Cafés Off the Beaten Path in Bombay

Bombay’s burgeoning café culture has always been one of its most vibrant charms, running the gamut from old-world Irani establishments to modern-day indie coffee houses. The usual suspects are manifold, but there are only so many Sundays in a month deemed acceptable for the umpteenth revisit to KGC or The Nutcracker. Thank goodness then for hidden gems off the beaten path, carving out a cosy corner to escape to in the midst of a busy day!

Zen Café

Squirrelled away within one of the many side-streets of Kala Ghoda, Zen café presents a cool oasis on a balmy afternoon – a touch hipster, a touch industrial-chic, softened by the plethora of philodendrons spilling out in the centre of the room. Visit for a spiced hot chocolate or a cool down with a luscious ice tea; and be sure to bookmark the hazelnut chocolate pastry for when your sweet cravings strike!

Zen Café, Fort Foundation Building, Bake House Lane, Kala Ghoda

The Champagne Lounge at Oberoi 

They say that the best-kept secrets are the ones hidden in plain-sight, and that’s certainly true of the coffeeshop at The Oberoi. Leading off from the hotel’s atrium lobby, the airy lounge is awash with natural light flooding in through the floor-to-ceiling windows during the days, whilst gently illuminated by the twinkling glow of the Queens Necklace by nightfall, a lilting tone set by the hotel’s iconic red piano. It’s the soufflé which is always the final crescendo though, with flavours ranging from chocolate-chip to caramelised hazelnut… this is really as good as things get in Bombay!

Hotel Oberoi Tower, Nariman Point

Food for Thought at Kitab Khana

Housed in a vintage bookstore near Flora Fountain, Kitab Khana, this quaintly-simple café is perfect for when you’re looking to get stuck in a new book whilst tucking into a Bombay-style toastie. A steaming cuppa apple tea or melted hot chocolate are always an inviting proposition too, mellowed by a lively hum of chatter as Food for Thought is a favourite bolthole for young lawyers working in the area!

Food for Thought, Somaiya Bhavan, 45 / 47 Mahatma Gandhi Rd, Flora Fountain, Fort

The welcoming homeliness characteristic of FfT makes an endearing first impression at Plenty as well, recently opened in Horniman Circle by the same folks behind Kitab Khana. It’s a gentle establishment majoring in all manners of comfort fare, from avocado-toast (layered with pickled beets) to a spiced banana cake and double chocolate tart.

Plenty, 3-B Raja Bahadur Mansion, 24-A Mumbai Samachar Marg, Fort, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001 

Blue Tokai

Ensconced within the quiet solace of Shakti Mills in Mahalaxmi, Blue Tokai’s original roastery-cum-café is something of a haven for all ye caffeine snobs. Beans are regularly roasted on premises and the coffee brewed with a meticulous – almost scientific – precision. Throw in a cruffin (a croissant-muffin hybrid), and you have all the makings of a morning (or afternoon) gratifyingly well spent! Full review, here.

Blue Tokai, Unit 20/22 Laxmi Woolen Mill, Opposite Khazana Furniture, Shakti Mill Lane, Off Dr E Moses Road, Mahalaxmi

Taj Mahal Tea House

If coffee isn’t your cup of tea, there’s always Taj Mahal Tea House which uses offbeat ingredients – from spicy curry leaf to coconut, to show off the tea brand’s signature blends. It’s set in a colonial style bungalow replete with sunny alcoves, a resting sitar, chess tables and lounge chairs – affording plenty of opportunity to linger and pleasurably lose track of time!

Taj Mahal Tea House, 36/A, Sanatan Pereira Bungalow St John Baptist Rd, General A.K.Vaidya Marg Bandra West

Bird Song Café

Also tucked away in the bylanes of Bandra is Bird Song – an organic eatery which proves that eating healthy when eating out can be a rather happy-go-lucky-affair. Free from refined sugars, dairy and flour, the vegan chocolate and strawberry cake is worth a visit for alone!

Birdsong the Organic Café, shop no 1-5, Jenu-Jenai, Waroda Road, off Hill Road, Bandra (W)

The Quarter at The Royal Opera House

Residing within the awe-inspiringly grand Opera House, The Quarter is a four-in-one venue spanning an al fresco restaurant (inspired by the Creole cuisine of New Orleans); a jazz bar and music club; a wine and mozzarella bar (the first of it’s kind in the city); and an all-day café where colonial charm meets Parisian chic décor

I’ll level with you – the food is not as transporting an experience as the space itself. Divided into salads, pastas and flat-breads – the menu manifests in a mixed bag of a few well-constructed hits and other underpowered misses (ultimately let down by wearisome combination of textures). And yet you’ll find yourself lingering, reluctant to tear yourself away from this time-warp of a bistro. It’s a good thing then, that the Tres Leche (a densely-layered milk cake) is reason alone to stay on for a bit longer.

Take a look inside the Royal Opera House, here. | The Quarter, Royal Opera House, Pandit Paluskar Marg.

Enjoyed reading this? You might also like this caffeine addict’s guide to the best coffee in the city.

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  1. farudaru

    Agree with almost all on this list, with the exception of birdsong. The village Shop, also in bandra and just a few meters away from BS, is far superior. Love the vibe, food & a good cuppa coffee or herby chai.

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