Mumbai food: Sign up for an authentic Kerala home dining experienceJun 27, 2017, 08:28 IST
Mumbai food: The 20-seater Kerala Lunch Home is a must visit for a sumptuous mealKusumita DasMar 19, 2017, 12:07 IST
A hands-on Varghese supervises every dish before it's served. Pics/Shadab Khan
It's around 12.30 in the afternoon when we find ourselves at the doorstep of Kerala Lunch Home, tucked in discreetly behind a shadowy canopy. We had lost our way in the bylanes of Motilal Nagar 1, Goregaon (W), multiple times. But, as we are greeted with warm smiles along with a glass of warm medicinal water to cool off, we realise the effort has been worth it.
On the surface, the eatery looks like any other lunch home, except a lot more spic and span. And, the only thing one would find hard to digest here is that the only people running the eatery are 60-plus - retired airport catering security officer CK Varghese and his wife Mariamma. Word of mouth and social media have already gathered loyal fans for the month-old eatery.
Varghese and his wife start at 6 am and shut shop at 11 pm, without even an hour's break in between. Helping them in the kitchen is their son-in-law Biju Mathew, who left his job in Dubai as an electrical supervisor, to come and try his hand in the kitchen. Mathew confesses that he isn't proud of his cooking skills, and therefore helps with the mise en place, the shopping and the serving. It's Mariamma who does the bulk of the cooking, aided by another cook, and husband Varghese. So, essentially, they are a four-person crew, dolling out over 70 plates per day.
The lunch spread cooked by Mariamma and Varghese
Mariamma's cooking has always had a sustained fan following, says 62-year-old Varghese. "Everyone who'd come home would praise her food and come back for more. So, one day, we thought, it's time we share this with outsiders too," he says with a smile.
However, it was also a prolonged bout of illness he went through that rendered him bedridden for six months, which acted as a catalyst in putting plan to action. "In those six months, I was spoilt rotten by my wife and two daughters. They took so much care of me. But, the restless person that I am, it only toughened my resolve to do something with my life once I got better. And now, we are here!"
Not one to waste time pondering over the pros and cons, Varghese, once back on his feet, put a plan in place and set up the place in a week's time. "It was essentially about moving the home kitchen here, except on a larger scale. This is our food from our land. We didn't need to be taught anything else. And, we're running the place for the love of food, not for the love of profits."
As we warm up to lunch hour, guests slowly start trickling in. And, out come steaming plates of Kerala red rice, sambhar (cooked by Varghese), fried fish - rawas is the day's speciality, bangda curry cooked with raw mango, sukha chicken curry, and a fried methi dish peppered with shredded coconut - one of their bestsellers, we are told, besides rice and daal. Everything is served with Kerala papad on the side. Mutton is served only on Sundays, as is the signature tapioca vegetable, but, the latter could be as per order.
While the red rice may be an acquired taste, it marries well with the tangy raw mango bangda curry - very different from the Malwani and Goan style curries. The rawas, fried to perfection, is crispy on the outside and tender within. One bite into the methi and we're not surprised at its popularity. And, having to shell out only `70 for a veg thali and `80 for a non-veg one, further adds to its appeal.
The burly and boisterous Varghese and the rather petite and soft-spoken Mariamma are a picture of contrasts, sharing their own harmony. Looking at how the place works like clockwork, with deliciously simple food, prompt service and a cleanliness to boot, this duo is clearly a team to beat.