-By Rashmi Uday Singh
If the walls of this beloved, long, narrow-corridored cafe (nestled inside Jehangir Art Gallery) could talk, what tales they would tell! The history of the city has taken shape here - young MF Hussain, Sabbavala, Shiva Naipaul and Amitabh Bachchan all ate here. At the heart of it all is Usha Khanna, the lovable 76-year-old young lady who bubbles like vintage Champagne and imbues the city’s most well-loved café with home-style food (all priced under Rs. 170) and care. Simple homespun décor here with paper napkins, cane chairs, creaky fans and melamine plates. Wholesome one-dish meals (the humble Dal-Chawal, Prawn or Fish Curry), Keema Roti Rolls and stuffed parathas (speciality) are all worth ordering. You must try the Hyderabadi Keema with Lachha Paratha and Mango Panna. Head here in the evening for chatpata items like Dahi Vada, Sev Batata Puri and chilled juices. Do also try the Kentucky Fried Chicken Lunch, Russian Salad with Chicken, Pepper Mutton Chops Lunch and the likes which are served only once a week (Vegetarian and Mutton dish selections change daily). Finish with their famous pot kulfis in Mango, Malai, Kesar Pista or Badam Pista. No alcohol in this sometimes noisy, warm and cramped café, but the experience is unmatched and unparalleled. A great place to catch up with friends or spend quality time with family. P.S. This must be Mumbai’s only restaurant with a glossy coffee-table book, The Making of Samovar, dedicated to it. Get a copy!
Review posted more than 6 month ago
I am a big big big fan of this Samovar. But the reason why i just rated it as Very Good + is, service and availability of menu items :) More than half of the items in the menu are not available, but whatever is, if awesome. If you want to have butter chic
Review posted more than 6 month ago
I would never find this place myself. its more like a cafe for the art gallery people . inside the art gallery. in the back. food was ok nothing great. quantity was good BAD SERVICE!!!!! took 20 mins to get one paratha!
Review posted more than a year ago
Home is where the (he) art is
Located smack in the middle of Kala Ghoda, Bombay's premier art hub, Cafe Samovar is not the extravagant place one might expect it to be. A long narrow corridor with chairs and tables neatly arranged on either side; it is bound to remind one of a train’s dining car. Colorful artifacts and hand fans adorn the wall on one side while the other side overlooks the sprawling green lawns of the Prince of Wales Museum. Glass lamp shades dangle from the low ceiling, casting a glow on the faces of people revealing an occasional smile as they converse and eat to their hearts’ content.
This is not a place for awkward conversations and distant looks. The warmth the place exudes kicks in feeling of nostalgia. What adds to the charm of the place is its timelessness. The mode of payment is cash. There are no air conditioners but the fans, cool breeze and just the feel of the place are sufficient to set temperatures at the right levels. Though the tables are right next to each other, there is absolutely no feeling of someone intruding into your space, in fact the cozy atmosphere and maybe the beer (the only alcoholic drink served) ensure a good tète-à-tète.
The Samovar is Mrs. Usha Khanna’s art boutique café, a place where creative minds chat over cup of tea. Though in her mind she had pictured one of the Left Bank Cafes of Paris when she mentioned the idea to Soli Baltivala, the Secretary of Jehangir Art Gallery; when the place finally started, there was just enough money for a stove and a few cups and saucers. Today this 43 year old café boasts of an eclectic clientele and feeds personalities such as R. K. Laxman, Anjoli Ela Menon, M. F, Husain and Shobhaa De to name a few. In fact Amitabh Bachchan got his wife Jaya Bachchan to Samovar for their first date. Samovar is also the only café in Mumbai which has its own coffee table book, for which creative minds from various fields have contributed.
Given its patronage and arty location, one might expect exorbitant prices, however even these remind one of the yesteryears. The lunches are completely worth every penny paid and portions served are sufficient to satiate even a foodie. There are a few surprise items on the lunch menu every day, besides the regular. The famous Kheema Parathas seem more like homemade stuff rather than oily restaurant food. The white boiled rice which one gets with the Goan Prawn Curry also reminds one of “ghar ka khanna”. The Chicken Vindaloo Roll is the show stopper. Two rolls filled with succulent juicy chicken in a fiery looking but demure masala mix. All for eighty bucks! The Boti Roti rolls and the Dry Bhendi are also quite popular. Samovar also experiments with a few continental dishes. Kentucky Chicken Lunch, Russian Salad with Chicken, Pepper Mutton Chops and Fish and Chips are a part of the surprise lunch menu. All this can be washed down with the extremely famous Mango Lassi. The Mint Tea and Guava Juice served here are also quite exceptional. The deserts however are a little disappointing. 100 bucks doesn’t seem to be much for Apple Pie with Ice Cream; however the quantity served is miniscule for the price paid, especially when compared to the lunch prices.
However, when it comes to Samovar, no complaints can linger long enough in the minds of its customers. Nestled between two art galleries, this quaint place, open from 10 am to 7 30 pm, will surely make you forget your worries and indulge in homely food and a meaningful conversation
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