There’s been a mix of jubilation and confusion among Mumbai’s restaurateurs and diners following Friday’s high court ruling that decriminalised possession and consumption of beef from outside Maharashtra.
“There is no denying that this judgment will make many of our patrons ecstatic,” says Paul Kinny, executive chef at Bellona Hospitality, which handles restaurants such as Yuuka, which serves Japanese cuisine, and 212 All Day.
“With this ruling, it looks like importing local beef from places like Goa and Bangalore will be an option,” adds chef Alex Sanchez of The Table, Colaba.
The full impact of the decriminalisation is hard to gauge, however, cautions Nachiket Shetye, chef, restaurateur and co-founder of Restaurant Week. “The ruling says that the onus of proving the beef wasn’t from within state won’t be on the person who possesses it, but how will this be enforced? If a cop hauls you off to the station for beef possession, you will be left trying to defending yourself and prove the place of origin of your meat.”
The beef ban hit the fine-dining scene hard when it was announced in March 2015. Ellipsis had to take its Rs-1,000 Australian steak off the menu, the Rs-9,775 Teppenyaki Kobe beef steak disappeared from San Qi at the Four Seasons, and the Taj Mahal Palace’s Wasabi lost its Wagyu beef steak and the Rs 12,000 that each portion brought in.
The impact on restaurants remains unclear, Shetye adds. “The high-end ones can start importing beef again or maybe even sourcing it from other states. Then again, I’m sure there will be an appeal from the state, so it remains to be seen if this ruling makes its way into kitchens.”
For diners, there is relief that they will once again have the freedom to choose what they eat. “If you’re a real meat lover, there is no substitute for beef,” says Sunayana Shivkumar, a 27-year-old digital marketing executive from Malad. “I’m hoping to see my beloved beef items back on menus in my neighbourhood soon.”
Dentistry student Sheryn D’souza, 23, says there’s now hope that her family dinners will return to normal. “Beef brisket and beef salad are two of my mom’s best recipes,” she says. “I’m waiting for our local butcher to start supplying beef again.”
However, restaurateur Rahul Akerkar says Friday’s ruling doesn’t address the root of the problem. “It’s neither here nor there to say that you can eat beef as long as it’s not from within the state,” he says. “It’s great from the perspective of the consumer, but it seems like a band-aid solution to a bigger issue — the fact that what we eat shouldn’t be controlled by the state.”