‘Fawlty Towers’ AKA Bhojohori Manna, Oshiwara, Mumbai


'good food'. Never believe billboards

It takes a lot of guts to open a Bengali restaurant and mess up things.

Us Bengalis, unlike the Pathans, the Punjabis or the Rajputs, aren’t a martial race. But mess around with our food and we can write some pretty vitriolic prose.

From what I understand Bijoli Grill at Mumbai had a rough ride when they started but it was all good by the time I went there. It is my favourite Bengali restaurant in town right now.

My fellow Bengali dinner mates said that we should be a bit patient with the Bhojohori Manna that has just opened at Oshiwara, Mumbai.

Teething troubles” they said with a smile.

I strongly doubt if they would have been as patient with a non-Bengali restaurant. Frankly this ‘new restaurant - handle with care’ argument doesn’t work for me as I still have to shell out regular rates when I eat at such places.

Bhojohori Manna was amongst the first of the spate of Bengali restaurants which opened at Calcutta soon after I left the city in the late 1990s. I never made it there on my trips back home and soon BM was out of the radar.

Recently one heard that the mountain had moved to Mohamat and that Bhojohori Manna had opened at Mumbai. A few of us made plans and headed off on the long drive to Oshiwara on a rainy night.

We finally reached Bhojohori Manna and saw the big board which said ‘valet parking’. On asking found that there was no valet.

Which sort of set the tone for the evening.

We went in, met our fellow Bengali friends. K, the lone non Bengali, explained how she prefers Bengali food to North Indian. Us Bongs scanned through the menu and our smiles began to widen as we saw the long list of dishes. This was a very extensive menu.

We began to order.

“Daab Chingri”

“Not there. It is over”

A good thing as we found out. Five daab chingris went to the adjacent table. Suddenly a sari clad lady on that table called for the waiter and said,  “These prawns aren’t good. They aren’t fresh. They are smelly. How old are they?”

Again a sign of things to follow.

“Mocha chingri” we continued.

“Not there today'”

I spoke up, “But you have it on the menu”

“Yes, but we don’t cook everything everyday”

The service at Bhojohori Manna was very authentic 20th century Kolkata. The experience very Fawlty Towers.

Our dinner got off to a good start I must admit.

Nice fish and mocha (banana flower) chops (croquettes). Good luchis – crisp, light, poetic. A very distinguished and deep kosha mangsho. Well cooked, well flavoured. Served surprisingly with boiled eggs in instead of potatoes.

The latter as natural as Gautam Gambhir captaining the Calcutta team while Saurav Ganguly still hadn’t officially retired. But like the KKR team in this season the kosha mangsho did reasonably well.

prawn cutlets luchis kosha mangsho with boiled egg

And then things changed. The nightmare at Amherst Street began. It was all downhill from there. Barring the alu posto.

alu posto

We were in a big group so we ordered the whole menu, whatever was available that is. And went in for repeated heartbreaks in the best traditions of those maudlin black and white Bengali films of yore.

A deep red coloured gravy dish came to our table. We couldn’t identify what it was.

“Shorshe pabda” we were told.

None of us had ever seen such a crimson rendition of this traditionally yellow mustard dish before…the shorshe or mustard taste was beautifully hidden as was any way of identifying the delicate pada fish which had been fried to charcoal like perfection.

The  shorshe pabda from the Red Planet would be as welcome in Bengal as would be Guru Greg.

Alleged shorshe pabda

Then came a plate of fairly authentic looking caatla kaalia. The only problem being that we had ordered a rather expensive chitol maccher petir kaalia. Not caatla!

In fact I chose the chitol as I told our group about how my grandmom had served this delicacy three decades back to my dad on Jamai Shoshthi (son in law’s day). I remembered the boneless fatty cut of fish with just 3 long bones from then though I was just eight.

But there was a problem. The fish was full of tiny bones. On inspection we found fins too. This was not the expensive peti or stomach cut. This was the lyaja or tail!

We called the waiter. He denied this. Said they only serve peti.

Which is when I looked at him menacingly and said “aamra shobai ranna kori”

(We all cook and know what we are talking off).

