant still succeeds at doing what it started off to do. Lunch hours are thronging with people with no place to sit. However, during our dinner here last Sunday we were the only people dining in the restaurant.
The Price is Right:
My eyes popped when I read the price column of the menu card that was handed over to me. Nowadays that happens at restaurants for the entirely opposite reason. The food here is priced so economically, it’s hard to believe you’re dining in 2017. We paid Rs. 120 per thali – one Crab Masala and one Bombil Fry. Both thalis came with sol kadhi, rice, roti and a delicious curry that the server refilled for us on two occasions without us asking. How was the food? Exactly like how you’d get at any other Gomantak ‘fish thali’ place across the city – delicious. We struggled a bit getting that crab meat out of the shell but the gravy was delicious and the crab fresh. (This place didn’t even have a fork to give us, let alone a crab cracker tool.) The bombils were fresh, and fried to a crisp that enabled us to gobble the entire fish down – bones et al.
What also excited me about my meal here – in addition to how inexpensive it was going to be – was the fact that there was a lady running the restaurant and handling the business. Very rarely does one get to see a woman sit on the cash counter handling the finances, checking the staff in the restaurant, and ensuring overall smooth running. We got to see that last Sunday, and I walked out with a sweet taste in my mouth. And I hadn’t even eaten dessert.
(The author dined here anonymously and paid for her own meals. As always, the views are unbiased and entirely her own.)
Pradeep Gomantak Bhojnalaya, 15, Sheri House, Gunbow Street, Fort, Mumbai.