Environment of the restaurant; Photo Credit: Meher Mirza
The array of dishes offered, shifts every day. Two or three dals are a constant -- one, a slightly sweeter Gujarati-style toor dal, and one a spicier, masala-laced one. Four vegetables dishes are served: one is always a potato dish, and one is always a sprout preparation. The other two dishes vary. They could be anything from bhindi to tendli to cauliflower to spinach (we got palak paneer and bitter gourd, the last time we visited!).
Alongside this delectable spread are the accompanying acts; hot, fresh rotis, slightly burnished by the tawa and freshly doused in molten ghee, and fluffy rice that is ladled generously onto your thali. Sometimes, you may find that you are served small, biscuity bhakris, and sometimes you may be served polis, stuffed with their signature sweet chana dal mixture.
A cut salad of tomatoes and cucumber (a sort of kachumber, if you will) garnishes the plate, while there is always, always farsan. The type of farsan may vary of course, if sometimes a crisp kachori, then other times, a dhokla, served with the accompanying sweet or spicychutneys. If you are lucky, you may even get dahi wada. After all, farsan is an integral part of the Gujarati thali, as it adds a variety of textures to the whole meal.
A cool steel glass of chaas, or a cooling katori of dahi are also par for the course. A plate of rainbow-hued chutneys and pickles is also plunked down on each table - I am particularly partial to the spicy garlic one.
And then of course, there is always a sweet, which changes every day. The Gulab Jamun, the rosogullaand the basundi are crowd favourites that are generally available all the year round. Not all the sweets are priced the same though; you are charged separately, depending on the meetha that you choose. If you go in the steamy summer months, you will also be offered a bowl of everyone's beloved aamras. Let me be the one to tell you that it is absolutely worth the extra cost!
Working staff at Friends Union Joshi Club; Photo Credit: Meher Mirza
This is all served in a giant thali, bigger than my head, on formica-topped tables, by waiters clad in jeans and a uniform of black and orange shirts. Friends Union Joshi Club is not a place that is conducive for conversation. The tables are laid out in horizontal rows, each seating two people side-by-side. It is purely functional, with little given over to such fripperies as style and decor
. The clientele on weekdays is mostly businessmen, who come in ones or twos, absorb their meal quickly, and get back to work - there is little chatter. On weekends though, it tends to be bursting at the seams.
Certainly, Mumbai has no dearth of Gujarati thali restaurants. Golden Star, Thacker's and Samrat, are just a few names that come to mind. Most of these offer air-conditioned comfort and an upmarket experience, with heavy, opulent dishes, that are delicious for an occasional (celebratory?) meal. But for a simple, delicious, home-style
Gujarati thali, served for a fraction of the price of the others, Friends Union Joshi Club is your best bet.
Where: Friends Union Joshi Club, 381-A, 1st floor, Narottam Wadi, Kalbadevi
Timings: 11 AM to 3 PM, 7 PM to 10 PM
Meal for two: INR 600
About the Author:
Meher Mirza is an independent writer and editor, with a focus on food and travel. Formerly with BBC Good Food India, she loves anime, animals and artsy things but also comics, technology and death metal.
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