I come from a family of eaters – as far as my dad’s side is concerned, that is. On winter mornings, I’d be woken up by the smell of aloo parathas and jalebis (yes, we often had jalebis for breakfast) that’d find their way to every corner of the house. Everyone would rush to the dining table, preparing their stomachs, as they’d sit down and eat their hearts out.
That obviously changed once we moved to a completely different part of the country. We now begin our mornings with warm butter idlis served with coconut chutney and sometimes, sambar — depending on how extravagant my mother felt.
Eating a thali, which is basically a platter of various Indian dishes terrified me. I could never finish one on my own and often found myself falling prey to reproachful glances from everyone else at the table. Ordering a la carte was even scarier. So the only other option left for me was to sneakily take some food from my father’s thali (in case of unlimited thalis), while the waiters had their backs turned towards us, and nibble away with a vague sense of urgency and excitement building up in the pit of my stomach. It was scary, but also thrilling. Until, of course, I grew up and learnt to finish (at least) three-quarters of a typical South Indian Thali all by myself.
So with this anecdote and my personal appreciation of South Indian food over the years, here are some of the most authentic South Indian thalis — banana leaf or not — for you to devour in Mumbai.
I. Madras Diaries – The Hub Of South Indian Food In Bandra
Where: Shop 7, Ground Floor, Muzaffar Manor, 117 Waterfield Road, Linking Road, Bandra West, Mumbai
If you’re the kind who prefers to remain sceptical about food, then visit this place for its beautifully illustrated eye-catching menu and the rest will be taken care of. With rustic interiors, instrumental music, and a friendly staff constantly trying to warm you up — especially if it’s pouring outside, Madras Diaries is the undisputed hub of authentic south Indian food in Bandra. Their lunch thali called the Green Garden Taste is available from 12–3:30 PM; the platter includes buttermilk, two starters, 4 main dishes, sambar, rasam, two varieties of rice, curd rice or set curd (your pick), Malabar parotta, and dessert of the day.
Even though we exclusively went for the thali, we couldn’t help but skim through the rest of the menu (the colours truly got to us) and spotted some really unusual dishes like Rasam Shots, Cheese Chilli Jalapeno Idli with Masala Fondue, and Broccoli Vada.
Cost: Authentic South Indian food in Bandra at INR 475 for one person.
II. A. Rama Nayak’s Udipi Shri Krishna Boarding for an authentic Udipi Thali
Where: 1st Floor, LBS Market Building, Near Matunga Central Railway Station, Matunga East, Mumbai
Established during the British Raj, some say that this eatery was the first Udipi restaurant ever to grace the city of Mumbai. Their typical south Indian thali is complimented by the quintessential banana leaf and food that comes with a side of desi ghee, for the purists. There’s a limited and an unlimited one; the thali consists of sambar, rasam, two phulkas, rice, three vegetable curries, curd, chaas, and pappadum. Its legacy, location and quality of food attract customers from all across the city, so you’re likely to find a crowd whenever you visit. However, if you’re an early bird and don’t mind grabbing lunch before 1 PM, then you can definitely go unscathed.
Cost: INR 190 for an appetising unlimited thali.
III. Kerala Lunch Home To Satiate All Your Home Food Cravings
Where: 1, Motilal Nagar, Near Siddharth Hospital, Goregaon West, Mumbai
The food here is associated with heartfelt conversations in the company of Mr & Mrs Varghese, an elderly couple that runs Kerala Lunch Home as their retirement project. Walking in is like walking into your own home for a light meal as the food here is strongly reminiscent of homemade Malayali recipes.
Their veg thali comprises three delectable vegetable preparations, Kerala rice, roti, pappadum, and homemade pickle. Their non-veg thali replaces the vegetable preparations with scrumptious chicken or fish curry — depending on what you choose. This eatery shuts at 10:30 PM so make sure to grab a delicious platter before that.
Also, ever since the crackdown on single-use plastic bags they’ve stopped proving carry bags so don’t forget to carry one from home.
Cost: INR 110 for a veg thali, INR 140 for a non-veg thali.
IV. Gonguura For Some Conversations And Andhra Food
Where: 5/6, Juhu Ekta Co-operative Housing Society, Juhu Versova Link Road, Juhu, Mumbai
Named after the Gongura plant known for its edible leaves used in Andhra cuisine, this restaurant is run by Srividya — someone who has had her share of the corporate life before coming home to her culinary desires. She prefers being called a ‘home-cook’ rather than a chef and her ‘Good Old Andhra Meal’, we’ve heard, is a delightful assortment of Andhra flavours bursting in your mouth.
