Popularity Contest: A Look At The Nominees For The Zomato User’s Choice Awards Part 1

Britannia and Co. is among the dozen nominees for Best Irani Cafe.

Britannia and Company is among the dozen nominees for Best Irani Cafe.

Food awards in our country are increasingly becoming like film awards. There are now more than you could care to remember. The newest is restaurant listings site Zomato’s User’s Choice Awards that covers ten categories in seven cities. The nominees in Mumbai show that while the awards aim to honour the “best and most popular” food brands in India, those two adjectives are not necessarily synonymous. Here’s a quick look at the nominees in the first five categories:

Irani cafe
B. Merwan, Britannia and Company, Cafe Universal, Cafe Excelsior, Cafe Ideal, Good Luck Cafe, Cafe Military, Ideal Corner, Jimmy Boy, Kyani and Co., Sassanian, Yazdani
Our take It’s hard to fault the inclusion of any of these names, each of which has been tried and tasted for several decades. Including Universal, which these days is seen by many as more of a bar than a restaurant. Perhaps its spot could have been given to Stadium in Churchgate, another long-standing Irani that doesn’t quite get the same publicity as the others on this list. Conspicuously absent is Koolar Cafe in Matunga East, among the few suburban Irani joints.

Between Breads, Cafe On The House, Cafe Sundance, Fatboy’s Kitchen, Fat Man’s Cafe, Frisbees, Gostana, Hard Rock Cafe, Howra, Hunger Pangs, Imbiss, The Big Nasty, Smoke House Deli, Woodside Inn
Our take A whopping 14 nominees despite the fact that after the #beefban, it’s hard to truly judge the quality of a good burger in our city. The list seems to honour some neighbourhood favourites that many outside those neighbourhoods may not have heard about. However, we can’t help but wonder about the inclusion of some names. For instance, we’ve been to Howra in Breach Candy because it’s a convenient place for a chat with a friend when you don’t want to go to a coffee shop but the food there is far from award-worthy. We’re wondering how Ellipsis and The Table, both purveyors of quality American fare were left off the list.

Best Cafe
Candies, D’Crepes Cafe, Di Bella Coffee, Food For Thought, Kala Ghoda Cafe, Leaping Windows, Le Cafe, Prithvi Cafe, Quench Cafe, The Bagel Shop, The Nutcracker, The Pantry, The Rolling Pin
Our take Cafe is a much misused word in the Indian restaurant scene, employed sometimes to describe places that are just coffee shops as well as those that are simply restaurants. While this list includes some neighbourhood gems that have gone on to become universal favourites (Candies, Kala Ghoda Cafe, Prithvi Cafe), it also has a coffee chain (Di Bella), a bar (Quench) and a bakery/confectionery (The Rolling Pin). Where then is Suzette? Or for that matter The Yoga House? Both would qualify under this loose definition of the term.

Apoorva, Fresh Catch, Gajalee, Gomantak, Jai Hind Lunch Home, Konkan Cafe, Mahesh Lunch Home, Malwani Kalwan, Pangat, Pratap Lunch Home, Pebbles, Satkar Rice Plate House, Trishna
Our take Like the Irani cafe nominees, this list has all the usual South Mumbai suspects. Put the two lists together and you’ll get most of the places on our Guide to Getting Lunch In Fort, but they’ve managed to overlook old Fort favourite Ankur in the selection. Notably, they’ve mixed up lunch homes with five-star establishments. However, we’re tempted to accuse Zomato’s awards team of something we’re often accused of: having an anti-suburb bias. Where, for instance, is Goa Bhavan in Juhu? And Highway Gomantak in Bandra East? Oh! Calcutta specialises in Bengali as opposed to Konkani-Malwani cuisine but it deserves a spot in any conversation about great seafood options in our city.

Best Pubs
Blue Frog, Colaba Social, Doolally Taproom, Gangsta’s, Harry’s Bar and Cafe, Hoppipola, Leopold Cafe and Bar, Monkey Bar, Sammy Sosa, Smaaash, The Bar Stock Exchange, The Barking Deer Brewpub, The Irish House, The Little Door, Woodside Inn
Our take We wish Zomato had broken up this category. Best Pubs is just too broad a field. Because even with 15 nominees, they were bound to leave out some biggies. Unlike the other categories, newer establishments dominate, with many of the nominees being bars that have opened over the last year or so. Can you take a popularity award seriously if there’s no The Ghetto or Toto’s Garage in the fray? And if you’re going to throw in Leo’s, can you really leave out its equally-loved neighbour Mondy’s? We don’t know if there’s been a conscious decision to keep aside dive-y as well as five-star joints here. That might explain the absence of both Janata and Aer but even within the mid-priced segment, the no-show of Bonobo/Hawaiian Shack/The Daily/Three Wise Men is bound to be raising a few eyebrows among their regulars.

You can vote for the Zomato User’s Choice Awards until Monday, September 7 here.

Look out for our analysis of the nominees in the remaining five categories on Wednesday, September 2.

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