‘Young Dhirubhai Ambani used to visit’
Muchchad Pan Wala, Warden Road
This iconic paan stall has been around for over 70 years. Even Lakhan Kumar Tiwari (35), one of the six brothers running the place, can’t remember exactly when they first set up shop. He recalls, “Young Dhirubhai Ambani used to visit. He was my father’s friend.”
One of the many interesting stories behind this stall is of how it came to be called Muchchad, which literally means a man with a large moustache.
“My father had a big moustache. At that time, kids used to teasingly call him muchchad, which is considered an insult where we come from (Allahabad). One day, the manager of a lemon soda stall overheard the nickname. The next morning, my dad saw a well-painted board reading Muchchad Pan Wala hanging at our stall. The manager had left it for us. And we let it remain there.”
The paan stall sells many special varieties, but the ones commonly ordered are the meetha and saada ones. “The USP of our paans is that they don’t stain, and you don’t have to worry about your mouth turning red after eating them,” says Tiwari.
Muchchad Pan Wala has clientele from all over the city, if not further. According to Tiwari, “except for Amitabh Bachchan, all the Bollywood stars have visited us at some point or the other”. “Abhishek Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan they have all come here,” he adds.
‘On weekends, we use up about 700 eggs’
Cooper Hospital Bhurji Pav, Juhu
Mohammed Nasir set up his famous bhurji pav stall over 30 years ago. The USP of this stall is its Amul butter-laden pavs that melt with the generous serving of scrambled eggs. And this, after a night of revelry, feels only perfect.
Though once a night owl’s hotspot, Nasir is now forced to shut shop with the city’s Cinderella deadline of 1.30 am, but the cars continue lining up as it opens at 7 pm everyday. “Business is as usual. On weekends, we use up as many as 700 eggs. On weekdays it’s about 500,” he claims.
Another favourite at this roadside eatery is the pav bhaji, though it’s the egg bhurji that has provided respite to Cooper hospital visitors as well as partygoers through the years. While Nasir recalls selling them at Rs 5 once upon a time, at Rs 60, the current price for a plateful of sin is tad expensive, even by Juhu standards.
Patrons, however, do not mind shelling a bit extra for this slice of nostalgia.
“We get visitors from all over the city. Last month, someone packed three bhurjis to take with him to the US. He said he would freeze them and then take them along so that the flavour stays intact,” he boasts.
‘Jeetendra was a regular here’
Bachelorr’s, Marine Drive
Even Mahatma Gandhi wasn’t the first customer at Bachelorr’s, though he apparently visited this juice joint while living at Mani Bhavan in Gamdevi.
These days, however, the Indian cricket team visits often. And not to forget Prithviraj Kapoor, who used to be friends with late Om Prakash Agarwal, who founded this shop in 1940.
Arun Agarwal (47), his only son, currently runs it. Recalling the story behind the name of this age-old establishment, he says, “My father decided to get married when he was much older, so everyone used to call him brahmachari (bachelor). Regulars like Jeetendra (Bollywood actor) and others still call the shop Brahmachari’s place. Then I made it Bachelorr’s to keep up with the times.”
But the Marine Drive stall wasn’t always what it is today. It started as a regular fruit shop.
“Then, the concept of the fruit plate started. On customer demand, we started making fruit juice. In the ’40s, this was only the place that served fruit juice because we used to get VIP orders,” says Arun, adding, “Then came the time of the underworld. We’ve made parcels for Yusuf Patel and Haji Mastan.”
Recalling how many yesteryear film stars would live at Marine Drive, he adds, “Jeetendra used to come often, his son Tusshar Kapoor, still does.” Ask if any plans of expansion are in the pipeline and he says, “Not right now. It’s important to maintain quality.”
‘Some even think I’m a bouncer’
Mr Bhatia, Toto’s Garage, Bandra(W)
Ever wondered who the man in dark glasses, always lurking around at Toto’s Garage Pub is? Meet chemical engineering graduate Laju Bhatia.
While patrons may confuse him with his business partner Totlani, Mr Bhatia clarifies, “I’m part owner of the club. The two of us registered our company under Totlani’s name, so the name stuck with us.”
Prod him and Mr Bhatia, who started Toto’s back in 1992, has a lot to say. “My dad was a big fan of Lala Lajpat Rai. He realised it was too long a name, so he settled for Laju,” he says.
His enigmatic shady look has been a topic of discussion at every table at this pub. Ask him the story behind his dark glasses and he says, “I had an accident and my eye condition makes sunglasses a necessity. But many visitors think I’m blind. Some even call me Stevie Wonder.”
Other epithets showered on him by his patrons include titles like Agent Smith, Bono and even Dead BeeGee.
“Some even think I’m a bouncer!” adds Bhatia, who has been a constant at this drinking hole for over two decades, along with everyone from the
gatekeeper to the cook. With his family located in the US, Toto’s is Bhatia’s first home. Few know that the owner of the beer-guzzlers’ hole prefers wine. “I don’t drink during work hours. So once in a while, after shutting shop, I go home for a glass of wine,” he says.