The plate is filled with hot puris, steamed rice, rasam, pappadum, flavoured rice, two dry sabzis, one gravy vegetable preparation, sambar, curd, a sweet and gunpowder.
A visit to Gonguura in the company of Srividya’s wit, wisdom, and the mouth-watering food is all you need to feel like home in a city that can sometimes feel like a stranger.
Cost: INR 385 for some heartwarming conversations and food.
V. Hotel Deluxe For A Typical Vegetable Sadhya
Where: 10-A, Pitha Street, Opposite Lane of Citi Bank, Fort, Mumbai
At first glance, Hotel Deluxe might not seem as appealing but trust its Zomato rating and barge in anyway. Known for its Kerala specific delicacies, this food joint’s limited vegetarian Sadhya (a Malayalee thali) comes with a variety of vegetable and pulse preparations guaranteed to be served on a banana leaf.
The platter consists of rice, sambar, avial, kuttu puri, vegetable thoran, pachadi, with a side mango or lime pickle, chutney, pappadum, rasam, and the most delicious payasam we’ve ever had. It’s available only during their lunch hours which begin at 11:30 AM and end at 4 PM.
Cost: One vegetable Sadhya at just INR 168
VI. Banana Leaf For A Thali Good Enough For Two
Where: Shubham CHS, Opposite Vikram Petrol Pump, Juhu Versova Link Road, 7 Bungalows, Andheri West (multiple locations)
With four outlets located across the city and an eco-friendly Ganpati to welcome you at the entrance, Banana Leaf boats of a traditional minimalistic South Indian ambience. It’s a little more pricey but definitely worth the money.
Their coconut milkshake is an experience we’d definitely recommend apart from their Banana Leaf Special Thali — an assortment of south Indian delicacies with a sweet pan to top it off. The thali includes chapati/paratha, plain rice, bisi bele bath, sambar, a veg stew dish, fresh curd and pappadum along with various vegetable preparations and some condiments. As much as we’d love to spend hours gorging this thali, we still can’t as it’s a limited one served during lunch and dinner hours both (12 PM–3 PM, 7 PM–11 PM). Although it does beat the others on this list for the quantity of food it offers (a little birdie tells us that it’s almost enough for two people).
Cost: A Banana Leaf Special Thali at INR 357
VII. Thambbi For A Regular And A Special Thali
Where: 14/15, Runwal Heights Premises, Opp Nirmal Mall, LBS Marg, Mulund West, Mumbai (Multiple Locations)
A one-stop-shop for all your South Indian food cravings, Thambbi is for the suburban resident looking for economical ways to kill those hunger pangs, without having to save up for the weekend. The lunch thalis here are available throughout the week with the south Indian vegetable preparation changing every day.
The normal south Indian thali, available from Monday to Friday, is a platter consisting of one dry vegetable preparation, one gravy vegetable preparation, dal, rasam, chapati, rice, pappadum, and set curd. The Special South Indian thali, for the weekend visitors, is a bonanza offering three extra dishes: curd rice, dal vada, and a Punjabi sabzi. The food is simple and tasty, even though the ambience doesn’t particularly stand out; their quick service and friendly staff, however, does.
Cost: INR 150 for a Veg South Indian thali, INR 194 for a weekend Special South Indian thali.
VIII. Simply Saraswat For The Ultimate Unlimited Thali
Where: Shop 4, Vrajdeep CHS, Chandavarkar Road, Next To 5 Spice, Borivali West, Mumbai
The food here is anything but simple. We started off with a tall glass of Kairi Jaljeera, perfect to cool off in Mumbai’s perpetual humidity, which arrived within a few minutes of ordering and then dived straight into their Unlimited Thali, which is available exclusively on Sundays only and has a 16 different items served on a Banana leaf. From Aamba Humane, Mango Saasam, Tomato & Onion Koshimber to Udidmethi, Dali Thoy, Rasam, and Dudhi Halwa — this thali is every foodie’s fantasy.
For those with a slightly smaller appetite, Simply Saraswat also offers a Regular thali which is available through the week and has (only) 10 different items: two vegetable preparations, rice, dal, rasam, papad, pickle, chapati, accompanied with some condiments. These thalis are available from 12 PM to 7 PM.
Cost: INR 299 for the Sunday Unlimited Thali; INR 180 for the Regular Thali.
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