The fake chitol maachher petir kaalia was as gruesome as it looks in the photo.

Chital maacher kaalia. as ghastly as it looks

A mysterious lady in black came to our table and asked politely what the problem was. She looked rather lost when we said that it was the wrong fish. She floated off without saying anything. Only to make an equally pointless appearance later.

Was she Basil Fawlty? Or was she Manuel?

We wanted to check the biryani here. Called for an ilish or Hilsa Biryani. This is a Dhaka speciality which I recently learnt about from Kanishka whose mother in law cooks and sends it for him from there.

The pot of biryani came to our table. Expectations rose as I photographed it. Then a strange odour surround me. Folks started serving the biryani. And stopped.

The Hilsa was rotten. Spoilt.

We called the waiter and sent it back.

And as requested by the very polite and patient Rahul, I told them not to get it back.

rotten hilsa biryani

The Mystery Lady returned to out table and went:

“Please have our nolen gurer (jaggery) ice cream at the end. It is very good”.

And disappeared.

Was this the the salve to cool us down?

Very sweet and rather red prawn malai curry followed. The sweetness not a bad thing as we found out later. We did need a sweet end to our dinner after all. We would not get our just desserts that night.

The prawns were over cooked but since the curry was the only non- low of the session we called for another.

The next malai curry came. They had slyly slipped in the more expensive tiger prawn which we earlier said that we didn’t wont. Anyway we were too frazzled to put it politely by then, mind eff’ed, by then to argue.

Sgar syrupy prawn malai curryThe tiger prawn rip off 

Thought we would call for the desserts. There was the promised ice cream from the Mystery Lady. We wanted some mishti doi too.

The waiter came to take our order.

The ice cream was over!

We saw the Mystery Lady walk off with a plastic bag full of containers without a glance at us. Ice creams we hazarded.

So mishti doi it would be.

Except those were over.

“Too many home deliveries sir'”.

I smiled and asked for the bill.

“He is so patient” said the others at the table looking at me.

I was just waiting to to ‘get to the mattresses’.

Or the keyboard.

PS For whatever it is worth, the experiment cost our group of five a reasonable Rs 400 (10 USD) each. Plus fuel. And a good dinner.

the mysterdy lady walks off SONY DSC the finely chopped knights with K SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC


this weird indifference seems to be a trait among Bong restaurants in Mumbai.

We visited a new restaurant called Dada Boudi in Nerul last week. 60% of the menu was unavailable. It took them about 25 mins to serve us water and a few more mins to get the food.

Ilish wasn't cooked that day because they had just cooked the same fish the previous day!

There was no dessert menu at all. Can you imagine a Bong restaurant and no mishti?!

Teething troubles? Bollocks! Just bad attitude and no business sense I think.
surprise surprise the same happened with me in Kolkata too. they sent me a chitol macher lyaja as peti for our home delivery couple of months back. the price of that sigle dish was Rs.600 and it was totally under cooked.apart from the shukto we hated everything that we ordered.
Scarlett said…
I'm sorry you had such a bad experience. Maybe it isn't run by Bongs?
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Rhea: well Calcutta Club was a pleasant change then. Got their act right from the beginning I think

@Sayantani: 600! we paid abour Rs 300

@Scarlett: all Bengali waiters etc
Kurush F Dalal said…
the best Bong food in Mumbai is at Bangali Mashi's in Nerul off the palm beach rd, that's not including Bijoli which i have yet to try (hopefully this Sunday) .... Bhojohari Manna methought was a Pice Restaurant concept with a blackboard with the days spls .... being wiped as they ran out. this menu biz is weird. had been there 8-9 yrs back in kolkata and had an amazing exp. sad to hear this crap ... if u dont know how or care enuff stop trying to get into the food biz .... people like this give the biz a bad name.
Ren said…
I just recently came across your blog dude, and I gotta say, I'm lovin' it!
Specially the lavish picture display of sumptuous, delicious dishes would even tempt a person with a full tummy, after a heavy meal.

Maybe you'd want to add a video or two in your future food excursions, in addition to the pics..which would make the experience for us even more personal and salivatingly tantalizing.

