If you too thought that health food is boring then this organic cafe in Bandra will change your mind, The Village Shop, Mumbai

From the first of a series of three trips that I made
within a week to The Village Shop

Dosas that visit that was long due

I went to the opening of The Village Shop, Jenny and Javed Malik's organic food restaurant, when it opened in Bandra a bit less than a year back. I hadn't had a chance to go back there for a meal since then. The fact that it is an organic cafe could have been a dampener too as in my head I associate 'organic' with being expensive and not necessarily taste focused.

I finally went back to the The Village Shop a couple of weeks back and then tried to make up for lost time by going back twice more later that week.

What drew me back to The Village Shop was the promise of 'thick dal dosas' which I spotted on the their menu listed on Swiggy. I am always on the lookout for good dosa options in Bandra and thought that I should check this out. I decided to go the cafe for these dosas rather than order in as the best way to do justice to a dosa is to have it fresh off the pan.

I went to The Village Shop for the dosa and enjoyed it so much that I went back a couple of days later for breakfast with K. 

We had the akoori and kheema for breakfast which impressed us enough to go back for tea a couple of evenings later and had an amazing vegan (yes!) sandwich that time.

Kheema, akoori, hot chocolate, breakfast no 2 at The Village Shop


So here's my take on what to expect at The Village Shop basis my three visits to the cafe, close to a year after it opened:

Ambiance

The Village Shop from outside



The look and feel of the cafe been kept simple and there's something really warm and cosy and grandmother's apronly (yes, I know it's not a proper word) about the place. The cafe is located in the Chimbai lane in Bandra which leads to the sea and has the St Andrew's church on one side and is skirted by some small cottages too. When you sit inside the cafe you feel as if you are in a village in Goa. 

It is a really tiny place. It has an outdoor seating section which has a few tables and then there are two tables in the section inside which people like us, who crave air-conditioning, gravitate to. There is a cooking station here so you might be welcomed by food smells but that's not hard to get used to as I saw. 

There is a small and neat toilet attached to the premises.


Leaves you with a cozy feeling


How's the food?



The good stuff:

Southern sunrise or thick dal dosa or adai



1. Southern sunrise or thick dal dosa

I was very happy with my order of the dal dosa which is what had drawn me to the restaurant in the first place. You get two dosas per serving.

The dosas are chubby and soft in the middle and slightly crisp at the periphery. The dal based batter used for it make the dosas taste distinctively different from that of the thin & crisp rice and dal based dosas served in Udupi restaurants here. The dosas tasted wholesome and flavoursome and filled you up. The dosas were made in the open kitchen behind the cash counter and were brought straight to the table once read. There was a delicious tongue tickling onion chutney served with the dosa. 

This was just the sort of breakfast dish in Bandra that I had been looking for for long.




On asking the wait staff, I got to know that the batter for the dosa had a mix 4 dals and a bit of rice too, all of which is organic. This dosa is different from the pesaratu which has only green moong dal. Ghee, made in house and organic once again, is used to make the dosas they told me.

When I posted pictures of the dosa on Facebook later, some folks wrote in saying that this is a dosa from Andhra Pradesh and is called adai. When I mentioned this on Twitter, a Tamil friend of mine contested it and said that adai is quintessentially Tamil in origin!

I think the Maliks did a smart thing by just calling it 'mixed dal dosa' as us non- south Indians would find that easier to relate to and one doesn't really want to start another Cauvery water dispute over the terminology here does one?


Akoori at The village Shop


2. Akoori: 

We ordered Akoori, the Parsi version of the scrambled egg, when K and I went there for breakfast a few days after my first visit. She approved of it. Of the akooris that I have had in cafes in Bandra, and every (!) new one offers it, I found The Village Shop one to be the most enjoyable in terms of balance of spices (some get to be  too heavy on turmeric) and creaminess.


Kheema with wholewheat pav at The Village Shop

3. Mince me (Kheema): 

It recently dawned upon us that neither K nor I like kheema (minced meat) for breakfast. I find the spices in most restaurant kheemas a bit too overpowering to start the day with and prefer to have kheema for lunch and dinner instead. 

Yet, I wanted to try the kheema at The Village Shop for breakfast the sake of research as kheema pav is a quintessential Mumbai breakfast dish.

The Mince Me at The Village Shop turned out to be one of the nicest kheema dishes that I have had in a restaurant in a while. In fact I often prefer the mutton kheema that our cook Banu makes to the restaurant ones these days.

The minced goat meat used at The Village Shop is hand pounded and is not the usual machine ground pasty stuff. This gives it a very nice texture with the odd delightful nibbles of fat livening up the dish even more. The kheema is flavoured most subtly and is not over-spiced at all. 

