Lunch at Leopold, dessert at Theo’s and shopping at Colaba Causeway
At one time Leopold Cafe was an ordinary Irani restaurant, except that it attracted the bohemian kind of crowd. If we had ventured there in its earlier days it was more out of accident or curiosity. A recent visit confirmed what I had heard…that Leopold wasn’t its seedy self anymore.
Today Leopold sports a different look. The patrons are mostly foreigners (this was the case even then) but the difference today is that they are the respectable sort! This is indeed a great place for a tourist to have an inexpensive meal…though not a meal always served on the double. But then the food is authentic and the place very clean with an usable toilet stacked with toilet paper. If Leopold has become more “polished” now I am sure that featuring in Shantaram (the novel based on author Gregory David Roberts’ experiences in India) had something to do with it. As an aside, Shantaram is going to be made into a movie, and as Johnny Depp has bought the rights to the book, he will play the hero and Mira Nair will be directing him. The book is an unputdownable thriller, well, at least for me it was so.
Leopold is not a favourite with Indians even today, and I think perhaps they do not consider the place value for money…most Indians gravitate towards the air-conditioned enclosure upstairs anyway. Foreigners tend to sit in the non-air-conditioned area which is open from two sides…it’s hot and crowded (tables are very close together) but the crowd today is very decent.
Here is a picture of what it looks like now. The signage has changed…
Those little white, yellow and blue plastic sheets you see just behind the cars are there to protect the hawker’s stalls from the monsoons. The pavement just outside the cafe is full of hawkers and in fact that whole side is so dotted right till the end. The pavement on the other side is free of hawkers.
For a cafe of this kind, the menu is delightfully long, boasting of a wide variety of Indian and Continental dishes. The Indian food here is cheaper than the continental fare, with most Indian dishes available for under Rs 200/-, even the non-vegetarian ones. The Continental dishes cost more…some pastas and risottos costing around Rs 300/- for modest quantities. The food is very good and to me at least the pesto pasta (with generous helpings of sliced chicken in a thick cheese and pesto sauce) was value for money as it was the best I’ve eaten for a long time. The iced tea was a treat…genuine iced tea that one doesn’t get even in a better class of restaurant.
This is to give you an idea of what Leopolds looks like from the inside (I’ve combined 3 pictures into 1) and don’t miss the painting on the wall or the high ceiling. Overall there was so much movement in the place that I couldn’t get a decent photograph.
Another place where we dropped into was Theo’s. This bakery has been much written about but we were a trifle disappointed and felt it did not live up to its name. When we arrived there, around 3 in the afternoon, their famed cheesecake was missing, there was no whole wheat bread and only one walnut brownie was left. What surprised me was the attitude of the owners/managers. They didn’t seem to care at all…infact there was no attempt to explain why the said items were not there. When we asked whether the cheesecake was over, the snappy reply we got was “We don’t have it.” Clearly, Theos is basking in the glory of the rave reviews it has received in newspapers and magazines.
On the other hand I found a lady behind the counter chatting comfortably with some customers, as if she knew them. Good for the owner/manager! With so many old loyal customers why do they need to bother with strangers!
I also found two-three flies sitting on some of their wares, wherever the plastic sheet covering had slipped off. I didn’t bother to inform them because I knew I would just get a cold stare. The service was pathetic. There were a few tables where one could sit down and order coffee and snacks and we asked for coffee but the “waiter” forgot all about it! We had to remind him.
Leopolds and Theos are located at Colaba Causeway, which even now is not entirely the best place to be. It used to be though. Here is what Nadar Parakh writes :
The Causeway is Bombay at its shabbiest, its liveliest and its sleaziest…From the fortress like encampments at Cusrow Baug, where the Parsis can look down in disgust at the natives misbehaving all around them, to the Blue Nile Bar with its dubious cabarets, the Causeway houses them all. The broken sidewalks are lined with shops on one side, hawkers on the other, and touts all over…In the 1950s this was Bombay’s most fashionable shopping address, where powdered and coiffeured women did a fine spot of afternoon shopping. Those same women would now not venture here, unless they were keen to have their bottoms pinched…
To be fair to Colaba Causeway it’s not as bad as it was before. The pavements have been fixed and you have some fancy restaurants lined up. Leopold has redeemed some of its reputation, and so has Colaba Causeway and I am sure Theo’s has contributed. Not that the Causeway is a place where shoppers head for…oh no. You will mostly find tourists wandering around there and students slumming it out for a good deal. You can pick up some decent footwear and casual clothes and jewellery too…dirt cheap if you can bargain.
Today however Bandra’s Linking Road has more on offer for the bargain hunter, and Fashion Street which is less than a kilometer away from the Causeway offers a good variety of casual clothes.
I will leave you with some pictures.. the first photograph in the first collage is the entry into Colaba Causeway (the heritage building is the MLA’s hostel), the second picture is of the pavement at the Causeway, the third is the crowded road (no place to park!) and the fourth is a lane off the Causeway, leading to the Taj Mahal hotel.
The next collage is of the hawker side of the Causeway:
And the wares…the picture on the top left hand corner is of some herbs that a man was selling to “cure” diseases, in case you are curious.
And this is what happens to you if you don’t find the right spot to park! And this warning is a serious warning by the way as it regularly happens to people…and not just those who park in the wrong places at Colaba, but in other parts of South Mumbai where space is at a premium.
Related Reading: Fashion Street for cheap cotton ready-made clothes
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Where to buy antique wooden furniture in Mumbai
Nirmal Lifestyle mall – a review
R-Mall – a review