Although Fresh Catch by Francis in Bandra, Mumbai, is known for its seafood, there is also something to gladden a vegetarian’s heart.
Last name: Fresh peach by Francis
Location: 2nd floor, above McDonald’s Hill Road, next to St Stanislaus School, Hill Road, Bandra West, Mumbai
Vibe: In 1998, in a small villa in an alley in Mahim, Francis Fernandes started serving Mumbai seafood in a way he remembered from his own childhood in Karwar, Karnataka. Fresh Catch was a magnet for celebrities and foodies who came to enjoy its bombil fry and kane masala- food from the north coast of Kanara enhanced with the freshest ingredients from Karwar, Honnavar, Kumta, Ankola, Bhatkal and some places on the Konkan coast of Maharashtra. Now Fresh Catch by Francis can be found on Hill Road in Bandra, and the same glorious spread is on the menu, with some notable additions that will delight the vegetarian palate. Mr. Fernandes is no longer with us, and his daughter Ankita and son Adith have taken over the reins of the new tribute restaurant. The sister-brother co-ownership duo want their father’s former customers to rediscover the same cozy charm of the old outpost, and for their new guests to enjoy a contemporary dining experience. Thank you Ankitait is Attention to detail, the new space, painted in a warm coral blush, is relaxed and welcoming. His little touches can be seen in the glasses embossed with fish from Brazil, the scallops in the lampshades that mimic fish scales, even in the reinvented logo that combines an F in his father’s writing and a hook , a line and a sinker that makes an M for his mother Millie, as well as the wall of fame of photographs of his father with guests and family. But perhaps the biggest additions are in the menu innovations. Ankita had been cooking with her father since she was a teenager, and now brings her culinary training to the César Ritz in Switzerland to play on the food at the restaurant. Now open for just over a month, the response has been happily overwhelming.
What we ate and drank: While Fresh Catch by Francis is understandably proud of its seafood, it’s its vegetarian offerings that surprise — in a good way. We started with a great Ground Kodi, here made with the first pressing of coconut milk, and one of the best we have ever tasted. Then came the Vegetarian ‘Kingfish’, which, despite its name, is completely devoid of fish; round eggplant slices are marinated in the traditional rereaded masala, breaded in rava and shallow fried. A big part of why Fresh Catch’s food, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, is so amazing, we quickly realize, is the fact that each dish’s hero ingredient is allowed to be the hero. – masala, breadcrumbs, frying do not mask the taste of what is on your plate. This awareness is confirmed with the arrival of the Golden Fried Mushroomswhere the mushrooms continue to be juicy even when fried in breadcrumbs.
Our dishes include the Wallachia Amti Bhaji with jeera ricewhich even non-vegetarians stumble upon with relish, although we bookmark the Vegetables Vindaloo and Vegetables xacuti (so typical of Goa) to try on our next visit. The Neer Dosas we do the order is excellent, as is the Garlic butter Paversperfect for mopping up sauces or eating on its own.
When it comes to dessert, we find ourselves unable to decide. Will this be the traditional dessert of Goa Bebinca or even the most universal Chocolate mousse and Caramel cream? In the end, we are satisfied with Alle Belle, pancakes filled with a traditional jaggery and coconut filling, reminiscent of the pancakes eaten in Goan and Mangalorean households on Shrove Tuesday. This off-menu dessert is a perfect example of Ankita’s penchant for constantly working to surprise diners, old and new, when they visit the restaurant. With the heritage she inherited and the culinary confidence she demonstrates, food enthusiasts know they’ll eat something interesting every time.
Price points: Rs 1,000 + taxes for a vegetarian meal for two
Also see: Explore the versatility of tempeh