Every time I think of going out to lunch or even a coffee, I seem to gravitate towards Bandra West. Not only are there some old favourites like Salt Water Café, Eat Around the Corner, Birdsong, Ray’s Café and Pizzeria, Smoke House Deli and The Bagel Shop, there are cafés and restaurants that have stood the test of time, and some great new places opening nearly every week.
Bandra (W) is a suburb that is most importantly a blend of traditional Indian culture and modern influences from around the world, which is quite evidently reflected in its diverse culinary scene. This is where the expats and international visitors head, thanks to its overall permissive, open-minded cosmopolitan atmosphere especially when it comes to food. And this vibrant avant-garde movement is represented quite conspicuously by the eateries, restaurants and cafes.
Bandra (W) is also known for its family-run bakeries. Hearsch Bakery, established in 1860, is known for its well-priced freshly baked bread, cakes, and pastries, including the popular home-style burgers, cutlets, chicken mayonnaise rolls and puffs. Andora Bakery, founded in 1952, where people queue up for savoury and sweet baked goods, wholesome sandwiches, ready to eat meals, like grilled chicken, biryani and East Indian specialities like Sorpotel and Fugias. Candies’ chicken sandwiches chutney sandwiches, mini-meals and baked stuff are impossible to compete with. But the world is still wide open and two hard core South Mumbai, well-bred, blue-blooded and haut monde establishments have spread their wings into Bandra (W) and are already making current in this pretty well entrenched market.
Let me start off with Mumbai’s celebrated restaurateur Aditi Duggar, co-founder of Mumbai’s most critically acclaimed ingredient-driven restaurant, Masque. In the lockdown, they worked lovingly on an idea and opened an offbeat kind of bakery called TwentySeven Bakehouse near Laxmi Mills.
After passionately imbibing bakery techniques from Israel and all her other travels, Aditi Duggar launched a menu with baskets full of fresh loaves, and a collection of sweet as well as savoury viennoiseries. Surprises all the way. The same TwentySeven Bakehouse opened doors in Bandra (W) a couple of months ago. A white and blue façade just packed with excited breakfast goers welcomed me, as I hesitantly walked into the small space. I was affronted by glass shelves full of inviting breads, croissants, tarts, Pain Au Chocolat, Éclairs, savoury as well as sweet. And there were breads galore. Seeded Sourdough Loaf, Banh-mi Bread, Milk and Honey Burger Buns, Milk and Honey Loaf, Brioche Loaf, even Challah — a braided bread of Ashkenazi Jewish origin eaten on ceremonial occasions such as Shabbat.
Lots and lots of cookies, like Alfajore (crumbly butter cookies sandwiched with dulce de leche) and Kouign Amann (buttery laminated pastry with a caramelised crust) and cheesy savoury crusty stuff like, Mushroom Melt, Cheesy Goan Chorizo Croissant, Potato Rosemary Galette, Bakehouse Tapenade and Cream Cheese Twist, a fine Roasted Tomato and Grilled Veg Tart, and Sweet bird’s eye chilli and Emmental cheese swirls, and my favourite, the simple, but not so humble Ham and Cheese Croissant. With one arm full of goodies and the ever smiling and welcoming Aditi Duggar on the other arm, I walked out mighty pleased with myself.
The other Bandra (W) eatery that has just opened seven days ago, seems like it has been there forever. Tucked away inside Bandra’s Ranwar Village between Chapel Road, Waroda Road and Veronica Road, is Veronica’s.
Opened by who, I call the Bombay Boys, that is the boys who run the Bombay Canteen, O Pedro and Bombay Sweet Shop. This triumvirate of Yash Bhanage, Sameer Seth and the brilliant Chef Hussain Shahzad. The space itself used to be an old traditional bakery, called St. Jude, and the new psychedelic shop-front, a brightly-painted art mural done by Portuguese street artist Akacorleone, still bears the name prominently. The interiors are tiled and light steams in from a large skylight. Two glistening coffee machines grind and brew fresh cups filling air with the aroma of rich artisanal coffee. The menu harks back to some of the sandwiches that Bombay Canteen launched during the pandemic, but has enough to excite any hot blooded bread lover. They have sandwiches, salads, Kombucha on Tap, Coffee, wine and beer.
I start with Kolkata’s Tiretta Bazaar influenced hot steaming breakfast sausage and aged cheese momos along with Veronica’s Sichuan hot sauce. Then arrives on the table a plate of open, bacon filled Hangover Tacos (scrambled eggs, bacon, salsa and tortilla). Can’t leave without a sandwich so I ordered the humongous Italian Job, a mortadella, smoked ham and buffalo mozzarella with hot relish piled on top of a toasted ciabatta. And finally, a homage to Bandra’s East Indian community. Mrs Mabel’s Pumpkin Bagel roasted pumpkin, cream cheese, arugula, pickled onions and spicy sambal, topped with east Indian bottle masala. On that note I walk into the small but frightfully efficient kitchen to say bye to Chef Hussain who is going crazy with the KOT’s.
Smiling and enthusiastic as usual, he beckons me to watch him make a quick Smash Burger. Two juicy, double short rib and marrow patty, mixed with onions rings smashed on the grill. The batty browns along with the onions, slapping bacon and cheddar slices which all get caught between two soft milk bungs and it’s to go. And so do I, go.
Kunal Vijayakar is a food writer based in Mumbai. He tweets @kunalvijayakar and can be followed on Instagram @kunalvijayakar. His YouTube channel is called Khaane Mein Kya Hai. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.