Farewell, Flora of Worli

By Dhara Vora Sabhnani and Suman Mahfuz Quazi | Mumbai

Updated: Aug 18, 2018, 10:26 IST

As the iconic Chinese eatery shuts down in less than a fortnight, here are their fave picks that you should try before August 31

Pics/Bipin Kokate

Worli mein kahan?" the cabbie asks us when we hail one in Lower Parel. All we say is "Flora", and in 10 minutes, we arrive outside the familiar green-tiled roof property. The vintage-looking Chinese signboard is hard to miss, as is the glass door with dragon motifs, red lanterns and ceramic pots in corners.

On August 12, Sunday Mid-day broke the news of the impending closure of Worli's famous Chinese restaurant that will be shutting shop on August 31. The decision comes after the building was declared unsafe by the BMC, with Flora and Rakhangi General Stores next door being the last occupants to move out. "The restaurant still has a permit room, like at the old-time restaurants of Mumbai," says Aditi Limaye Kamat, whose father, Rahul Limaye (owner of Dadar's Gypsy Chinese) helps run the restaurant, due to a long friendship with its late owner,
Anthony Leo.

It's a working weekday afternoon when we visit, and several tables are occupied by a mix of corporates, couples, and old-time patrons, who, the manager Dyaneshwar tells us, enquire whether Flora will reopen at another venue. The space has had an illustrious list of regulars — from lawyer Rajan Shirodkar, Gautam Thakur (chairman, Saraswat Bank) to Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. Kamat reveals that Thackeray designed the nameplate at Leo's home. Leo's wife, Doretta, also runs Blue Heaven salon in Colaba.

Flora has an interesting film connect as well. It was seen in several Hindi films, one of which is the Amol Palekar-starrer Chhoti Si Baat, where Palekar impresses Vidya Sinha with his chopstick skills at Flora. Old-timers from the neighbourhood also recall it being a favourite among film stars who dropped by for lunch in between shoots at Worli promenade.

Time: 11.30 am to 3.30 pm; 6.30 pm to 12 am
At: Khanna Construction House, Worli.
Call: 24936602

The Guide's Top five picks

Gupshup fave

Flora pepper chicken
Hailed as a favourite by patrons, the Flora pepper chicken (Rs 395) is a regular fried chicken served with onions and a wedge of lime. The crunchy coating is flavourful and the chicken, too, is soft and juicy. Though not exquisite, we understand why it's popular — it's ideal for snacking over gupshup.

Pork it

Roast pork chilly
Each bite of the roast pork chilly (Rs 425) transports us to the dimly lit cubbyholes in Tangra, Kolkata. The chunks of pork are meatier than the variety served in the City of Joy, but the brackish, spicy flavour is intact in the version we joyfully lap up. The pieces of julienned chilly the pork is tossed in, is a classic Kolkata Chinese touch, too.

Peppered talk

Garlic pepper chicken
A colourful plate of chicken bits tossed in garlic, whole peppercorn, spring onions and small red onions, the garlic pepper chicken (Rs 395) is a classic and a staple at every quintessential Chinese eatery that celebrates the fusion cuisine. The dish is tangy and the generous amount of garlic adds crunch to it.

The prawn star

Chow chu prawns
Who doesn't order seafood at an Asian restaurant, right? We will take it with a pinch of salt if you say we're biased towards prawns. But we have reasons for and if you are visiting the eatery before it shuts its doors, the chow chu prawns (Rs 595) is a must try. The crispy prawns, much like tempura, are light and snackable with subtle flavours. We are thankful that the fried dish isn't sickeningly oily either. It is donned with crunchy burnt bits of garlic that pack the dish with a punch and make it stand out.

Driving a veg

Veg sparrow nest

Aesthetically pleasing, the veg sparrow nest (Rs 325) is akin to wantons, if they were turned inside out. The shells are made of tapioca flour and crunchier than the fried starters, which usually make use of maida. The filling, however, made of chopped beans, carrots, potato and more, is lacklustre.

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