Things I will miss about Mumbai, Chapter 1. New Martin Hotel. Glorious Goan food, and pork chilly i would pillage and plunder for.No frills, no fuss. New Martin hotel has been a refuge for meat lovers and a haven for devotees of Goan food in Mumbai. Spotlessly clean, with five formica topped table in little booths and a dynamic chalkboard menu, this 14 by 14 ft restaurant is the place to go if you want a taste of what I think eating joints in heaven will be like – clean, efficient, to die for.
The staples have a permanent place on the menu but the specials (which are really special) get bumped off the list as takeaway orders fly out, and customers eat all that they can. So it’s better to get here early for lunch or dinner and take your time ploughing through the menu.
This is not a busy restaurant: it’s like Goa, sleepy, quiet and laid back (well, at least the parts of Goa I like). I’ve never heard the phone ring here but I see plenty of takeaway orders leaving the kitchen. Silence overcomes the patrons as eating is the only thing people want to do here. You go to some restaurants and the a$$holes make themselves known and often make me want to leave. But everyone eating at New Martin Hotel is a clever clogs: for choosing to be here an nowhere else.
Our routine is thus: we go in, we order one dish to share, like a chilli pork with pav (soft Maharashtrian bun). Five minutes later when that’s done we turn our heads to the menu and decide what’s to be scoffed next! And so repeats the cycle till you are left with nothing but the dessert for the day – either custard with the jelly or caramel custard. It may sound plain and boring but it’s just the kind of thick, wrap around, old school dessert hug you need.
Sometimes, while you are engrossed in mopping up that pork sorpotel gravy, the waiter swiftly marks an X next to an item on the menu. A collective sigh of disappointment from the patrons breezes through the restaurant as the kitchen runs out of something you had your eye on next. It’s the kind of place where one could try everything on the menu. But there are some things we keep coming back to: fish curry rice with surmai fry, pork chilli, beef chilli (when it wasn’t banned), fry egg and mince (minced mutton/lamb with scramble egg, onions, chillies, peas), mutton or chicken soup, ham egg and chips, steak and chips, steak and onions and pork sorpotel. I haven’t tried everything on the menu and this afternoon I was tempted by the sausage pulav (had I not already consumed three of the above).
Sadly there won’t be a next time, we leave Mumbai next Sunday…