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11.04.2017

So many cafés use “home-style” as a handy description of their aspirations that you may be forgiven for thinking of home as a place where meals are served on rough wooden platters and the wifi never works.

But home, among other things, is a place you miss; and G5A’s new café Port, by chance or design, recalls times and places we didn’t think Mumbai had room for any more. Tea Centre is gone; Samovar is over; you still can’t get a table at Prithvi Café (and it’s in Juhu — sorry!).

Scoot over instead with your jhola and bearded boyfriend to leisurely, sunlit Port, attached to Lakshmi Mills’ performance venue G5A. It’s both a Bombay theatre café and a re-imagination of one, right down to décor over-invested in friendly green plants and fat block-print cushions.

The food is intensely nostalgic: tomato sauce over pasta is peppery, fresh and deep red. A platter of chilli-cheese toast arrives topped with slivers of roasted bell peppers and generous sprinklings of rosemary; fresh lime water and lemon iced tea taste like they were brewed in a smart aunty’s kitchen, sweet but not too sweet, dashingly garnished with sprigs of mint.

Mediterranean eggs, perfectly fried and topped with heaps of shakshouka-style sauce, are so comforting that you may be willing to let your kurta-clad sweetie mansplain Stanislavski to you so you can eat it in peace.

On a melting summer afternoon, amidst smiling waiters in collared shirts and tables topped with almost-too kitschy aluminium platters, it’s possible to squint and imagine that Port is a 1970’s café where a barefoot painter might walk in and commandeer a table at any minute. Mediterranean eggs, perfectly fried and topped with heaps of shakshouka-style sauce, are so comforting that you may be willing to let your kurta-clad sweetie mansplain Stanislavski to you so you can eat it in peace.

If you don’t like old-school carb delivery mechanisms and have no real emotional attachment to a lost world of arty Bombay café culture, tread carefully. Port’s flavours are broad and simple and there isn’t an unpolished grain to be found anywhere on the menu, even if we did spot — and avoid — an obligatory quinoa salad.

A ‘Port’ pizza, served with jalapeno, olives and stringy mozzarella, is pale of dough and chewy of crust. Cold coffee, fortified with a hefty dollop of vanilla ice-cream, is the sort of thing a granny might serve you if she was seeing you after a year. As for the brewed coffee, alas: matched against Blue Tokai in the same compound, it’s the beverage equivalent of burnt toast. Note: a new lunch menu that launches next week, promises a nutella-sea salt ice cream sandwich.    

We can’t wait to see Port overflowing with waxed moustaches and handloom saris after a G5A performance, but it might be even nicer on these hot, empty summer afternoons, where the tables — for now — are unoccupied and you, your laptop and a brunch that sticks to your ribs can all commune in a moment of old-fashioned happiness.

Getting there: Port, G5A, Lakshmi Mills Industrial Estate, Mahalakshmi, next to Masque. A meal for three costs Rs 1,900.

Accessibility: Ground-level entry but no ramps to get around; a pretty terrace is only accessible via stairs.

bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.

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Food & Drink