Dude, that's my Bandra: Food and Nighlife Magazine and the missing byline

I could live with the delays in their promised copy of the magazine with my article not reaching me. And the delay of the cheque. That wouldn't change my life. I still sent next month's article. Then I finally got hold of the latest issue at Crossword Inorbit. Was scouring newspaper stalls for a while without success till then. Eagerly searched for my article on Bandra.  Found the article. My tribute to Bandra. My photographs which regulars at Finely Chopped might recognise. Didn't find my name.

Now that's the sort of thing that takes the goat of even a mild mannered Bengali. Folks at Food and Nightlife this is not on. I hope you have a better excuse than your courier guy who misplaces things, your office getting shifted, your accounts department reinventing themselves. I don't write for a free copy of your magazine. Or for the money. But yes I like to be acknowledged for my work.

Anyway, let's leave the bitterness aside, for this about Bandra. My Bandra. And here's the article:

Bandra, the land of Pink Pyjamas

Imagine waking up in the morning. Looking out of the window. Stretching lazily. Smiling at quaint cottages and greenery outside. Slowly strolling down to your favourite caf√© at noon for breakfast. Going to the market. Stocking up on cold cuts and cheeses from faraway lands. ‘Exotic’ vegetables and a chat with the unlettered lady selling broccoli, basil, thyme and rosemary. Going home to a fresh water fish curry and rice lunch. Siesta. A brisk walk on the promenade by the sea. Followed by a languorous coffee sweetened by the roar of waves. Home. Planning where to go for dinner. Pasta, Sushi, Bagels, Shwarma, Thai Curry or Dal makhani. Strolling back home. Blogging away till sleep wins you over.

Sound like a vacation? Or a Sunday? Well, welcome to Bandra. The ‘Queen of the suburbs’. A misplaced moniker in my opinion for a place which is so easy going.

Yes, yes Bandra’ites do go to work. Yes, every square inch here is quite unaffordable and you end up staying in cubbyholes if you are lucky. Of course there are traffic jams all over. Potholes even on the roads where the biggest film stars of India live. Bandra does get flooded in the monsoon. There are parts where you have water problems. And for all its Ibizzalike image, pubs and night clubs are being closed because of the ‘nuisance’ they cause to locals.

Still, set reality aside and try to feel the spirit of Bandra for a while. One of the most cosmopolitan and easy going suburbs of Mumbai. Relaxed. Easygoing. You can ascribe some of this to the peace loving East Indian community who were amongst Bandra’s original settlers. Or to the open sea beside Bandra’s rocky shores. To the people from all over who have made Bandra their home. To the young who throng its streets. To the pensioners who sit by on its benches. As the tee shirt says ‘Bandra is where I’d rather be’. 

Bandra is the one suburb of Mumbai where out of towners gravitate to. It was always popular with youngsters from all over India trying their luck in the movies, the fashion industry or in the corporate world of Mumbai. PG (paying guest) digs at Bandra were always the most sought after. Don’t be surprised if you are shown fifteen different rooms as PGs where Mithun Chakraborty allegedly lived as a struggler. The recent years have seen an influx of international expats coming to work in Mumbai. Bandra, again, turns out to be their favoured destination. You will see skin colours of every hue walking the streets of Bandra. The identity of Bandra flows from its all embracing nature. Everyone feels at home here. If there is a part in Mumbai which can be called a Global Village then Bandra, along with Colaba at South Mumbai, would compete for that.

The eclectic and enterprising nature of Bandra is reflected in its food scene too. You would find restaurants from all over here. A practical necessity given the number of singletons or working couples who have made Bandra their home. It is clearly a food lover’s paradise.  New eating places open every second day here. Some survive while others fall by the way. Chances are that you would get most dishes that you fancy over here. Except, perhaps, the beating heart of a Cobra for which even Anthony Bourdain

Surprisingly there aren’t too many East Indian restaurants or Goan at Bandra. None actually. Your best bet for a decent sorpatel, Goan fish curry and Goan chops would be at Candies. Candies is my favourite place at Bandra. It is not a restaurant in the truest sense of the word. A self service affair where you get everything from Sushi to Chicken Korma, Falooda to Cappuccino, cheesecakes to chicken lollipops. The latest and biggest branch of Candies is spread over multiple floors. A near enchanted land of garden terraces and an air conditioned ground floor with garden furniture.  There is a happy buzz in the morning which soon becomes fairly chaotic as the day progresses. The popularity of Candies cuts across ages and classes. It is the sort of place that you will grow to love if you are patient enough.

Some of the other Christian run establishments here include Cafe Andorra, Hearsch Bakery, American Express Bakery and Mikneil. You can get regular bakes, puffs, sandwiches, cakes and even Chinese and biriyani here. Some of the Christian run cold storages such as Judes and Marks occasionally have homemade Goan food which you can pop into the micro and eat at home. Most of this food is comparatively inexpensive and sought after by all.

There is a large Muslim community at Bandra. Some of the iconic Muslim restaurants here are Lucky, famous for its biriyani, and Tawa. The latter served the sort of fare which you get at Mohammed Ali during Ramzan. Tawa has fallen foul of today’s fitness conscious generation and is not as popular anymore. Lucky serves the Mumbai styled masala heavy biriyani. Though they customise it if you want a simpler version.  The comparatively new Kakori House is a takeaway and home delivery shop. It serves excellent biriyani, Gulauti Kebab and Kakori Kebab all the way from Lucknow. Another interesting shop tucked away in a busy corner of Bazar Road is Jeff’s. This is a takeaway place too and has some excellent Bohri biriyani, mutton kebabs and pepper chicken.

