A morning in South Mumbai

1:46 PM

Last weekend was one of these longer than usual weekends on the account of Gudi Padwa (Hindu New Year in the State of Maharashtra), and unlike the previous years, it was a mandatory holiday for DH.
We stayed in town, as not only was DH not aware of it earlyenough, we also had a few errands to run on Saturday. We decided to head down to South Mumbai early on Sunday morning for a casual stroll on Marine Drive, followed by some breakfast in Leopold Cafe before heading back home before the heat of Summer boiled us.

Normally we head down there by cab, because we don't really live close to a local train station, and with the three of us the price of the train tickets plus the auto fare to reach the station usually amount to almost as much as the price of a black and yellow fare. This Sunday however, we decided to take the local train, just to give Ishita a new experience. During the week the train is crowded and not such a pleasant ride, heck not even that safe with a small child, but if you wake up early on a Sunday and catch the right train this could be the sight you will have in a first class compartment:
If you go early enough on a weekend, the compartments will be completely empty, something unusual for the Mumbai local train

EMPTY, the whole compartment was empty from Andheri until Ville Parle, at which point one person hopped in, and as we closed in on Marine line, there was at its peak, 2-3 other passengers. Ishita had blast for the first 20 minutes, after that she wanted to see the ocean and nothing else would do. Fortunately, the ride wasn't much longer after that.
If you have kids in Mumbai and wonder what to do with them, put taking a ride on the local on the list. If you do it on weekends and off peak hours, the ride could be a very fun one.

Ishita's favourite thing to do on Marine drive is watch the crabs that go eat on the rocks. Her other favourite is to walk on the wall.
This is a favourite hangout for Mumbaikars, either to workout and jog in the morning, or watch the Sunset over the Arabian sea in the evening.

Marine Drive is a favourite spot for Mumbaikars to go jog and workout in the morning when the sun isn't too strong yet, and a great place to watch the sunset over the sea in the evening (tourists join in at that time too). DH and I just like soaking in the Mumbai skyline, open sea, and occasional sea breeze.
Watching the sea and taking in the breeze in the morning is my favourite thing to do in Marine drive. If you go early enough, you'll even see fishermen at work.

From Marine Drive, the walk to the Colaba causeway and Leopold Cafe,  is a short 2km one on roads lined by very pedestrian friendly sidewalks, and plenty of shade.
On the way you will see memorial monuments, old vintage buildings and if early in the morning, no traffic to spoil your walk.

That part while being enjoyable to DH and I wasn't to Ishita. Nothing new, each time we attempt a walk in the area, we end up with a grumpy fussy daughter. And while we are no stranger to the Colaba and Fort area in South Mumbai, this Sunday was our first visit to the iconic Leopold cafe.
We planned to go the previous time, but headed for Cafe Mondegar instead.
But since you apparently can't live in Mumbai and never have been there, we rectified that error.

The place is more famous for its bar and we saw people happy tackling beer column at 10am. But, they also do some continental, Indian and Chinese cuisine. The hearty, no nonsense kind, that taste, simple, real and fills you up.
To the Westerner in me, it reminded me of the old neighbourhood cafés of Switzerland that will serve you non pretentious "plat du jour" for lunch. The kind that will probably never gain the chef a Michelin Star but will win the heart of anybody looking for a filling and comforting meal.

I went for the chicken and cheese sandwich, while DH opted for the Keema Pav, which he was informed was beef meat at the time of ordering. DH not having any issue with beef went ahead. Ishita wanted some maggi noodles, but since that place has a reputation to maintain it was thankfully out of the menu, she settled for bread butter jam and a plate of Frenchh fries instead.

DH's Keema was huge enough to serve 3-4 people, and the meat was flavourful : just spicy enough and not too dry. Even with a little help from me, he could not finish it.
I would have eaten more of it, if my humble chicken and cheese sandwich didn't fill me up. Sandwich which by the way was made with roast chicken and did really taste like roast chicken the way I remembered it back home...bliss.
Ishita ended up eating like a bird, more interested in the fries than the bread butter jam, and despite wanting an orange juice, ended up drinking half of DH's milkshake instead.

The place was full of tourists and backpackers, due to its iconic status. I however wondered if the place delivered a positive experience to them.

When you think of India as tourist, you usually end up visualising things like the Taj Mahal, spicy cuisine, chaat and colourful exotic decor. Leopold, like many of the old fashioned little cafés in South Mumbai gives you a VERY distinct European vibe.
It serves continental food that really delivers in matter of authenticity and doesn't strike me as fitting the exotic India experience a lot of back packing travellers might be after.

I suspect many of the travellers only end up there because their tourist guide recommended it. Cafe Mondegar, which is just a little further down the road, sees a bit less tourists, and serves the same type of food, with a similar ambience.
I keep thinking of my Stepmom and her first visit to India during which she would try to steer clear of anything that looked to continental and familiar claiming it wasn't the REAL India. To her, like I suspect it is the case for a lot of tourists, the real India is chaos, dirt, misery, poverty, noise and bright coloured sarees. Leopold Cafe doesn't strike me as what a first timer to India would call "REAL" India.

Anyway, topic closed.

This was how we spent our Sunday before retreating home at noon running away from the scorching heat of yet another heat wave. We spent Monday at home, trying to relax with a 4.5 years old full of energy who could not understand that the playground was not an option until at least 5pm. And here I am on Tuesday glad to have her back to school, despite having enjoyed our weekend.


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