Food Review: Versova Seafood Festival

Plenty of crustaceans from the Arabian Sea were devoured at the annual koli seafood festival in Mumbai

Shruti January 19, 2022
  • Variety of seafood
  • Taste
  • Pricing
  • Ambience

Mumbai jokes about Andheri seemed to be hiding last night as the MTV Bloc party and Versova seafood festival had people braving crazy traffic and heading towards the suburb rather than away from it. Tucked away in the fringes of Yri Road, the Versova seafood festival is hidden from the crowd and isn’t somewhere you would end up unless you were looking for it. Ask for Mandir Masjid and follow the straight road down to get there. We wish there had been a few signboards along the way.

Our group of ten highly enthusiastic food lovers couldn’t decide which stall to begin with and split into two groups. Given our indecisiveness, we realised we were better off starting at the beginning and settled on the first stall with crabs on display. We needn’t have worried because we realised later that all the stalls had more or less the same fare. The Rs 200 crab that had looked so appetizing was a bit of a let down when we battled the tough shell and extracted only a measly morsel of crab meat. The surmai or king fish slice priced at Rs 300 per piece was a delight. The masala encrusted shallow fried fish had only the center bone left on the plate a bare five minutes after it came to our table. We chose the prawn masala over the tandoori prawns, both of which were priced at Rs 100 for six large crustaceans. A point to be noted with the prawn masala though is that the prawns are cooked complete with head and shell. Get your hands dirty and snap the head off before cracking the shell to get to the succulent meat within. Leaving the  prawn balichow and lobster (Rs 400-500 depending on size) for another day we tried the clams and fried mackerel. The clams fried in a coconut masala were a unanimous favourite and we quickly packed a plate priced at Rs 100 to take back with us. Though much of the fare we tried was dry we added the rice based roti to our menu and were happy with our decision.

Alcohol flowed freely, though the young girl serving us was a little taken aback to have a girl ask for whiskey. Nevertheless a whiskey quarter and beer bottles were soon accompanying our meal. A koli meal isn’t complete without sol kadi and the pink drink in large plastic glasses was downed along with the alcohol. If only alcohol was as cheap as the Rs 30 koli drink. We couldn’t complain though as a bottle of beer priced at Rs 150 was cheaper than most restaurants.

Also available at the fest were bowls of shark curry, stuffed squid, crisp fried Bombay duck and stuffed pomfrets. We picked the green chili prawn pickle from a range of pickled fish, bombils and prawns. The dried fish stalls however were something we skipped.

We might have gone there solely for the food but a stage set up at one end of the ground was crowded with kids happily dancing to koli music. Older men and few women joined in their excitement from the edges of the ground. The cooks and servers in the stalls were happily dressed up in sequinned tops, silky dhotis for the men and traditional garb for the bejewelled women.

The seafood festival is on today and tomorrow ie January 19 and 20, 2013, starting from 6pm onwards. The music shuts down at 12 am, but late comers sauntering in at 1am were still happily served. It might not have fancy cutlery but the festival proved that food cooked with love can indeed take you to a higher plane.