I have been disappointed by some of the kheemas that I have had at the iconic kheema places of Mumbai. At their worst they tend to be smelly while some others have an overdose of garam masala in them. I have fond memories of the kheema at Grant House, Gajalee at Vile Parle and at Military Cafe though and then that of a series of kheema disappointments.

The kheema at The Village Shop is sublime as I said and the akoori and the kheema here impressed me a lot more than the ones we had at the Bird Song cafe nearby a week back.

I had once heard that the goat meat in India has a larger chance of being organic in comparison to the anti-biotic chicken that we get these days.


The sloppy shroom vegan sandwich that won our hearts


4. Sloppy shroom (mushroom sandwich):

K and I went back to The Village Shop on a Sunday evening, a couple of days after we went there for breakfast. The place was quite packed when we went there in the evening but we luckily got a table inside. We tried the mushroom sandwich this time which which was prepared in a brilliant sourdough foccacia with gave a slight tartness to the sandwich. There was a delightfully cheesy and creamy filling inside which we later realised was the walnut pate (!) as this is a vegan sandwich. The sandwich was quite substantial and the two of us shared it.

5. Breads: I had an assortment of multigrain and gluten free breads on the side with our dishes and they were all fairly tasty and not chewy or dry or crumbly at all. 

That's the thing about this place, none of the food tasted like 'health food'!

6. Cappuccino:  The cappuccinos here are made with organic coffee beans sourced from south Indian and are strong and robust and frothy like good cappuccinos should be.


The hot chocolate at The Village Shop is the stuff legends are made of

7. Hot chocolate:

I had the hot chocolate at The Village Shop when I went there for brekfast with K. It was a slightly rainy day and for me a hot chocolate seemed more apt than the traditional monsoon favourite of pakoras (deep fried fritters). 

They use organic chocolate from south India for the hot chocolate at The Village Shop. The hot chocolate here has character, is deep, brooding and intense and plays with your every senses.

The drink was not overtly sweet and was just perfect for dark chocolate lovers. The hot chocolate was served hot. No, this is not as funny as it sounds. The Starbucks dark chocolate hot chocolate for example, which is fairly nice, is often not served piping hot.

The consistency was just right, not watery, nor too thick. I think that the hot chocolate that I had at The Village Shop is one of the best in town and can hold its head high when compared with those in Europe too.

Some of the other good things that we tried here are the date and chocolate health balls that I picked for k after my first visit and the lemon and ginger teas. They have an array of meals too such as Indian curries and stews and western pastas and pizzas and I am keen to try them too. They don't use processed sugar in any of their dishes. Sweetening, when required, is done with jaggery.

The not so good:


There is no dish that I did not like really like at The Village Shop, but if there was something that I would not repeat then it would be the filter coffee that I had on day one. That was rather milky and seemed pointless.


Service:


We didn't come across the owners in any of the visits except during the second half the last of the third visit and that too after placing our orders. Despite the absence of the owners, the staff members were competent in taking our orders and answering questions that I had on the food. Another commendable fact was that the cafe was not noisy inside as the waiters and chefs there spoke softly with each other. Often in Bengali!


Costs:


Like most new cafes that we go to in Bandra, a breakfast or snack for two comes to around Rs 1,000. Bandra is not the suburb to eat cheap anymore. 

After the great food that we had here, I realised that  you are not paying for the ambiance at The Village Shop as much as you are for the quality of the food. Organic produce, unfortunately, tends to be expensive in India. 

I hope this changes though as linking quality of produce consumed to the depth of one's wallet is not a good thing. I do hope that it soon becomes more affordable to eat well for all sections of the society. 

Growth is best when it is inclusive after all and when no-one is left behind as Dr Daisaku Ikeda said in his peace proposal to the UN in 2017.


The verdict


I went to The Village Shop thrice within the space of a week week and plan go back again for sure. 

That should tell you its story.

All our visits were made unannounced, our orders were placed anonymously too and the food fully paid for, so what we ate was possibly what any regular customer would. 

During our third visit we did bump into one of the owners. I am talking of Sophia catering college grad and former adman, Javed Malik. He joined us while we ate and we chatted together. Listening to the story of his and his wife Jennifer's commitment to the cause of providing good food to their customers and hearing about the obstacles and challenges that they have to face on a daily basis to live their dream of running an organic food eatery was truly inspiring. 

A story of 'turning poison into medicine' if there ever was one but then that's what the organic food movement attempts to do too one could says.

My first visit which enticed me to return soon
A place for foodies
With Javed Malik

Costs: June 2017





Address:




Address53, Serpis Villa, Chimbai Road, Near St. Andrews Church, Hill Rd, Bandra West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400050
0