Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Arty Café, Earthy Food & Caife Gaelach!

After a day of running around the city running errands and completing odd-jobs that had piled over the weeks, we missed our lunch. By evening, Neeti and I were famished, craving for anything edible with, literally, an intense fire in the belly!

As we finished the pending tasks at Santa Cruz (West), we took the the SV Road towards home. As we drove along the road, we recced the outlets there - Dominoes and Subway were ruled out. We turned left towards Mithibai College. Neeti suggested that we try our Amar Juice Centre or the Mithibai canteen. I vetoed that - Amar Juice Centre is at best overrated or at worst crappy! And I ruled out the Mithibai canteen as well - I wanted a wee-bit of sophistication at the place where we ate, instead of having raging hormones, strange accents with weird hair-dos around us.

As we approached the Gulmohur Road junction, I suggested that we head to Prithvi Café. With some amount of trepidation Neeti agreed and we headed towards Janki Kutir.

After parking the car on the road we walked into Janki Kutir. Janki Kutir is anything unlike any other place in Mumbai. With cobbled streets, giant leafy trees and single or double storied apartments, Janki Kutir has a certain village-like appeal.

Nestled in one of the cobbled streets lies Prithvi Theatre - this place is an institution in itself. It was set up by the veteran actor, Mr. Shashi Kapoor in the memory of his father, Mr. Prithviraj Kapoor, the doyen of Indian cinema!

Today we returned to the theatre after nearly 3 years. The place was bustling with people looking forward to the next play. There was other groups, arty people as was evident by their looks and style of dressing, gathered at the open air Café sipping on endless cups of teas, coffees and sodas, having long winding intellectual discussions. Makarand Deshpande was roaming around, so were a number of other theatre and television personalities.

The Café used to have a decent array of exceptional continental bites - baked beans on toast, sauteed mushrooms on toast, besides omelettes and beverages - Irish coffee has top of mind recall when it comes to Prithvi Café. But a few years back the Café contractor had changed and this was the first time we were visiting after the transition.

The croissants, muffins, sandwiches and other bites on display at the counter were hardly appealing. There was a chaat counter, the sev puri kinds, which hardly appeals to any self-respecting North Indian - that was easily passable.

At the very end, much to our relief, we discovered a new section serving full meals. The menu was limited but the waiter was eager to help. We ordered a dal makhani, gobhi paratha, roomali roti and tawa chicken, with lime soda. For some reason, I expected a mediocre meal, but the full bloodied earthy tastes were a pleasant revelation.

The dal makhani was authentic, the lentils were soft, the gravy thickened over the hours in true north-western style! The chicken was tender in a spicy gravy reduced over the heavy iron griddle. The roomali rotis were flaky and thin. The gobhi parathas were delectably thick with a generous filling of spicy grated cauliflower. Our waiter, Qureishi, was exceptionally patient and very courteous, a personality trait which is rarely found in newer eateries.

After quickly gulping down our early dinner, we turned our attention to the beverages. I am always ready for Irish coffee, while Neeti selected green tea with a pinch of lime.

As legend has it, Irish coffee or Caife Gaelach as the Irish would call it, was concocted by Joseph Sheridan, a head chef at Shannon Airport, after a group of American passengers disembarked from a Pan Am flying boat on a miserable winter evening in the 1940s. Sheridan added whiskey to the coffee to warm the passengers. After the passengers asked if they were being served Brazilian coffee, Sheridan told them it was Irish coffee. So began the legend!

Prithvi Café does not use whiskey, instead it uses a flavouring. The glass of flavoured black coffee was topped with whipped cream, a centimetre thick and a coffee bean on the centre.

Although, Irish coffees are available at Café Coffee Days and Baristas, the Irish coffees here at Prithvi are different - the espresso is distinctly bitter here, the whiskey flavouring intense and whipped cream is barely sweet, making the whole sensation intensely flavourful!

Thankfully, though the menus at Prithvi have evolved, Irish coffee remains strong on the menu!

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