The Café at the NCPA opens at a time when Mumbai is in the midst of rare, reasonable weather. The alfresco bistro on the premises of the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) at Nariman Point could have, therefore, not timed its arrival better.
Additionally, the narrow, over 50m-long café forms a sort of corridor for a constant breeze from the nearby Arabian Sea, which perhaps might make it worth visiting even after the good weather has passed in a few weeks.
Cocooned by concrete on three sides, which filters out some of the noise that makes outdoor places in Mumbai so unbearable, the café fills a long-standing gap in the city’s business district—of a place to just sit and chat in the outdoors. That’s precisely what Khushroo N. Suntook, chairman of the NCPA, hopes the café will become—a meeting place for visitors to art exhibitions and theatre, like the Café Mozart in the Austrian capital Vienna.
Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
“People need a place to wait before the shows begin and a place to discuss what they have experienced after the show, which is what this café is designed to be,” says Suntook, hoping that the venue will become a regular haunt for artists and musicians.
One entrance to the café is from Amadeus, the Mediterranean restaurant that opened last year next to the Tata Theatre, one of five theatre spaces at the NCPA. Farrokh Khambata, chef at Amadeus and the café, says the menu has been designed to comprise predominantly snacks and finger food—sandwiches, burgers, salads, dim sums and kebabs, among others. For Tata Theatre regulars who look forward to the ubiquitous buttery, white-bread sandwich and delectable cold coffee at the refreshment counter, there’s some good news—the café has a slightly more refined version of the cold coffee (with cinnamon, at Rs190).
Three open-air counters will serve an eclectic mix of Indian, Thai and American cuisines, along with coffees, teas and mocktails (no alcohol is being served at the moment, though Khambata is considering getting a wine licence). So an open roast beef sandwich (Rs315) coexists with a spicy pahadi murg tikka (Rs165). Khambata was keen to get a “real burger” on his menu; he says that it’s something that’s missing in the city (prime grilled beef tenderloin with pickles and greens, Rs325).
The menu includes a grilled bambaya chutney and vegetable sandwich with Cheddar cheese (Rs155), melting Gruyère with jalapenos and onions sandwich (Rs240), a smoked salmon bagel with philli cheese and capers (Rs460), chicken khao suey (Rs350) and mixed-greens dim sums (Rs180). Mini meals served with noodles or fried rice cost Rs230-465, while desserts include a Philadelphia cheesecake with strawberries (Rs250).
“The prices have been kept low so as to encourage artists and young people to come here,” says Khambata.
Scheduled to open on Monday, the all-day café (noon-10pm) can seat 70-100 people in a predominantly single file of tables. The high walls of the Tata Theatre block one side, while a low wall on the other separates the entrance to the basement parking. Artificial grass on the floor and a row of palm fronds and potted plants give a sense of tranquillity to the 4,000 sq. ft space.
Additional perks—you can maybe ask the budding musician on the next table to play you a note to accompany the sound of waves in the distance.