Off-Duty Chef: Pooja Dhingra Picks Her Go-To Mumbai Spots

Where do chefs eat when they clock out? In our special series, Off-Duty Chef, we ask some of the most popular chefs about their favourite food spots in and around their cities. From their go-to street food haunts and their childhood favourites to their work lunches and post-work hangs, the series will offer you a glimpse of where your favourite chefs eat, drink and hang out when they’re not feeding others!

If you’ve ever relished a macaron or a red velvet cupcake from Pooja Dhingra’s brand Le15 Patisserie, it’d probably become your go-to spot immediately. The chef and author who’s best known for her scrumptious and chic macarons and signature classics, is a favourite with everyone, including the A-listers. But where does India’s favourite baker go when she has a craving or when she has to grab a quick cup of coffee?

“I would say that the dessert scene in Mumbai today is really different from when I first started - For one, so many ingredients that are available now were something that people didn't have access to before. The amount of innovation, creativity and variety we have in the desert space is really amazing. The quality of desserts is only on the rise and people are really excited about trying new things!” says Dhingra.

Your favourite breakfast spot(s) in Mumbai.

"Some of my local favourites would be Madras Cafe, Aaswad, and Prakash. And for some eggs and coffee - my go-to spots are Boojee and Nutcracker!" says Dhingra.

While Madras Cafe is a beloved tiffin room chain with outlets all across the country, Aaswad, which is located at Shivaji Park in Dadar, is a popular breakfast spot which bagged the award for 'The World's Tastiest Vegetarian Dish' for its Missal Pav'.

Annie Bafna’s The Nutcracker is a popular Parsi cafe with four outlets across Mumbai, whereas Bandra’s Boojee Cafe owned by chef and barista Rajdeep Singh, started out as a tiny seater outlet on Perry Cross Road in 2019, that served clean ingredient sandwiches and coffee. However, the brand currently has three Cafe outlets on Perry Cross Road, and one Espresso Bar in Ranwar. 

Your patisserie Le15 is famed for its macarons and cupcakes. Do you have any other local favourites when it comes to macarons, cupcakes, cheesecakes or cakes in general? 

"I would say Chocolate at Ether, doughnuts from Toast Doughnut Shop, and desserts from Bombay Salad. I also really like the Notting Hill Bakery!" Dhingra shares.

The Ether Atelier is a luxury chocolaterie based in Mumbai, founded by chef and chocolatier Prateek Bakhtiani, in the summer of 2019, with a focus on single-origin cacaos, handcrafted ganache and Asian-inspired flavours. Dhingra’s other favourite Toast Doughnut Shop is Mumbai's first handmade brioche doughnut shop founded by Devika Manjrekar.

Your favourite modern diner/ contemporary cafe in Mumbai 

Dhingra says, "I love the work that Bokka and Mag St. Cafe are doing!" Bandra’s Bokka Coffee opened ots doors in 2023 but the brand is already  a hit with Mumbaikars. Founded by Chef Karishma Dalal (who also owns Bombay Salad Co), restaurateur Karan Gaba, and Barista Travis Braganza, Bokka Coffee has a breakfast-centric menu which offers speciality coffee, activated nuts and seeds smoothies and classic brunch options. 

Mag St. founded by Gauri Devidayal and Jay Yousuf (who also co-founded Nariman Point’s The Table), opened its third location in Bandra, in January this year. The brand which also has outlets in Colaba and Lower Parel, was originally known as Mag St. Café, and sells some of the best lobster rolls and pho in Mumbai.

Your go-to spot(s) for coffee (or tea) 

Dhingra promptly replies, "Veronica’s, Boojee, and Third Wave Coffee." While Sushant Goel, Ayush Bathwal and Anirudh Sharma’s fast-growing coffee-first QSR brand Third Wave Coffee opened its 109th outlet in Bengaluru last year, Veronica’s is a quaint neighbourhood all-day sandwich shop, instantly recognised by its striking graffiti art. 

Housed inside the iconic St. Jude’s Bakery, in a narrow by-lane in the quaint village of Ranwar, Veronica’s was founded by the team behind popular brands The Bombay Canteen And O Pedro. 

Your favourite 'mithai' spots in Mumbai 

"Some of my top favourites are Jhama for Gulab Jamun and Tharu for Sev Barfi. My go-to for Modern Mithai is Bombay Sweet Shop!" says Dhingra.

Your go-to ice cream spots in the city 

"Copetto is one of my go-tos - not to miss Bachelor’s and Naturals!" shares Dhingra.

Do you have any favourite street food spots? 

"Ashok Vada Pav was such a nostalgic, iconic spot and such a big part of my childhood growing up! I also love Punjab Sweet House and Elco," says Dhingra.