For her birthday on August 23, Sonia Sahni (35), a travel blogger and finance professional, was gifted a pass to the Chai Pe Charcha tea trail by her husband. During the trail, Sahni had an “Alice in Wonderland” moment at Sancha Tea (a boutique in Kala Ghoda dedicated to the beverage), where she witnessed a tea party. “It was fun and informative. For instance, I learned that though tea is considered an Indian beverage, it was actually the British who popularised it 200 years ago. There were tea tasting sessions, where we sampled tea from various tapris (street side stalls), Irani cafés and upscale tea outlets,” recounts Sahni, who now hooked to trails, wants to attend wine and cheese walks.
In a city craving for interesting food experiences — be it pop-ups, home chefs’ lunches or secret suppers — food trails seem to be the latest craze. Modelled on the lines of pub crawls, the last few months have seen trails dedicated to dessert spaces, Ramzan delicacies, Irani cafés , south Indian eateries (imaginatively titled Yenna Rascala), Halloween desserts and even a trail for diabetics. A Crawlathon — a 12-hour marathon trail where participants could savour 24 dishes for `1,200 — was also held recently.
Lawyer Apurv Agarwal (25) is another food trail fan. In September, he booked a spot at the Kebab Mein Haddi trail for his friends. It entailed spending a day roaming around the bylanes of Mumbai Central, tucking into delectable kebabs from nondescript eateries. “I would have never done this by myself; I wouldn’t have been able to even spot these places,” shares Agarwal.
Part of the appeal of such events lies in finding new places to eat that are hidden in plain sight, eating various delicacies over the course of a day and meeting new people. “It beats a weekend spent at the movies or the mall. The walks are not hard on time or the wallet,” says Sukhmani Singh, co-founder of Seek Sherpa, which organises the Kebab trail.
Most walks are curated by experiential websites such as Seek Sherpa, Blue Bulb, Time Out Mumbai and the walking tour group, Raconteur Walks. A few are organised by the management of the eateries themselves — as was the case with a dessert trail featuring La Folie, The Rolling Pin and Quattro, Todi Mills Social, Cafe Zoe and Sweetish House Mafia. Priced between `500 to `3,000, the trails are usually held for small groups and can be booked for a group of friends or even one person. Many are held over the weekend and are a sellout days in advance.
Surprisingly, even the vada pav, a local staple, makes for a trail. “The biggest appeal is the chance to try your hand at making a vada pav at a stall. People also get to taste three varieties of it and understand how the differences in chutney, batter and ingredients make each of them different,” says blogger Abhishek Sadekar, who hosts the session. The organisers, Blue Bulb, had a tough time, though, convincing people to shell out `600 for what is essentially three vada pavs.
Dadar resident Farzana Gandhi (39), a food import entrepreneur, who attended the trail, admits it was interesting, even for a local. “I could have located the places online, but would have missed out on the stories and the test drive,” Gandhi remarks.
Most walks are led by seasoned guides who have in-depth knowledge of the places, engage with guests and share trivia. An exception to the scenario is Time Out Mumbai, which has gone digital and conducts crawls via Snapchat. “Instead of a guide telling you about each place, he’s on your phone. Last time around, it was the food blog Mumbai Foodie, which is quite well-known,” shares Ashwin Choithramani, who handles events at Time Out Mumbai.
Though the trails are pre-planned, logistics can be an issue. “Some of our crawls saw 300 people turn up, which is a lot for an outlet. We usually do trails from 4pm to 7pm, when a restaurant is closed or at a slow point,” Choithramani shares.
In a city that boasts of diverse cuisines, food trails are a trend whose time has come. And we won’t be running out of options anytime soon.
TAKE YOUR PICK
Chai Pe Charcha by Racounter Walks
When: On demand
USP: Takes you to roadside tea stalls, Irani cafés and tea boutiques for a holistic trail
Call: 97691 87580
Email : email@example.com
Price: Rs 1,500 per person
Kebab Mein Haddi Trail by Seek Sherpa
When: November 15, 22, 29
USP: The trail includes visits to locally popular kebab shops in the vicinity
Where: Mumbai Central
Visit : experiences.seeksherpa.com
Price: Rs 700 per person
Vada Pav trail by Blue Bulb
When: On-demand, Saturdays, 4.30pm
USP: Helps you savour vada pav at popular eateries and make them as well
Where: Vile Parle (E)
Call: 3227 0033
Price: Rs 599 to Rs 799 per person
Food walk through Dadar market by Mumbai Logic
When: All days, except Monday
USP: This walk takes you to shops selling pickles and spices, and street food stalls
Price: Rs 1,000 per person