Bandra West doesn’t give you too many options in local Maharashtrian fare. Saybaa at SV Road is your best bet for some really good Gomantak food. The melt in the mouth Bombay Duck fry and the spicy prawn fry masala are highly recommended. The more trendy, Goan run Soul Fry Casa, at Pali Market is equally popular for its Karaoke nights and seafood. There are a few Jai Hind outlets. This is a part of a local seafood chain. Their flagship dish is prawns stuffed in bombil.

 Bandra is much more than just about Indian food. So let’s start with the old favourite, Chinese. China Gate is a landmark old school Chinese restaurant here. Forever packed to the gills with Golden Batter prawns to die for. Then you have new kid on the block, 5 Spice, which has won all over with its very road cart like ‘Chinese’ dishes such as burnt chilly rice and very very huge portions. The action has heated up with the entry of the more posh Mainland China. Their XO chilly prawns and Keong’s chicken have won over my stomach recently.

Bandra is also home to Thai Baan. It is one of the earliest Thai restaurants in Mumbai and their curries can be banked upon. But what has caught foodies by storm is the intriguingly named Global Fusion. It offers a buffet with live Sushi, Tempura, Dimsum and Teppenyaki counters. A nice Far Eastern trip, even if not ‘Global’. Rounded off with ice creams and pastries for dessert.

Bandra has an excellent range of continental restaurants. Out of the Blue is a perennial favourite in this set. Amongst the first to introduce fondues, they have a fairly good range of sizzlers and pastas too. My favourites include the red ginger and pork sizzler and their pesto pasta. The range of desserts is as sinful as it gets. Amongst the newer entrants, Salt Water Cafe, Cafe Mangii and Yellow Tree have been quite impressive.

Given the young crowd at Bandra it is not surprising that quite a few coffee shops and cafes have opened here. You have the Baristas and Coffee Day’s of course. Good old Candies is a nice place for a steaming mug of coffee which they serve with complimentary petite fours. Gloria Jeans and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf are coffee shops from international chains which have been warmly welcomed by Bandra. You could try Crepe Station and Bagel Shop some fairly distinctive dishes.

Bandra has lot to offer in terms of desserts. Amore for gelatos, Mad over Donuts, Candies, Sante with its brownie cheesecake and chocolate éclair are some places which hit the sweet spot.

You won’t find much in terms of Bengali cuisine here barring Sweet Bengal for sweets and Hangla for rolls, biriyanis and now phuchkas. Not much in terms of Parsi food either unlike in South Mumbai. Snack Shack at Pali Naka is a tiny little Parsi restaurant with a few tables and a limited range of dishes. Cheron, at Hill Road, is a takeaway place which offers some Parsi dishes too.

No write up on the food at Bandra is complete without mentioning its ‘Khao Gully’ or food street. This is the lane perpendicular to the Carter Road Promenade. Get your passport stamped when you come here. You can have Lebanese Shwarma and Hummus at Maroosh, Thai Curry and Burmese Khao Suey at Asia Wok, Italian Gelatos at Amore, Shikhampuri kebabs at Kareems, French Crepes at Crepe Station, donuts from America at MOD, new age enlightened sandwiches at Subway, Tibetan Momos at Momo Station, Brownies at Brownie Cottage... and Mumbai’s own paani puris and bhel puris across the road on the Carter Road promenade. A good place to walk off your dinner, so that you can make place for dessert.

Even I can’t claim to have eaten everything that Bandra has to offer. There’s enough left for you to keep coming back here to eat. Though I must warn you that Bandra is very addictive. Years back the Eagles had serenaded the Hotel Califonia and said “You can check out any time you like, But you can never leave!”. Applies very well to Bandra too. Ask me about it. I came here thirteen years back. Am head over heels since then.


Unknown said…
nicely done as usual. I do hope the magazine gives you credit and an apology in their next issue. Disheartening when people behave in this manner.
Harshad said…
Well, I did see that magazine, or rather the cover, on a rack as I waited my turn at the cash counter at Phoenix Landmark last week. Never did I know it had an anonymous you tucked away inside! :)

As usual, it's a beautifully crafted write-up, Kalyan. Very sensory in its evocation!

And I really wish they give you your due credit for the reader interest that I'm sure they're being lavished with, because of your work!
Scarlett said…
Lovely article on my favorite Mumbai suburb. Did you get an apology from the magazine?
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Thanks Jyo, Harshad, Scarlett,

No haven't heard from them. This one particularly hurt. It was my tribute to my Bandra after all
Sassy Fork said…
Knife,you've caught the very essence of Bandra in your article....a melting pot!
Enjoyed the read.It's getting me into the Return to India mode! :)
as for the credit,anyone can tell that it can only be written by Kalyan Karmakar
Pinku said…
hey...lovely piece....

my only query why did u not mention Yoko's?

also in case you need me to get over to the mag's office here in Delhi and bash up someone ...let me know...
Anonymous said…
I can totally identify with the petite lady selling "foreign" vegatables. She accosts me whenever I walk past her asking "aapko chinese ya italian banana hai aaj", and does not hesitate to tell her current customer "yeh chinese celery madam ne liya that, unce reicpe poochke aap bhi banaana"! I agree that you are checked in for life!

Great article, kudos and a shame abut the credit.