Bangla Bandh - No Bengali restaurants for Bandraites

Few hours into my stay at Bandra after our office admin manager dropped me at my PG (shared room, shared loo) , and after the auto guy dropped me at Carter Road (no promenade then) when I asked him to take me to the sea, I knew that I was home.

It's been close to twelve years since then and Bandra still doesn't have a Bengali restaurant. Not even an equivalent of the Parsi Snack Shack with its three tables.

This is as surprising as the lack of Parsi restaurants here given that quite a few Bengalis live at Bandra, that we Bengalis love food, and that Bengali food, or at least sweets are quite famous.

A number of Bengalis here must be young folks living by themselves in PGs as I once did. This paucity of Bengali joints would be particularly hard on them. It's slightly better if you have your own kitchen and can cook. And there are enough Bengalis who love food enough to head to the kitchen for salvation.

Sometime in the late nineties a few friends from the corporate world took the plunge and decided to open a kaathi roll shop in what is now known as the 'Papa Poncho gully' at Pali Naka. My sources told me that they wanted to name it 'Roller dokan' (roll shop). They called it Chowringhee Square instead to appeal to a larger audience. Most of us used to flock there. It was a bit difficult to digest rolls at Rs 30 as we were fresh from the ship and remembered paying 5 Rs for rolls in Calcutta. The rolls were good but were Bombay'ised. The parathas were lightly fried unlike the crisp deep fried Calcutta ones. They were made in less oil in deference to Mumbai's health consciousness. They even used to sell Sweet Bengal sweets getting Bengali mishti into Bandra.

Alas the folks who started Chaowringhee Square couldn't sustain their dreams and the shop closed down and became Papa Poncho, a Punjabi restaurant! Last heard, one of the owners of C S has set up an elegant guest house at Shanti Niketan in West Bengal.

Sweet Bengal saw an opportunity and opened a branch on the road between Pali Naka and Ambedkar Road beside Brownie Point. They have been running strong since then. Their sweets are fairly authentic and a welcome relief to the rubbery rubbish which postures as Bengali sweets in North Indian sweet shops in Mumbai. Those from Calcutta find Sweet Bengal to be very expensive. I think its fine if you factor in the cost of a flight ticket to Calcutta.

A roll shop called Calcutta Roll Centre opened sometime back opposite Amarsons at Linking Road. The initial experience was good. But it went all downhill even before one could say Joi Bangla. Not a patch on the rolls at Hangla at Lokhandwala.

With that you are more or less through with your Bengali restaurant options at Bandra. Unless you consider the jolly men of Pratap Caterers 26053130/ 26007882. They run a Bengali tiff in service and deliver home if you order about six hours in advance. The daily tiffin consists of a fish, a vegetables, a daal and rice and roti. Very oily. But comfort food for the Bengali. They even cater for large weddings or small parties - chops, fries, pulaos, luchis (avoidable), kosha chicken, rui kaali - again very oily stuff but acceptable and exciting to those who are not very discerning.

Then there is the once a year Bengali food festival at the Durga Puja at Linking Road opposite National College. Crowded food stalls, peddling over priced nostalgia,very sweaty and very native. You get full meals there but I'd stick to the street food - rolls, moghlai parathas, chops -as they are easier to eat.

And, in your prayers to the Goddess, don't forget to ask why she is so partial to the folks at Oshiwara and Kandivli which are peppered with Bengali restaurants.