Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Jai Hind and Janata

Bandra is pretty much the restaurant hub of the city, with, arguably, more restaurants tables per square foot than a food court in a mall. New ones seem to open every second week, each one out-exoticising the last.

Amidst all the quite literally flavour-of-the-month joints with their fancy menus, some old favourites are still holding firm. In the bustle of the bottle-neck of Pali Market, two of them have faced each other amicably for years.

Both restaurants are hugely popular, but have kept their prices modest. You’d be hard-pressed to find an item much over fifty rupees a serving, and except for a few “chicken full” dishes, there’s nothing over a hundred bucks. You could have a very decent meal for around Rs 70–80 per stomach in either place. And no, despite the prices, neither is a dive—female patrons aplenty, though in one of them, they’re unlikely to be without a male or two in the party.

Jaihind Lunch Home is the smaller of the two—twenty diner simultaneously who aren’t very fond of each other would lead to overflow—and has the shorter menu. It concentrates on food from the Konkan coast, largely sea food, and does it very well indeed. Connoisseurs recommend it highly, and its modest, no fripperies d├ęcor has given it a kind of reverse snob cachet. There’s usually a wait before you get a table at peak hours, and that isn’t just because of the size of the premises.

Across the road, Janata Lunch Home is much larger, with several sections, including two with air-con up the narrow stairs. It is better known as a bar (and in the bad old days of, oh, a few years ago, one that stayed open well into the wee hours, thereby gaining a loyal media clientele). They do good sea food here as well, augmented with the many varieties of greasy finger food beloved by drinkers. It also stays open later, though not, alas, past legal drinking hours any more. Many’s the day I’ve scrambled over to get a quick bite after other restaurants in the area have closed for business. This is usually when I have more work to do, so I don’t drink. Inevitably, a former advertising colleague will pass by on the way out (or more usually, in), grin a greeting, notice the bottle-less table and do a double-take: “You came here to eat?”

While on the booze, Janata doesn’t have a huge mark-up over MRP, and is available by the quarter as well as per drink or per bottle.

The last time I was there to drink, I was tagging along with several friends, helping a certain Award-winning Author celebrate the award he’d just won. He had a rather large cheque in his pocket, and was in an expansive mood. “Chivas,” he said to the waiter. Much conferring happened among the staff, and a worried emissary came back to ask, “Quarter?” Our Author waved a casual hand, indicating that he would like the Maximum, naturally, a full bottle. Dubious looks were exchanged by the waiters; writers do not, apparently, inspire confidence. Or perhaps it was the two editors at our table. But a bottle was brought to us, and toasts were drunk. And I did notice a certain relief on the face of the waiter when the bill was paid. In cash. Good ol’ Janata. Never change!

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 14th June, 2006, a part of the Mission Mumbai series. This one was about "no-frills eateries that stick to the noble business of producing food for every mood."

Also, a correction. Naresh Fernandes reminded me after this was published that the celebratory bottle was Vat 69, not Chivas. Blame it on the liquor.

Tags: The Times of India

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