Tuesday, 31 March 2015


Funny - I keep postponing writing about my favourite city Mumbai - and then I hear heartbreaking news about places I like shutting down - like Samovar.

Samovar café which was squeezed behind the Jehangir Art gallery at Kaala Ghoda and oversaw the unkempt lawns of the prince of wales museum (now called... yes, you guessed it)

I cant think of anyone not liking Samovar

Image result for samovar cafe

To the best of my knowledge the food was relatively affordable (for management trainees like me - before the reforms, when payscales barely paid rent in Mumbai).  And the variety was amazing and a mix of the serious foods as well as the lite bites. And of course, they served beer too!

I loved biting into chaat, having sandwiches and light stuff (I am a vegetarian so I couldn't try their famed kathi rolls etc.).  Let me be honest, the food was mildly tasty but not really great.


It was the experience overall. If you were lucky to get a table - it was unlikely one would move out for quite sometime - no, not because the service was slow - simply because you were on prime property and got a chance at looking at the cognoscenti live through, right in front of your eyes. I glanced at all theatre artists there, including film wallahs, journalista and of course my folks from my business fraternities hang around there. And then of course, the socialites (who funnily choose mostly to hang around at warm Samovar instead of the posh Air Conditioned Khyber designed by Mrs. Godrej herself!!) - I mean it was that chilled out a place.

Image result for samovar cafe

To me Samovar represents what was best about Mumbai.  The first was the affordability factor, the second was the absolute simplicity and plain-ness about it - it was in fact zero in the glamour quotient as far as ambience, menu, staff, etc. went.  Third and most important which reflects Mumbai to me, was that this was eminently accessible and embraced EVERYONE - right from the govt staffers who might have walked around from the high court, docks or museums to the corporate big honchos, socialites and glamour personalities.  Fourth was the staff and the setting itself - there was NO VELVET ROPE. When I was there even famous film personalities had to wait in line for a table to be free (sometimes for quite some time). But the staff to their credit were not the fawning type, or those who looked down upon the general public.  And last, The food while being moderately tasty (vegetarian at least) offered a really eclectic menu - but didnt go overboard like the Udupi joints (which have italian pizzas, with chinese, north indian and south indian and more). Samovar offered a fairly interesting mix of foods from regular chaat to soups, baked dishes etc.

Sometimes there'd be some crap art exhibition outside the café, in the gallery, and there would be free wine, and we'd gate crash the event, only to return to Samovar and then pig out and get the food to soak off the alcohol. But this happened rarely.

There was a certain aura about all of this.  When you stepped out there were artists selling their prints out.  Sometimes there'd be  a movie screening of some obscure subject.  Sometimes you hung around and got to get a real gang of friends from your different circles (work, college, etc.)

 land up there.

Image result for samovar cafe

Overall it was fun place and for young kids who couldn't afford joints like Khyber, or the Taj, you got to see even more important folks hang around there. (the only other place that matched in prominence would have been the MLA canteen - but that's not for publishing...)

I stopped going to Samovar when I returned to Mumbai when the centre of gravity had moved beyond upper worli northwards. 

I did manage to go in but would always find tables full, and there'd be a lot more pretenders than the real celebrities, and it was filled with college kids, and who wants to hang around to feel reaaaaaaallly old amidst all this. The staff was reliable as well (and as non-judgemental surprisingly as always). But I couldn't figure out why I loved the food sooo much back as a kid.   It wasn't bad, just different...

Image result for samovar cafe

The atmosphere had changed - I also seemed to like the gallery more and walked around Kaala Ghoda as there was a lot more happeneing there.

The last time I stayed there, I skipped Samovar (ate at nearly every restaurant in Kaala ghoda but never walked around to Samovar.

So reading about it shutting down (today being its last day) - there's a hint of NOstalgia.  I am wondering how its a sure sign of changes in Mumbai... Glad I got to see some of the chapters - lucky me.

PS - to know what actually happened, and an expert viewpoint read Vikram Doctor's piece here

Protected by Copyscape Plagiarism Software