(From an ancient age in which this writer was a borderline alcoholic.)
Attacking a restaurant without giving it another chance isn’t fair, and I have mustered the determination to revisit Café Universal because of that eight great wonder we call beer. The eatery and bar has an old-world charm (it used to be an Irani cafe) and uses every opportunity to tell you about itself. The menu says the restaurant was established in 1921, and there are framed reviews on the walls, singing Café Universal’s praises. Imported beers are on display on one side, other beverages and select spirits on another, but we’re going with a tower of draught; the larger your order, the cheaper it is. My hamburger is unappetizing – the partly cooked beef patty placed in what should be a bun. Ill-fitting, and the bread is thick and hard. My friends aren’t the type to complain about food unless it’s horribly bad, but their burgers are as haphazardly constructed. A spicy chicken dish and butter-garlic prawns are what we’re having on our second visit to Café Universal, and I’m poking the red slop of goop on the table, wondering why it doesn’t taste or smell like prawns, till the prawns actually arrive, bland even with all that garlic, unexciting even with all that butter. If there’s one thing I know about Continental, Italian and Mexican food, it’s that no matter how wrong the dish is, it can be fixed with a sauce. The red sticky matter I’ve been served as a chicken dish gets drowned in red pepper sauce, and the tasteless prawns are shrouded in mustard. Both are then flushed down my system with the beer that is fast getting warm. The highlight of the evening, though, is being presented with the check. Billed with stuff we haven’t ordered, we point out the mistake, and it gets taken away and brought back with more mistakes for us to point out. This happens three or four times, and every time it returns with a few items knocked off. Am I annoyed? Not in the slightest. I have good company, plenty of beer, and God bless Satan for sauces.
Address: 299, Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Fort, Mumbai