Where new-age vegan dishes coexist peacefully with some of Mumbai's traditional pork dishes...The Bagel Shop, Bandra

That's the spare ribs at the top of the picture and the sorpotel
is in the plate below. They are served with sliced potato spiced
with whole mustard. Each portion is enough for 2.
The Bagel Shop, Bandra
Porkaholics of the world unite. 

I thought about the last time that I had written a blog post about going to a meal with my friend Veera and smiled.

I had written about how Veera, one of my earliest friends in Mumbai and a Parsi who had since moved to Muscat, was in town then and had told me that she wanted to go to any place that serves good pork. We had chosen Goa Portuguesa then. Presumably because she wanted Goan food.

Veera is back in town and this time with her daughter too who is a now a lovely young lady of 16. I have known Veera and her husband from before their daughter was born. As I looked at her daughter, I realized that she was a good measure of how long her parents and I have been friends.

This time too, when I asked Veera where she would like to eat, she said, 'any place that serves good pork'. Then she added, 'nothing Indian and specially no biryani or chicken. The sort of places you write about. A Travelling Belly place. Nothing fancy'. Then she sweetly added, 'the idea is to meet and catch up and chat,  I don’t care if its vegetarian.'

We were meeting up at Bandra which made finding a ‘non-fancy’ place a bit difficult. Thankfully I got a clue when mother and daughter reached Bandra and picked me up at my place. I suggested Imbiss when I saw them, as it is 'non fancy' and and does pork grills.

“Some sorpotel would be nice,” said Veera and then, when I asked her about her daughter, Veera said, ‘she is a foodie. She likes everything. Specially pork ribs.’

Her daughter flashed a sweet smile of approval and I realised that I had just the answer for them. I got into the cab and guided them to the Bagel Shop which lies in the stretch between Bandra’s Pali Market and the Carter Road shore.

The Bagel Shop beyond smoked salmon bagels and the vegan menu

Anil Kably’s cafe, The Bagel Shop, is one of my favourites to take people to for traditional food in Bandra these days. Surprised? 

Yes, you would be if you think of The Bagel Shop as a café popular with the hipsters and expats of Bandra which serves bagels and for long has has a vegan menu too....well read on.

No, this is not a holiday picture from Goa
The outside section of The Bagel Shop

Well, the Bagel Shop did have a 'local touch' for years in terms of the Goan sausage and cream cheese bagel but that was about it. Then a year or so back they had a bit of a facelift in terms of the ambiance. The décor was changed to give it a feel of an old Goan Portuguese house. This was before Portuguese tiles made all new restaurants in Mumbai look the same these days. That was not the only change though.

Spotlight on Bandra's East Indian food heritage

For joining the bagels, the Cuban sandwiches, the power smoothies, pasta sugar free cakes and the  vegan menu, was an interesting addition. They introduced an East Indian food section to the menu. This is the brainchild of former hotel industry professional, popular caterer, Bandra-ite and an East Indian himself, Lester Perriera.

Before you think, 'there you go, this is another Bengali post from him', let me explain who the East Indians are

They belong very much to the west coast of India. They, along with the Kolis and Parsis, are considered the earliest settlers of modern Bandra and along with the Pathare Prabhus, of Mumbai too. They had converted to Christianity at the time of the Portuguese. One of the theories about how they got  to be called East Indians is that they worked for the British east Indian company after the Portuguese moved out of Mumbai.

Some of the dishes that are a part of the East Indian repertoire are similar to those of Goan Christians. Both a result of the Portuguese influence. Both communities share a common love red meat in general and pork in particular. There are nuanced differences between the dishes belonging to both the communities though. To start with, one distinguishing feature of East Indian food is the use of the East Indian bottled masala which is made with a mix of 30 to 35 odd spices. 

East Indian porcine marvels at The Bagel Shop

With Veera, I ordered two dishes at The Bagel Shop that I always order when I bring pork lovers over.

