Mumbai’s fine-dining revolution

Many of Mumbai's best restaurants have moved on from Western fine-dining concepts. Joel Hart explores how techniques and influences from beyond India's borders are being used to showcase the country's own diverse food traditions and highlights four trailblazing restaurants in the city

Words by Joel Hart

Mumbai fine dining - Masque
The bar and dining room at Masque, which was awarded Best Restaurant in India by World’s 50 Best in 2023

An ivory ceramic plate arrives at the table with a colourful but minimal arrangement placed on it. Grilled pieces of mutton, served with mint, walnut and onion variations of chetin (chutney), with a hot sauce by its side are to be assembled inside a flaky, ghee-washed Kashmiri bread called lavasa. On the surface, it looks like just an elaborate remake of seekh tujji, a typical Kashmiri street food. Its poetic name, ‘Stairway to Childhood’ may lean into nostalgia, but its profound depth of flavour is driven by one other core factor: time.

Gastronomy in India is today driven by what has become known as ‘micro cuisines’, moving beyond the binary idea of North and South Indian food to focus on the full breadth of the country’s diverse food traditions but this dish at Noon, one of Mumbai’s best restaurants, takes things a step further.

Gastronomy in India is today driven by what has become known as ‘micro cuisines’

The mutton has been fermented with cabbage according to a Japanese fermentation method called nikuzuki, after which it was massaged in a mixture of tujji masala and yoghurt  – as is typical in preparing the street-food dish – enhanced by a two-year-old miso made from a variety of white corn indigenous to the Sahyadri hills of Maharashtra.

There’s a further 24-hour marination in a Bhutanese hot sauce called ezay. Research into fermentation techniques from inside and outside of India drives the dish and all of the food development at Noon.

Stairway to childhood at Noon
The mutton dish called ‘Stairway to Childhood’ at Noon

Noon offers the most progressive version of fine dining in Mumbai, adding a further dimension to the concept of micro cuisines by focusing on preservation, both of food, through pickling and fermentation, and culinary cultures. It all began with a restaurant called Indigo, established in 1999 by Rahul Akerkar, a chef of mixed Maharashtrian and Ashkenazi-Jewish heritage. Indigo opened in Colaba, one of the city’s most famous neighbourhoods, home to landmarks like the Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. ‘Mumbai had a fine-dining scene that was originally restricted almost exclusively to the five-star hotels,’ says Mumbai-based culinary anthropologist Kurush Dalal. ‘Akerkar’s Indigo was an eye-opener for the city.’

Mumbai had a fine-dining scene that was originally restricted almost exclusively to the five-star hotels

‘If you were entering adulthood in Bombay in the early 2000s, Indigo was the “it” place,’ adds Gauri Devidayal, whose own restaurant, The Table, opened in 2011. Like The Table, Indigo offered sophisticated European fare and a detailed wine list, with Devidayal’s restaurant going a step further in introducing the city to the concept of farm-to-table dining, a significant feature of Mumbai’s fine-dining scene today.

There are still high-end restaurants in Mumbai offering Western fine-dining concepts but the revolution taking place in the last decade has focused on the flavours of India. Below are four of Mumbai’s best restaurants, key players that have shaped the rise of Indian fine dining in the city and each representing a stage in the development of the city’s thrilling food scene.

Four of modern Mumbai’s best restaurants

Noon fermented tomatoes


Drawing on a repertoire of fermentation practices native to India and beyond, Noon has been pushing Indian food into new areas since 2022, producing miso with toor dal (split pigeon peas) instead of soybean, and garum with nolen gur (date palm jaggery) instead of fish guts. It also promises to represent India’s culinary traditions at a far deeper level, focusing on just three regions: Jammu & Kashmir, where chef/owner Vanika Choudhary is from; Ladakh, where there is an emphasis on sustainable food production and Maharashtra, where Choudhary emphasises the state’s diversity, utilising grains, foraged fruits and flowers from an adivasi (tribal) village in the Sahyadri hills, as well as fish from a koliwada (traditional fishing community) in Mumbai itself.

Vanika Choudhary, chef and owner of Noon
Vanika Choudhary, visionary chef and owner of Noon

The winter menu is richly interwoven with storytelling. In addition to the seekh tujji dish, highlights include an umami-laden dish of lacto-fermented lamb ribs, glazed in a piquant apricot and priyanku (woolly catmint) miso, served with brussel sprout tips, apricot sauce. A pitch-perfect dessert of gram-flour biscuit discs that sandwich a sweet miso kulfi is based on the Maharashtrian snack of bhakarwadi. Such innovative combinations have become recognised on a global stage, with Choudhary receiving La Liste’s award of New Talent of the Year 2024.

With her novel combination of focused tradition, preservation, fermentation and reinvention, Choudhary is asking questions about the future direction of Indian food. As she explains, ‘as a chef, this also allows me and the team to truly push boundaries to create something that’s completely unique while preserving our culinary culture.’


