Fresh off the garden! Get up, close and alfresco at Cafe Calma in Mumbai  

Cafe Calma grows their own greens, sources other produce sustainably and what finally comes out of the pantry is a culinary marvel for the eyes and tastebuds.  

Whipped feta with cherry tomatoes & sourdough at cafe calma, mumbai.
Whipped Feta with Cherry Tomatoes & Sourdough at Cafe Calma, Mumbai.

On the southern tip of Mumbai lies one of the well-heeled neighbourhoods, Kemps Corner, where the newest address Cafe Calma has now opened up. Full scores to how easily accessible this place is on and off Google maps, because that matters, right? Cafe Calma is nested up on the ninth floor, which is also the rooftop area of this decades-old, upscale lodging called The Shalimar Hotel built back in the ‘60s. 

The private all-glass seating zone at cafe calma.
The private all-glass seating zone at Cafe Calma.

Just as one steps out of the lift, a big blue rounded logo stamped on the wall that reads Cafe Calma navigates you inside (or rather outside) the alfresco restaurant. The emphasis on the overall organics of the menu and its concept shine bright and pure in the way the space is imagined—from the wood-finish seating, terracotta-hued lamps, an all-glass private zone, clear glass roof and copious greens. 

One prominent green that draws swift attention here are the two-levelled rows of hydroponic farming, housed as a focal point of the cafe, wittily adding a conscious thought in the diner’s mind that what one is consuming is in fact organic, fresh and grown in-house.  

A section of hydroponic farming at cafe calma.
A section of hydroponic farming at Cafe Calma.

A meticulously charted culinary venture by its founder Yash Advani, the menu unfolds as an interesting revelation of modern European dishes. From the moment, the menu card was handed to me to the time of waiting for the chosen gourmet items, a certain thrill of eating a version of farm-to-fork in the heart of the industrial city that Mumbai is, piqued me.

The welcome role of hydroponic farming does a lot as a conversation starter in the space of gourmet dining, as the greens thrive in the absence of soil and rely solely on water and its mineral-rich nutrients in a regularly controlled environment. What I find most interesting is that almost all kinds of leafy and microgreens can be grown hydroponically. At Café Calma, you will spot basil, red basil, thyme, mizuna greens amongst others.  

Poke salmon salad at cafe calma.
Poke salmon salad at Cafe Calma.

What turned out to be an alfresco dinner for me—first up on the table were a couple of rounds of drinks. This is perhaps where a food lover’s spirits could falter slightly, as the menu currently is sans spirits, cocktails and mocktails and includes milk-based shakes and coffees. I went for the recommended Nutella Magic and fresh watermelon juice, out of which the former emerged worthy of some quick repair.  

But the idea of dining in the company of hydroponic plants had won me over, and so I shrugged and moved to the small plates. Once Poke Salmon salad and Wild Mushroom tacos arrived looking their luscious best on the table, I knew I made a rewarding choice here.

The batch of salad looked just right for one person to clean up in a go, made with cured Norwegian salmon, avocado, quinoa, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, sliced apples and pickled carrots. Its soft crunch underlined with a lingering palate of the salmon synced perfectly well. Soft tortillas decorated with a mix of enoki, portobello and shimeji mushrooms, aioli, salsa verde, avocado and feta cheese sat next as an ideal bite-sized tacos, which at least I devoured in two large bites. 

Fish tacos at cafe calma.
Fish tacos at Cafe Calma.

The chef also informed that the menu would keep changing every six months, to make the most of the seasonal produce and tickle the ever-evolving tastebuds of the modern diner. Divided into multiple categories, next we jumped on to the Tartines section, also called open sandwiches. In the sea of similar flavour profiles of wild mushrooms and avocado, I went by the word of the staff and requested Katsu Tartine.

Not confined by four walls at the venue, I looked around, taking in the soft caress of the rooftop breeze and a view of Mukesh Ambani’s famed residence Antilla, while the Cafe Calma team plated up the deconstructed sourdough peppered generously with Asian-style katsu tofu with chilli aioli, poke drizzle, crispy tempura bits and pickled cucumbers. The flavours being tad mild, balanced the robust nuances of the tacos I gobbled earlier. 

The large plate, not the last of the meal, was wholesome in its presentation, taste as well as ingredients. The ricotta gnudi made in sage brown butter sauce and liberally mounted with mushrooms and crisp kale greens noticeably floated in the buttery goodness, found me calling for help of my fellow diner to help finish it—it was that well-portioned. Would I call it the dealmaker mains of the night? Probably not. But would I order it again? Probably yes. 

To wrap up my first visit at Cafe Calma, dessert was climacteric. Scanning the last bit of the menu over, two things stood out. Orange chocolate tart with Nova’s dark chocolate sea salt gelato and Vanilla Pannacotta with blueberry compote and shortbread. I was fixated on the latter one. It arrived as the cutest, most delightful pannacotta I may have ever seen. Being a non-appointed, anti-sweet enthusiast, I personally enjoyed the not-overpowering sweetness of the dessert, struck well with the red-tinged berry compote. 

Vanilla pannacotta with blueberry compote and shortbread cafe calma.
Vanilla Pannacotta with blueberry compote and shortbread.

Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐ (Max: 5 stars) 

Food: 7.5/10 

Drinks: 5/10 

Service: 9/10 

Interiors/Décor: 8/10 

Vibe: 8.5/10 

One dish we loved: Poke salmon salad 

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