In 2007, blueFROG (reserve now), launched in Mumbai with its UFO-esque vibe, was one of the earliest contemporary restaurants and bars to have interiors that were as talked about as anything else they had to offer. In 2010, Indigo Deli opened its Phoenix Mills outlet, and it felt like more people were talking about the restaurant’s interiors than its delicious food. And with its high ceiling covered in undulating, rich brown beams, who could blame them?
Woodside Inn, Andheri: (reserve now)
Over at the Andheri outlet, there’s a lot more room, with interiors and an alfresco section that lose none of the old world-meets-contemporary charm. Despite its posh interiors, Woodside Inn offers reasonably priced food and drinks that are made even cheaper with incredible deals and seasonal offers. At the moment, cricket fans will love the Buzzlive offers — which include cocktails, beers, sangrias, and shots at unbelievable prices — for the duration of the T20 world cup. The original Colaba outlet takes full advantage of the century-old building’s high, arched windows, which frame bustling Colaba Causeway.
Havana Café and Bar, Colaba: (reserve now)
Looking for a place to catch all the action in south Mumbai? Head to Havana, where Buzzlive is running promos on drinks and starters during T20 match screenings. Amidst colourful archways that contrast perfectly with the black-and-white chequered floors and rustic brick and stone walls, the restaurant’s layout is reminiscent of a colonial-era courtyard, complete with a fountain at its centre. Try the Cuban-inspired food, and their special house cocktails.
Le 15 Café, Colaba:
A mini oasis in bustling Colaba. The food is to die for, try the parmesan waffles with poached eggs, perfectly pillowy gnocchi, or the burrata, and any of the desserts (but especially the divine, chocolate-caramel Lucie) — and so is the décor. Large windows, patterned walls, wooden and tiled flooring are all punctuated by the bursts of colour provided by the upholstery specially created by fashion designer Masaba Gupta, and vases, plus a tower of old chaiwala-style kettles filled with flowers.
You’ll feel like you’ve dived right into a storybook, with white-washed walls lined with pages of old books, whimsical murals, and painted table tops. But the beauty is in the details, from antlered chairs to book lamps and fantastical phones, all of these fit nicely into the storybook theme of the place. The food, though not storybook-inspired, is a hit. Serving up a mix of international and regional dishes, you’ll require repeated visits to work your way through the menu. Try the signature Egg Decker (scrambled eggs on a bed of rosti potato and spinach), Malwani calamari, prawn or lobster balchao, and the Indian salmon drizzled with a buttery sauce.
The glass façade of Zorawar Kalra’s latest property, offers a glorious view of the Arabian Sea at sunset, but if you arrive after dark, worry not. Lit entirely by organic candles that are reflected in what feels like a thousand tiny, angled mirrors, entering this space is a bit like stepping into a dream. While you’re busy marvelling at the remarkable interiors (and the wonder of taking selfies by candlelight – such flattering lighting!), the mixologists work to create their signature cocktails like Bollywood Bhang (served in a skull-shaped glass!) and the coconut and curry patta-infused Evening at Chowpatty.
SodaBottleOpenerWala, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra East:
All about quirky nostalgia, the floor tiles are reminiscent of an old Parsi home. The restaurant is packed with sturdy wooden chairs and tables that even the most particular of bawa uncles would approve of. But it’s the lace-trimming on the red tablecloths, vintage pictures of Parsi couples on the walls, large chalkboards, that make this Irani café-wannabe truly Bombaiyya. While the Parsi dishes are delicious (try the patra ni macchi, mutton dhansak, berry pulao and salli boti), so are the Bombay-inspired ones (including the eggs Kejriwal, baida roti, and Breach Candy Awesome Okra).
Bombay Vintage, Colaba:
Mumbai nostalgia goes a step further with white-washed wooden furniture upholstered in red velvet — a call back to old Bombay’s romanticised notions of gangsters and molls — exposed beams, classic Bollywood posters, an art deco bar (their mini ode to Mumbai’s favourite school of architecture) and little vintage trinkets scattered around the space. Waiters in Gandhi-topis serve Mumbai-inspired dishes — a mix of seafood, street food, and fusion —including standouts like bacon-wrapped prawns, vada pav sliders, pav bhaji pizza, pork chops, and the surprisingly delicious makhani pasta.
With an increased emphasis on décor in Mumbai, restauranteurs are giving more than just a little thought to the backdrop against which you’ll be eating your meals.