By The Way: Mumbai Restaurant With A Cause

Sitting in this quaint restaurant, just gullies away from the furious churn of the Arabian sea, watching the rain steam up the glass double doors that open up to a leafy Grant Road lane, it’s hard not to fall in love with the monsoons again.

By Mahithi Pillay / DNA

The quiet clatter of cutlery, the monsoon-softened light streaming in from the French windows and the playful aroma of the dishes, all keep you distracted from the mundane reality of the weather outside.

But, the most heartwarming part of your meal at ‘By the way’ is that it is created by the very inhabitants of the charity home that runs the place.

The restaurant owes its origins to the Seva Sadan Society, a charitable trust started in 1908 by Shri Behramji Malabari and Divan Dayaram Gidumal that works for the betterment of underprivileged women and widows.

Since the focus of the trust is on the education and vocational training of destitute women, it runs its own Marathi and English medium schools, an orphanage and home for the women, a teacher-training college and vocational courses in different disciplines.

‘By the way’ was launched by the trust nearly 8 years ago under a women’s self sufficiency initiative. The idea behind it, trust president Guddi Advani says, was to make every member in the home feel independent and useful to the society.

It was created for the younger women at the home, who, she adds, needed different scopes of training. So, a multi-cuisine menu was chalked out, and a generous benefactor helped renovate the trust premises for a
restaurant.

The women from the home, she adds, earn and learn at the restaurant, picking up skills in courtesy and hospitality that they can employ even while working elsewhere. The training they receive helps open opportunities for them outside too, she says.

For the everyday consumer, though, the restaurant presents an opportunity to enjoy a tempting, generously portioned meal while at the same time being comfortable in the realisation that the proceeds of the meal are intended for charity. It is the simplicity and self-sufficiency of the idea behind the restaurant that will endear itself to you.

The restaurant is managed by former Oberoi employee Dolly T Pavri and her team of six. One takes to Dolly’s helpful manner immediately; regular visitor Prita Murdeshwar concurs, calling her a godsend. Her friend, Huma Vaccha, a Parsi herself, vouches for the authenticity of the Parsi section of the menu, while friend Micheal O’Malley praises his ‘exquisite’ fish meal.

A young couple on another table, who live close by, drop in here often for the ‘good food and helpful service’, and recommends the ‘excellent soups and mutton dishes’.

Sudhakar Solomonraj, political science lecturer at the Wilson college nearby, often goes there for the ‘nice, relaxed, homely’ vibe, as does English literature lecturer Vinita Matthews, who likes the ‘colours, furniture, and art deco style’ of the place.

And for those who are curious, a peek at the menu revealed Parsi dishes like akuri, dhansak, patrani macchi, and sali boti. They share menu space with continental dishes like rolls, burgers, salads and omlettes.

There are baked items on offer as well; rolls and puffs quietly wink at you from behind the lagan nu custard at the display counter.

The prices are reasonable for the location and food on offer.

As the trust president said, after all, the place serves cuisine for a cause.