It played in our heads on loop – like a gritty scene from a low-budget movie that would later go viral and make a ton of money. Imagine: A group of rebels conspiring around a canteen table, lit by a naked light bulb. They’re eating sandwiches and talking about torture techniques, sipping tea and thinking of how to reclaim their freedom.
This is the mental image we carried on the ride over to Cafe Free India, a new Lower Parel restaurant with a moniker that drove our imagination into overdrive. What we found instead was a regular cafe that despite being cute, made us feel disappointed.
Yes, we set ourselves up for this.
Between The Rock and a Hard(ware) Place
Inconveniently located between a local grocery and hardware store, Cafe Free India sits on a busy one-way street (same road as Hard Rock Cafe) that doesn’t support parking. After we found a spot with much difficulty, we were hoping the food would be a revolution, err, revelation.
Inside you’ll find cafe staples - cane chairs, wooden floor, stained glass windows and shelves stocked with novels, coffee table books and magazines. We took an Agatha Christie (for old time’s sake) off the shelf and settled on a table facing the powder blue Deepak Cinema across the street.
The cafe claims to offer 'free-spirited dining' (?), which is nothing but burgers, pizza, Calcutta rolls, pasta and meaty entrees. Considering it was an evening visit, we decided to skip the mains and keep it snacky.
First came the soup of the day: a bowl of Tibetan thukpa noodle soup that reminded one of us Scouters of her boarding school at Kodaikanal, where she’d dunk cubes of Amul cheese into her hot Tibetan soup on cold evenings. Yum and comforting, get this with the minced chicken.
Next came the Southern fried chicken burger (Rs 195) in a metallic wire gauze basket lined with butter paper (Burgs, take note of presentation) and served with fries in a cute pouch. And to match this pretty picture were equally tasty bites - a non-greasy crisp patty, creamy mayo and soft whole wheat bread. A cheap alternative to the Hard Rock Cafe burger down the street. The last bit of our meal was the least remarkable, a Calcutta roll (Rs 90) with carrots, onions and tomatoes snugly wrapped in a wheat roti. Mildly spiced, skinny and non-oily, this is a tame, non-fun version of Hangla’s Calcutta roll. Still, our evening here was an enjoyable experience on the whole.
Just as were about to leave, we noticed a spiral staircase leading to a separate area, hidden from the public gaze. Could the cutesy chairs be a front for a new revolution brewing out back? And suddenly, Cafe Free India was intriguing again.
Getting there: Cafe Free India, NM Joshi Marg, opposite Deepak Cinema, Lower Parel, 24367681, Rs 677 for a meal for two.
bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.
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