The Bombay Canteen

The Bombay Canteen

Known by Mumbaikars as a place for ‘premium casual dining,’ The Bombay Canteen was opened in 2015 by chef Floyd Cardoz, who had previously ran Tabla in New York. He is considered by some to be the father of modern Indian cuisine. The beginning of a shift towards ‘micro cuisines’ was with Cardoz, who sought to create a menu that celebrates the whole country.

Cardoz sadly died in 2020 but his influence on Mumbai’s best restaurants and, indeed, on fine dining across the whole of India is clear. Dishes oscillate between abundant indulgence, such as the garlic butter crab on a pillowy kulcha bread, and creative reinventions of street food. There’s a play on Mumbai street food bhel puri – with sweet and salt cured Indian seabass, dashi milk, raw mango chutney, dried mango chutney and chilli pickle, and a puri beef tartar with Keralan and Tamil influences that combines sweet-and-sour cured raw beef, a dosa crepe, a mango and ginger emulsion and smoked egg yolk.

Mumbai fine dining - chilled sea bass sev puri
The Bombay Canteen's seafood-inspired take on sev puri, a classic Mumbai street snack

In both dishes, layers of zing and punch create fireworks in the mouth, which work well with the restaurant’s award-winning cocktails. The menu features big-hearted and flavour-forward food that would put a smile on the face of almost any diner. Yet with its clear thread of ingenuity and novelty, it continues to influence fine-dining restaurants. The Bombay Canteen is something of a culinary institution and is not to be missed.


Masque dining room


Opened in 2016 and headed by chef Prateek Sadhu (who has since left to found Naar in the Himalayas), Masque was initially focused on a minimalist, Nordic-inspired style of cuisine that highlighted Indian produce. ‘We slowly understood that we need to shift and pivot,’ says current head chef Varun Totlani, ‘because if we want to take it to a global stage, we need to focus on our own cuisine.’ This goal was set in 2017 and last year, Masque was awarded Best Restaurant in India by World’s 50 Best.

Located in a converted mill, its industrial-chic aesthetic, experimental cocktail bar and more eclectic, advanced wine list (including India’s first orange wine, made especially for the restaurant), is matched by Totlani’s playful, nostalgic cuisine. He shines a light on produce and reimagines dishes from across the country and city, such as the masala soft-shell crab based on the tandoori crab dish at cherished Mumbai seafood restaurant Trishna.

A 'reimagination of the Thali without borders' at Masque

‘Flavourful food is the number one goal,’ says Totlani, ‘everything else comes second.’ Three dishes stand out. First, the pani puri, where diners are invited to place their tartar of cured barramundi, aam pampad (mango leather) and pickled karonda fruit in a semolina puri, pouring a magenta-hued pani made from red tamarind into the puri and enjoying the explosion in one bite. Second, a play on a peppery Keralan dry mutton curry, usually eaten with flakey paratha. Here, a duck sausage featuring those flavours is placed on a paratha and combined with Keralan mustard, mustard greens and a curry leaf emulsion. A dessert called ‘Cacao’ is served in a dehydrated cacao shell. Inside are layers of chocolate: chocolate mousse, cacao nib and cashew praline, cacao fruit mixed with custard apple and lime zest, a chocolate disc and Pondicherry dark chocolate ice cream. It’s a dish that sums up the bountiful experience to be had at Masque.



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The Mumbai outpost of Trèsind opened in 2019, following the success of the first in Dubai, offering the most precise, refined version of fine dining in the city; a 14-course tasting menu is the only option for diners.

The restaurant is smart and sleek in an old-school way, with white tablecloths and dinner jazz in the background, but the food is still whimsical and nostalgic. ‘We avoid repetition in colours, textures, and flavours,’ says head chef Sarfaraz Ahmed. Around 60% of ingredients change regularly, with very few imported ingredients, as ‘our primary focus remains on progressive Indian cuisine,’ Ahmed explains, ‘celebrating Indian flavours and culinary techniques.’

One of the first bites sets the tone for a meal of classic dishes given surprising twists. The Calcutta-inspired dish featuring a pav (bun) stuffed with a peppery lamb kebab, which is held in a tartlet – designed to replicate a roomali roti — offers a surprising layer of texture.

Trèsind's 'khichdi of India' takes the logic of capturing the country’s diverse cuisines to its full, lavish conclusion

Chef Ahmed’s career began in an Italian kitchen and it shows in his masterly pasta skills, which are highlighted by immaculate tortellini filled with blue cheese, swimming in a lamb bone marrow curry sauce. One dish that was transported from Dubai is its somewhat extravagant signature dish, a ‘khichdi of India’, which takes the logic of capturing the country’s diverse cuisines to its full conclusion. A saffron-infused rice and lentil porridge is served out of a copper bowl, while a map of India is wheeled in, featuring ingredients from all 28 states. They are then placed in the khichdi one by one, as the waiter explains all. My fears of style over substance were soon allayed as its punchy, intense, and complex flavour profile lashed across my palate. Desserts are on the sweet side but every savoury dish is – somehow – both intricate and bold, with extraordinarily clever flavour combinations.