Flying High

about Mumbai Airport

If one expects little of airline food, one expects even less if hunger pangs strike at the airport. A decade ago, Indian airports were places where famine victims would feel at home – even coffee usually came in steel containers on the back of a cycle. International airports were better, but only if your tastes ran to McDonalds or Sbarro.

Things have changed in the last decade. Flier numbers increased, airlines stopped serving even peanuts, but most importantly Osama’s antics led to a lot of people stewing long hours away between security and boarding. Nothing induces food cravings as much as boredom, and where there is demand supply will catch up.

I’ve written earlier about airport food – sandwiches at Milan’s Malpensa, American at Madhuri Dixit’s Denver and more recently goose and dim sum in Hong Kong. A few days ago another airport restaurant caught my attention; this time much closer - homechi Mumbai. Just outside the newly prettied arrivals area of the Indian Airlines domestic terminal is a place that advertises all the right words – foodie and bar.

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I spent a little while there recently, waiting for Sunanda to come back from a flight. Plagued with a cold, I asked the bartender for a cocktail that was hot and not sweet – did he know what a Hot Toddy was? A certain amount of tizzied discussion happened, and just as I was about to turn away with disappointment the head bartender appeared and furiously nodded his head at my request. My hopes were’nt high – its hard to get a respectable hot toddy anywhere in Mumbai, even more so at a place that’s next to nescafe booth in an Indian airport.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when faced with a brandy snifter full of a steaming brown liquid; fragrant, hot, delicious stuff that immediately dispatched my cold to the departures lounge. Hot Toddy is at its heart any kind of strong alchohol mixed with hot water, honey and lemon – but this was no ordinary one. No no, this one sported Hennessey cognac, came with a perfect little cinnamon stick and gave off undeniably luxury airs (at 600 rupees a pop, it should). Look at the discovery - not only do I find a bartender who knows what a hot toddy is, I'm also in a bar that sports decent cognac – is that hot or what?

The place has decent food too. Nothing exceptional, but definitely adequate while toddying up. Best of all, its in arrivals. No risk of missing your flight, and all those brownie points from girfriends for sudden enthusiasm about waiting for them.

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