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Mumbai | The Teapot Cafe
The amount of china and ceramic in this little restaurant suggests that it can only belong to a Parsi. We weren't wrong. Delna Palia's cafe has shelves decorated with antique teapots and gaily coloured ceramic crockery including bird-shaped salt and pepper shakers that you're likely to find only in flea markets or a Parsi kitchen cabinet. The decor and the chirpy Palia who mans the cash counter give the cafe an appealing homeliness.
The menu is standard cafe fare: burgers, sandwiches, waffles, crepes, quiches, a couple of pastas and so on. A counter near the entrance has desserts such as caramel custard, black forest cake and a decadent looking chocolate concoction served in what looks like a ceremonial glass chalice. There's also a set of Parsi dishes such as dhansak, cutlets in gravy, red curry with rice, akuri on toast, potato or tomato topped with eggs and, surprisingly, khari (a flaky, buttery biscuit) topped with egg.
Now the food isn't spectacular and it has a home-cooked, rough-around the-edges quality. Our salami and cheese crepe was hastily rolled and seemed as though it had been put together by an amateur cook. But it was tasty and value for money. The most expensive items on the menu cost Rs 110. Most of the dishes cost between Rs 50 and 60, which is remarkably modest for a cafe.
Since it's small, The Teapot Cafe gets quickly filled during lunch time. We recommend going in the late afternoon when it's quiet for a snack and a cup of coffee, that's served with a biscuit in the littlest paper plate we've seen.
The Tea Pot CafÃ©, 15-A Homi Modi Street, diagonally opposite Bombay House, Fort (022-2265-4030 ). Mon-Sat 9.30 am-7 pm. Meal for two Rs 200.
Bangalore | Naachiyar
Naachiyar has attained such a level of cool that even members of The Bangalore Black Tie, an informal group of gourmands, visit when they want to slum it and still have a great meal. Even expats come to taste the restaurant's spicy Chettinad fare. But Naachiyar's cooks from Karaikudi will entertain no requests for toning down the spice, for that would mean veering away from the authenticity of the food, which they pride themselves on.
The commitment to time-honoured recipes and traditional cooking is what sets Naachiyar apart, despite its inelegant service and lack of ambience. This restaurant has come a long way from its early rustic days though. When it opened three years ago, at the edge of Ulsoor lake, it was a drab hall with enough benches for 20 people. But news of its superlative meen kozhambu, a hot, tart fish curry to be eaten with feather-light idiappams, spread fast. The mutton sukka and nandu or crab masala, which is redolent with black pepper, also caught the fancy of foodies. Today Naachiyar is spread across the original dining room as well as a terrace that is reached by a less-than-sturdy staircase and that provides a pleasing view of the lake. But no Naachiyar diner goes there for the setting. At lunch time, they simply find the first available seat and order meals. These are perfectly balanced repasts of unlimited quantities of rice with a dry vegetable, koottu (a dish made of vegetables and lentils), kozhambu (curry), sambar, rasam and curd. For non-vegetarians, Naachiyar offers meat sukka and masala. The more adventurous order brain, quail and rabbit when they are on the menu.
Dinner involves another line-up of treats. It's time for palaharam or 'tiffin'. The kuzhi paniyaram, fried urad and rice batter dumplings, sell like the hot cakes they are. Then there are idlis eaten with chicken kozhambu instead of the standard accompaniment of chutney-sambar. The kothu (roti), a scramble of layered parota, chicken, egg and Chettinad spices, makes up in flavour for all that it lacks in looks. That's the Naachiyar way: a little style, lots of substance.
Naachiyar,36/2 Haudin Road,Ulsoor,Bangalore (080-4173-8588 ) Daily noon-4 pm,7pm-11 pm.Meal for two Rs 250.
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