Homemade Cafe (Andheri, Mumbai)

Homemade would be an epileptic’s nightmare. The flicker of cheap fairy lights on the ceiling, combined with some dying candles on the table was all to much for some. Mid-way through their mains, a pair of girls on the table beside us had had enough of the inadvertent strobe show and decamped to the table besides the window. I’m not quite sure it made too much difference though as one can barely swing a dead-cat in this place and the limited space doesn’t even afford the “privilege” of a washroom (clearly an ingenious idea to make sure guests don’t get too comfortable).

I’m with a feature columnist from one of India’s high-brow papers and she’s wanting to discuss some “important” matters. Luckily, I have brought along my very own “kabab-mein-haddi” to thwart any serious discussion or existential life questions. Sadly there’s no avoiding the myriad of cutesy quotations, general pieces of tat on the walls or the glittery birthday hats of the waiting staff. I’m not quite sure how long Homemade has been in existence, but I guess in Mumbai’s hyper competitive dining market, managing to stay a float for even the shortest periods of time is worth celebrating? Ultimately, if you go to sleep dreaming of bric-a-brac and flea markets, you might find Homemade vaguely endearing.

The Paneer salad is as good as any. The mixed lettuce leaves are fresh and do not belong to the shredded iceberg club (another thing worth celebrating!). The creamy mushroom and sesame dressing is a touch sweet but surprisingly goes perfect with the firmer variety of paneer.

The Classic fondue, which I team up with some mixed vegetables, is also more than acceptable. Subtle hints of garlic in the fondue and the herb coated bread croutons are appreciated. There is a system of forfeits that comes with fondue eating of which many seem oblivious. A lost piece of bread in the pot? Female guests are obliged to give “une bise” (kiss) to another diner and male guests have to make good with a round of drinks. Alas! With men forking out cash and women paying with romantic advances, that small pot of cheese represents thousands of years of gender inequality! What better place for its popularity to be so enshrined than in India?

I was ready to get on my high horse after I saw free brownies going to the table of girls sat next to us. What have they done to deserve free food? I demand. Fortunately, my diners remind me it is a universal and complimentary gesture after paying the bill. It’s a shame that the brownie is a bit stale and we had already consumed another table’s lot which they had palmed off on us (clearly not that good!)

If there’s anyway to sum up the place, perhaps it’s the book the girl on my right hand is reading: Anouska Knight’s “Since You Been Gone”. As one reviewer writes:

“Yes, we know where this is going. Its (sic) chick-lit and obviously, boy has just met girl and we’re going to get into some very delicious situations”.

Similarly for Homemade, the setting is predictable, the ambience overtly “chick-lit”, but the food is moreishly good and familiar.

Hence for now, I’ll leave the elitist recriminations and discussion on gastronomic importance for another day

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