When I’m in Mumbai, I love to play catch up with the constantly evolving culinary scene in the city. I’ve been eyeing the updates on Taj Mahal Tea House on social media for a while now. And my friend, Rajee, once asked me to meet her here saying “this is just the kind of place you’ll love”. Thanks to the unkindly intervention of the traffic gods, I could not reach this place on that day. But luckily, I was presented with another chance today.
I contacted my old time blogger friend Kalyan late this morning with a ‘let’s meet’, he suggested Taj Mahal Tea House in Bandra. And I happily agreed. It would be a 20-30 minute cab ride for me, from Lower Parel and that would give enough time for Kalyan to wrap up his work and reach there. After a bit of a traffic situation (which has been hounding me every time I step out in the city), it was a breezy ride through Worli sea face and then over the Bandra Worli Sea Link. I’m happy to report that PDA was still in full flow on the benches of the sea face promenade despite the blazing afternoon sun. It’s December, but winter is not a thing my home city is blessed with.
After passing familiar landmarks like Mount Carmel church and the famous Cottons store, I reached Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Tea House in good time. I’m always a sucker for old bungalows converted into cafes or stores. They lend themselves to such amazing decor possibilities and I could tell from the minute I entered the place that Taj Mahal Tea House had made the most of it.
Little nooks and crannies with art work, print advertisements of tea from days gone by, a sun dappled corridor, old world cane furniture, indoor plants, stunning mosaic tiles – I took my time to absorb all the beauty around me while I waited for Kalyan to arrive. Indigo and white were the predominant colours in the cafe (both my favourites) and I did not miss the attention to detail that had gone into every element around me -right up to the lace trimmed white curtains or the indigo coloured coasters. I couldn’t wait to see what their food would be like.
Kalyan came in and after we exchanged pleasantries and shared the excitement over his newly released book, we pored over the menu. He’s a regular so he knew what he wanted to order right away. Given that my cold was killing me, I ordered a Bold Spices tea, which was a light brew flavoured with whole spices like cardamom, cinnamon, lemon and cloves, laced with honey. It was comfort at first sip.
Kalyan ordered from the cold tea menu – a paani puri tea, which was again a light brew bursting with flavours of coriander and mint that are the highlight of the paani-puri’s pani, served with a lemon grass stalk stirrer. I had a little taste and would have totally ordered this if it were not for my cold. They serve complimentary cookies with the teas. Kalyan being a regular asked them to serve all of them as chocochip instead of an assortment of cookies. While the cookie had no dearth of chocochips, the texture was totally off. Possibly because my own bar has been set very high with my extra chewy extra chocolatey chocochip cookies 😀
From their food menu, I thought the paneer samosa sounded interesting and Kalyan approved of my choice. The presentation of the samosas with plum jam and beet micro greens was very pretty. The samosas seemed baked and not fried and one bite confirmed this hunch. It’s impossible to get that same ‘khasta’ / crumbly and crisp texture from baking. Ask me, I have done a lot of these recipe ‘healthifying’ experiments 🙂
Baked is not bad at all, but it never comes close to the fried. The samosa filling was made of diced paneer and sautéed onions. I wish they had added more flavour to the filling, because paneer by itself is a pretty bland thing, and bland samosas have no place in my universe
We also ordered the Parsi akuri on toast. Akuri is Parsi style soft scrambled eggs that’s typically breakfast fare, but on request they agreed to make it for us, even though it was past lunch time. Akuri was a vibrant green due to the addition of basil pesto. Pesto does make a good addition to scrambled eggs and this is a good hearty breakfast / lunch for one.
Kalyan ordered the pomfret dish for the mains. It was a generous sized fish, covered with some lemongrass foam and served with a hearty portion of sweet potato mash and a few sweet potato wafers. He encouraged me to taste the foam, mash and wafer. That’s what us foodbloggers do when we eat together 🙂 While I prefer real food to foam, I must say that the foam had an unflinching lemongrass flavour and the mash texture and flavour was totally ace. I think, inspired by this dish, I would love to try my version of a sweet potato mash at home.
Taj Mahal Tea House also sells tea-related gifts, be it china or special house blends that make lovely gifts for a tea-lover.
Special mention must be made about the choice of music playing here. It was classical instrumental, totally in synch with their famous “Wah Ustad Wah” ads. The tea house also has a pair of Zakir Hussain’s tablas on display. The music added to the ambience while allowing us friends to have our own conversation.
It’s a place I’d love to come by on my own, do a spot of work or find myself an inconspicuous corner and read my book. There’s a lot of creativity in their menu in both food and drinks. The staff are pleasant mannered and I doubt they would ask you to hurry up and leave. The ambience oozes an irresistible charm that makes you want to prolong your stay! It definitely wont fall in the VFM cafe category, but the experience is worth it.
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