Edit: (Don't know whether 'salivatingly' is actually a word, but you know what I'm saying hehe.)
Pinku said…
I think this is the most "upset u" post I have read on finely chopped. ever.

really sad to hear about it all. we bongs only rarely have any sense of business.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Kurush: Need to try Mash's someday even if it mean going out of town :)

Thankfully the proportion of folks like you who give the business a good name is much higher :)

@Ren: I heart salivatingly

Thanks so much for you feedback. Just been a bit too lazy for AV yet

@Pinku the bones in the chitol really got to me
Aar Bee said…
Couldnt agree with you more. We have had similar experiences at the Bhojo Hori Manna here in Bangalore! Half of the things on their menu is never available. The Shorshey Ilish Maacher we ordered once was red and sweet. Talk about food blasphemy in its truest sense! The only saving grace was the mishti doi, which we suspected was brought from Kolkata.
BongMom said…
Ok, so no need to go green with J. Thank you Manna Da

My word verif was really bad, a letter short of sheer badness ("chuta"), has someone cast a spell or something or was it meant for Bhojohori mystery lady :-D
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Aar Bee: red sweet shorshe ilish? Did it have cream to garnish it too?!

@Bong Mom: Such language from a Bong Mom
♥ Braja said…
Well, since it's Sunday, you're possibly at a pet food joint or a fish market :)) Just a quick note to say hello, I've seen your blog a few times, but the other day I was a guest of the ITC Sonar in Kolkata, and the PR Manager is an old schoolfriend of yours, Madhumita....we were laughing heartily at your Bengali restaurant experience in Mumbai :)

At ITC I had the most wonderful, wonderful meal....I wrote it up on my blog, hope you visit, hope we meet, we talked of bringing you over to ITC Sonar for some functions....who knows what the future holds :)
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Thanks for writing in Braja. Madhumita who went to the US?

Happened to be at Cal the day Ma retired. I took her to Shonar bangla for dinner. Dum Pukht. she loved it
Srini said…
I'm surprised at your experience at a place like Bhojohari Manna - my experiences in good ol' Cal have always been good with them - the Bangalore one was a bit lousy - but never came across a horrifying review like yours.

Looks like they're teething and tripping. But their recipes have been authentic. Big surprise!
kaniska said…
a little late for leaving a comment but nonetheless, here goes. bhojohori manna and i go back a while. they catered for our wedding and we were deeply satisfied. so much so that we kept on patronizing it. couple of years back, we ordered some stuff for a work lunch. chanar dalna was part of the order. what we got was pure kofta curry. when asked they said that this is the "style" customers prefer these days. i swore off mr manna.
Bhojohori Manna said…
Dear Mr. Knife,

We are terribly sorry about the experience that you have had at our establishment. We would like to invite you to the our restaurant so that we can rectify the mistakes we have made. Seeing as we are new in Mumbai, and we import all our ingredients from Mocha, Bread crumb, to all our fish and prawns from Kolkata we have had a few minor setbacks regarding availability of items. I understand that we have made a few mistakes regarding your order and hope that you kindly give us one opportunity to make amends. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards

Moyukh Basu
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Dear Moyukh,

Thanks for writing in.

I completely understand what you have said and sincerely hope that things have improved now. Lots of folks have high expectations from your restaurant and everyone will be happy if things work out.

Thank you for your invitation. Would definitely keep it in mind if I head that side.

All the best,

Jo said…
I had a very similar experience at Bhojohori Manna the one time I went there (2.5 years ago).
More than half the menu wasn't available, and the fish was stale! (I think it was paabda or some such)
It was a waste of what was supposed to be a grand Bengali dinner on my return to Calcutta after 2 years. I was livid, and swore off the restaurant.
I understand that their outlets are mostly full still. How do they manage it?!
I wouldn't risk it again, not unless I went to Calcutta (or Bombay) for a month and had a few meals to risk.
Anonymous said…
Hey knife! I hail from Bengalooru and there is the similar Bhojohori manna at Kormanagala with very similar teething problems...nothing is available at anytime...chetol machher muitha turned out to be just 04 effing dry boneless fish pieces...very very disappointing...