A spot of sunshine. Villa Vandre, Bandra W


The wife of chef Aloo and co-owner of Villa Vandre


The story of a charming new café in Bandra

Sometimes not waking up too early helps. It could after all lead to a good brunch as it did for us.

We woke up rather late a few Saturdays back. I suggested going somewhere other than our usual Candies, where I go to every morning, to K for breakfast.

There’s this new place in Bandra called Villa Vandre which I had been hearing about and wanted to try out. I called up their number and was told that they were about to shut breakfast service for the day. It was around 11 am. So I dragged K out of the house and hurriedly headed there.

Villa Vandre is on the road between Bagel Shop and the sugarcane juice guy at Shirley Rajan Road. The lady who took the call gave pretty precise instructions on how to reach there. Would be a bit tough to find if you are not a Bandra’ite.

A happy Brunch

Villa Vandre is a small place. About 5 or 6 tables. Not really a ‘villa’ but with its cheerful white and light blue colour scheme, very ‘Vandre’ cottage-ish. The tiny place got full while we were there.  K later told me that she didn’t like this part as there was no privacy. A bit like the inner section of Suzette in Bandra as she pointed out. I didn’t mind the crowd that much though. In fact I have a problem with places that are empty. No such issues here. I went back a few nights later mid week and it was crowded then too.

Not far enough from the madding crowd


Like I said at the start of this post, we were lucky in terms of our timing.

We had reached just before breakfast ended and managed to order pancakes.

The pancakes were simple (no chocolate chips etc) and tasted really good. They had a nice balance of sweet and salt. The texture had a nice spring to it and was not stiff or chewy. K asked for some chocolate sauce on the side and got it.

Simple but flavoursome pancakes


The pancakes went fairly well with the cappuccinos which were nice and strong and also frothy which is a must for K in cappuccinos. I was pleased to come across a good cappuccino in a restaurant as even some pretty good restaurants often fail on this count.

Turned out that the couple that runs Villa Vandre was there that morning.

Chef Aloysious or Aloo as he is known


It’s run by Chef Aloysius (known as Aloo), an  East Indian, world travelled chef, and Bandra Boy at heart and his wife Feroza (or is it Phiroza?) who is half Parsi and used to work in a five star earlier. She was handling the guests that morning while Aloo was at the counter getting the dishes ready. He told me that he is normally here during the day and goes to look after his catering business at night. While speaking to us Chef Aloo dished out some pretty scrumptious looking scrambled eggs, bacon and baked beans to a couple of gentlemen sitting beside us.


Spying on the breakfast at the next table


I went through the menu and saw that it was a mix of Indian and international dishes. Aloo told me that the Indian dishes are the ones he grew up on in Bandra, including the dhansak which was from his wife’s side of the family. The international dishes are those that he has picked up while travelling as a chef.

I saw East Indian sausages on the menu and both K and I felt like trying it.

We were in luck as we were at the cusp of breakfast and lunch hours. Chef Aloo managed to rustle up the sausages though it was part of the lunch menu and it was still fairly early.

Aloo told me that he makes the sausages himself and that all the bread and pav (there were some good pavs served with the sausages) are baked in house. 

East Indian sausages are less spicy and have less fat than Goa sausages, explained Aloo.

He served it on a bed of mashed potato and topped with a fried egg (a Parsi influence?).

The combination of the piquant sausages, creamy mash and runny egg yolk was stupendously good.

East Indian sausages with mash and egg and pav

A happy brunch
Caution: It can get pretty hot during lunch hours

Dinner


The sausages were so good that I ordered them again when I went back to Villa Vandre a few nights later with Chef Ranveer Brar for dinner.

I had wanted to go back to Villa Vandre after our great brunch to try out more dishes. Luckily Ranveer agreed when I suggested Villa Vandre. So we met up there for dinner and got the last available table at 8 pm. We chatted about Ranveer's life after he left a corporate five star hotel cheffing job to work for himself, starting as the judge for Masterchef India.

Exchanging notes with Ranveer who is trying to teach me how to take good selfies


Aloo and Feroza weren’t there this time but there was a very competent and friendly lady at the door who seated us and took our orders.

I called for the East Indian sausages and the taste was consistent and I liked it as much as I did the first time.

We tried out the coastal prawn curry. The sauce looked very red but was more tangy and pleasantly creamy than hot and spicy. I was very impressed by the prawns. The chefs had made a conscious effort not to overcook the prawns. The prawns, were juicy, bouncy and evidently very fresh as my tummy was absolutely fine  the next day! It was such a pleasant relief to be served prawns which were not over-cooked.

Coastal prawn curry

With this I called for the dhansak. I had wanted to try the dhansak ever since I saw it on the menu here on the first day.

The daal was the thicker version of dhansak daals. I have come across dhansak daals of various consistencies over the years. The taste not too spicy or oily and was happily similar to a home cooked version. There were four pieces of mutton which were quite succulent. The combination of the rice and the daal was pretty perfect. I speak this, of course, as a Bengali married to a Parsi but I have a feeling that Parsis would approve of the dish too. They served a nice kachumber with both dishes.

Mutton dhansak


The portions were single person portions so the two of us were not stuffed though we had three dishes between the two of us.

Ranveer and I chatted undisturbed but seeing the queue outside we decided to move on to the Bagel Shop and continue our adda there over coffee.

Our breakfast of a main, two coffees  and a breakfast dish was about Rs 750 and dinner of three mains and a juice was about Rs 1,200 which makes this place cheaper than the Indigo Delis and Saltwater Cafes of the world. The experience, though cheerful and cosy, is of course a lot less plush than in those restaurants. 

Most importantly each of the dishes that we tried over two visits gave pleasure. It was good to have interesting local food options such as the East Indian sausages, dhansak and prawn curry for a change in a new restaurant.

As I had observed in an EazyDiner trendpiece, this return to Indian food is an interesting change in the Mumbai restaurant scene.

I was told that they are looking for a bigger space for Villa Vandre after the positive opening response.

Given the good food served I hope they do well.




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