The number and diversity of people who call Mumbai home make for a dining culture rich in variety, with everything from the country's hippest restaurants to roadside stalls serving an incredible variety of street food. There is an endless list of worthy restaurants. Here are a few that offer unforgettable experiences.
Sanjeev Kapoor, India's most celebrated chef, lists this branch of seafood specialists Gajalee as one of his favourite restaurants in the city. Casual, affordable and comfortable, it serves some of the finest Maharastrian (Mumbai is the capital of the state of Maharastra) seafood dishes around. Opt for the clam soup to start - a divine, milky concoction of soft shellfish and the fresh flavours of coriander and green pepper. Next, try prawns ambhat tikhat, plump, full-flavoured prawns in a coconut and raw mango-based masala that is beautifully smooth with a hint of sourness. Bombil fry - a small local fish coated in batter and deep fried - is another treat: the flesh is succulent, almost wet, and the batter a thin, crunchy crust. It is served with a mouth-watering chutney of coconut, coriander and garlic. Don't miss out on a glass of tart fuschia-coloured kokum (fruit of a kind of mangosteen tree) juice to cleanse the palate. There is an air-conditioned dining area or an open-fronted room with booths lit by pretty yellow lanterns.
Kadamgiri Complex, Hanuman Road, Vile Parle East, tel: +91 22 2616 6470
Britannia & Company
This quirky Parsi restaurant is a foodie's dream come true. Parsis are Zoroastrians who came to India from Iran around the 10th century and whose descendents mainly live in Mumbai and Pune. Britannia offers a rare chance to sample their traditional food. The restaurant was opened 90 years ago, the same year Boman Kohinoor, the oldest of the brothers who run the restaurant, was born. Located in the old colonial fort area of the city, the venue is a square hall with a high ceiling and paint peeling off the walls. Two dusty crystal chandeliers add to the nostalgic atmosphere. Try the delicious chicken berry pulav - saffron-stained, chicken-infused rice topped with thin strips of caramelised onion, minced chicken balls and tart, cranberry-like berries, called bar berries, imported from Iran. Also try the sali boti - a rich mutton stew topped with crunchy fried potato and served with sweet chapatis, followed by its famous caramel custard. While you eat, Kohinoor may take the time to show you his note from Queen Elizabeth thanking him for his letter in which he expressed his unwavering loyalty to the throne. Open for lunch only.
Wakefield House, 11 Sprott Road, 16 Ballard Estate, Fort, tel: +91 22 2261 5264
For a truly "wow" dining experience, the Zodiac Room at Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace is hard to beat - the restaurant has served celebrities and dignitaries for more than 20 years. Expect nothing but the finest ingredients, including Beluga caviar, Breton oysters and foie gras, served on lavish crockery and the best wines and spirits served in exquisite glassware. The service is impeccable, with cognac coffees flambéed dramatically beside your table. The in-house photographer gives each guest a souvenir framed portrait to take home. The tasting menu, available in vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions, is true indulgence and offers course after course of master chef Hemant Oberoi's best dishes. The hefty price tag is justified by the classy elegance of the experience.
Taj Mahal Palace, Apollo Bunder, Colaba, tel: +91 22 6665 3366 (ext 3111)
Amar Juice Centre & Fast Food
"This roadside eatery makes the best pav bhaji in town," says Kapoor, referring to a Maharastrian fast food dish. A thick potato-based curry with coriander, chopped onion and a dash of lemon is served with soft white bread called pav (from the Portuguese for bread - pao). Here, it is thick, rich and spicy, with a large dollop of ghee in the centre, and served without coriander. The chefs, visible in the cramped stainless steel kitchen, also serve up versions with cheese or dry fruits, or both, and south Indian dosas (large pancakes made from fermented rice batter), idlis (soft puffy rice cakes), burgers, pizzas, and fruit shakes. Seating is on plastic chairs on the pavement and service is equally basic.
Shop No 3, R N Cooper Hospital Compound, Gulmohar Road, Vile Parle West, tel: +91 22 2624 7917
Natural ice cream parlour
For a cooling treat after a spicy meal, head here for a cup or cone.
The ice creams, a steal at 35 rupees (HK$4.90) a serving, are made using all natural seasonal ingredients and include mango, young coconut, jackfruit and custard apple. There are year-round flavours, including kesar pista (saffron pistachio), kaju kismis (cashew raisin) and coffee and walnut.
137 Jyoti Sadan, N.S. Road, Marine Drive, tel: +91 22 6610 8000