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Iconic Mani’s Lunch Home outlet shuts down in Mumbai

Mani’s Lunch Home has closed as the building is to be redeveloped. Photo: Rajendra G  

Mumbai: Mani’s Lunch Home, one of the iconic and popular authentic restaurants for South Indian food in Mumbai, on Friday closed down one of its two outlets in Matunga after the owners and residents in the three-storey building it is located in decided to go for redevelopment.

As the news spread on Thursday night that the iconic eatery known as perhaps the only restaurant in Matunga serving the Pallakad-style homely vegetarian fare, it caught many of Mani’s patron completely unawares. And, Mani’s Lunch Home owner KS Narayanswamy’s mobile phone hasn’t stopped ringing with calls expressing shock and sadness. After the shutdown of iconic Mumbai establishments Samovar restaurant at Jehangir Art Gallery, and the Rhythm House music shop recently, this was a third blow to Mumbai’s cosmopolitan middle class consciouness.

“Since morning, many came to the restaurant and were shocked to find it closed. Many were in tears. Our patrons are both from the young generation as well as seniors citizens. While younger patrons have other options and can easily adapt to any other food, the older generation have no alternative. They can only eat authentic food and are particularly distraught,” says 61-year-old Mr Narayanswamy helplessly.

Located on the ground floor of Dadbawala Sadan close to another iconic institution, Shankar Mutt in Matunga’s famous flower market, Mani’s Lunch Home was told by the developer and the housing society on June 10 to vacate the premises by June 30.

“This building dates back to 1920s, and I can understand that it needs repairs, but they kept postponing the redevelopment proposal. I requested them to give me two months time to vacate whenever the proposal is finalised. But, they suddenly told me to vacate, and I had no option but to down the shutters,” Mr Narayanswamy says.

The first Mani’s Lunch Home outlet was set up by Narayanswamy’s father V.S. Mani Iyer, Keralite Tamil Brahmin Iyer, a native of Palakkad, in 1937 near Ruia College in Matunga East which only served snacks like idli, dosa, and the filter coffee. A second outlet came up in Sion a few years later.

Hugely popular with customers for its unlimited helpings of sambar, rasam, and chutney, Narayanswamy set up a bigger outlet in Matunga flower market in 2002 which served not just snacks, but lunch and dinner at rates extremely affordable rates. Its snacks range between rs 28 and Rs 45, and meals in the range of Rs 60 to 120.

“We ran the restaurant on no profit no loss basis. The rents in Matunga are so prohibitive that it is no longer viable to sell food at Rs 65 with a rent of Rs 3-4 lakh per month. We run it with a service motive. Our capital is the goodwill of the people,” Mr Narayanswamy says.

Clearly, loss of customers is not the reason for the closure. The changing real estate landscape of Matunga, a leafy suburb in central Mumbai dominated by Parsis, Marathi-speaking, and Tamil-speaking populace, is. Over two decades ago, the Gujarati-speaking trading class began making in roads into the suburbs. As central Mumbai became the focus of the developers in land-locked Mumbai, Matunga virtually came under a siege with every third building facing redevelopment. Gradually, multi-storey towers are replacing 70 to 80 year buildings.

“Most people are senior citizens, with their children having moved to other South Indian pockets like Chembur, Thane, Dombivli. The community has been diminishing. For Gujarati traders, Matunga is centrally located, about 20 minutes by train to the markets areas at Masjid and CST,” says Siva Subramanian, a Mani’s regular who also works with the adjacent Shankar Mutt.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 4:51:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/news/Iconic-Mani%E2%80%99s-Lunch-Home-outlet-shuts-down-in-Mumbai/article14466760.ece

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