I'm going to Mumbai next month on what will be my third trip to the city. But this time, instead of dining at the usual five-star hot spots, I want to try out street foodstalls and smaller haunts that most tourists are unaware of. Can you suggest a few places for an authentic experience? Mumbai is crammed with hundreds of cafes and restaurants whose nondescript exteriors belie the fantastic food available inside. Some of the most famous include Churchill (Colaba Causeway; 0091 22 2284 4689), a small but comfortable restaurant that does big, hearty sandwiches and fruit-laced iced teas. It's usually full of weary shoppers indulging themselves after a day of pounding the streets.
Cafe Mondegar, or Mondy's, also on Colaba (0091 22 2202 0591) is one of Mumbai's best-known landmarks, and is first and foremost a pub. The restaurant is owned by an Iranian family and was established in 1925. The ambience is cool and kitschy - an ancient jukebox in a corner belts out tunes and the walls are covered in Mario Miranda murals that depict the cartoonist's wry take on life in this bursting-at-the-seams metropolis.
Leopold's, another Colaba great, was established in 1871 (www.leopoldcafe.com; 0091 22 2282 8185) and has all the hallmarks of a fine Iranian cafe - antique posters hang on the walls and the furniture typically consists of spindly chairs and small wooden tables with red-check tablecloths. Leopold's claim to fame is its coffee, lamb preparations and chicken biryani. One of the most famous restaurants in south Mumbai is Samovar (Colaba, 0091 22 2284 8000), located beside the Jehangir Art Gallery. The service is quick and the menu includes all-time favourites such as boti (minced meat) rolls and vegetable-stuffed paratha.
If you're in Worli, stop at the Haji Ali Juice Centre (www.hajialijuice.com) for a refreshing break from the heat. This booth has been blending juices for more than 50 years and is the best place to experiment with exotic concoctions such as the custard apple and chikoo smoothie. If you've got a craving for seafood, Soul Fry (Silver Croft, Pali Road, Bandra West; 0091 22 2604 6892) is where you should go. The menu is so extensive that you might have trouble making up your mind. A few tips: try the red-hot Goan curry, Bombay duck fry (it's a kind of fish, not a bird) and recheado (spiced) pomfret.
Another well-known restaurant that specialises in seafood is the modestly decorated Mahesh Lunch Home (www.maheshlunchhome.com; 0022 22 2544 1822), where customers queue patiently for a table and sizzling platters of pomfret gassi and king crab sukka. Uncle's Kitchen (Malad West; www.uncleskitchen.com, 0091 22 2888 1752) offers unbeatable Indian Chinese delicacies. This decades-old restaurant started out as a small stall and is now one of the most popular places for miles. Its specialities are chicken fried rice, prawn schezwan and the soups.
If it's Indian-style fast food that you are after, there is no better place than the Chaat Corner at Elco Arcade (Hill Road, Bandra West). Start with pani puri (crisp, hollow puffs filled with cumin-flavoured water and lentils) and pav bhaji (mashed vegetable and bread) and finish off with a creamy mango kulfi (traditionally made ice cream). Do you have travel questions or queries? If so, e-mail them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org