Mumbai Local

Matunga’s iconic Mani’s Lunch Home outlet shuts

THE END?Mani’s Lunch Home has closed as the building is to be redeveloped—Photo: Rajendra G  

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, perhaps the only restaurant in Matunga serving Pallakad-style vegetarian fare, it caught many of Mani’s patrons completely unawares. And Mani’s Lunch Home owner K.S. 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 Rhythm House music shop recently, this was the third blow to Mumbai’s cosmopolitan middle class consciousness.

“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 senior 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 by June 30.

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

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

Hugely popular for its unlimited helpings of sambar, rasam and chutney, Mr. Narayanswamy set up a bigger outlet in Matunga flower market in 2002 which served not just snacks, but lunch and dinner at extremely affordable rates. Its snacks range between Rs. 28 and Rs. 45, while meals cost between Rs. 60 to Rs. 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 when the rent per month is Rs 3-4 lakh. 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 Parsi, Marathi and Tamil populace, is. Over two decades ago, the Gujarati-speaking trading class began making inroads into the suburbs.

As central Mumbai became the focus of developers in land-locked Mumbai, Matunga virtually came under siege, with every third building facing redevelopment.

“Most people are senior citizens, with their children having moved out. The community has been diminishing. For Gujarati traders, Matunga is centrally located,” says Siva Subramanian, a Mani’s regular who works at adShankar Mutt.

Since morning,

many came to the restaurant and were shocked to find it closed. Many were

in tears.

K.S. NarayanswamyProprietor

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 10:28:47 PM |

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