The first is the sorpotel. The East Indian version is less saucy (has less gravy) than the Goan one from what I have observed. It is less tangy too and has a slight sweetness to it. It is slightly redder in colour thanks to the East Indian bottle in comparison to the brownish Goan sorpotel. My friend and neighbour, June who is an East India, sends us some sorpotel on Christmas and on Easter as it is had with pulao on festive day by East Indian, Goan and Mangalorean Catholics. Chef Aloo makes a lovely version of the sorpotel too but it seems like he has shut his shop for the moment so one has to hope to get invited to his place. The sorpotel at The Bagel Shop is consistently good. We have even ordered it in for house parties too. The best part of having the dish is when one spots little blobs of pork fat in it.

You mop the sorpotel up with pav which you can order on the side. They over heat it while serving the pav at The Bagel Shop so they need to look into that. If you are ordering in the sorpotel from The Bagel Shop at Bandra, try to buy the pav from the local corner shop as that is way cheaper and they use store bought pav too at The Bagel Shop too. Which makes sense as Bandra is the hotspot for pav churning bakeries.

The other sure-shot winner at The Bagel Shop is the pork spare ribs. They cook this in the East Indian bottled masala here which make it enticingly spicy and a pleasant change from the sweet honey soaked ribs of Asian restaurants and barbecue ribs of western places, both of which often taste like desserts. The brilliance of the ribs at the Bagel Shop lies not only in how well balanced the flavouring is but also how well cooked the meat is. The pork is cooked to tender submission and the meat is delightfully pliant. 

Politics and polemics aside, I have always maintained that you are better of trying to score good pork dishes in India than beef or buff (water buffalo) given the quality of meat available. The pork used at The Bagel Shop is local unlike in a lot of posh restaurants that use pork from places such as New Zealand and so on. That helps prevent the costs from touching the sky here and yet without compromising on the taste or quality. These recipes were meant for local pork after all. That's the beauty of romancing and respecting our regional cuisine. That's what 'eat local' is all about.

The other east Indian dish that we like at The Bagel Shop is the mutton kuddi curry which K and I sometimes call in for dinner. It is a well balanced, flavour packed and yet light goat meat curry. They also do nice pan mince rolls here. You will get an East Indian pork vandaloo at The Bagel Shop which is not bad but I have always preferred the sorpotel as a dish and do so here too. The Goan sausage, which the owner Anil Kably, sources directly from a supplier in Goa is available outside of the bagels too now I think.

Bandra...the cafe capital of Mumbai

The joys or air-conditioning for some and ice cream on brownies
for others

The Bagel Shop is actually a café and not a full fledged restaurant. So you should look for a great food and a warm buzz here but do not expect the trappings that come with a restaurant here. You do get table service though. They have a toilet. They do not add a service charge. 

We initially sat outside which is non-airconditioned. This section is popular with many regulars but I am not happy sweating it out specially when paying upwards of Rs1,000 for 2. We later got a table at the inside section after we were done with out meal which is thankfully air-conditioned and young R had brownies and ice cream and seemed happy with it the way people her age should. The brownie was a bit dry though the chocolate used seemed good. I had a fresh mango smoothie earlier which was very refreshing.

We left after spending a happy couple of hours at The Bagel Shop which once again lived up to my expectations very well.

Finely Chopped Knights

As I wrote this post, I smiled once again thinking about Veera's repeated plea of 'let's eat pork'. 

That's the thing about good friends. They don't change. You can meet after years and you will still find them in your corner, rooting for you. 

Interestingly, food had come into both our lives fairly seriously from the time that we had last met. 

At that time I was a market researcher who would write a food blog at night. Now I am trying my hand at food writing. 

Meanwhile Veera has done a one year chef's course at Muscat since then, has worked in a hotel as a chef for a bit and has hosted Parsi food festivals at a restaurant in Mumbai. I was enthralled by the stories she told me from her times in the hotel kitchen and about how butchery fascinates the most after her cheffing course. She looked at me and said, 'give me 20 kilos of meat and I will slice it for you in a jiffy.

Instagram readers from the Gulf, on seeing my picture with Veera, wrote to me saying how much they enjoy her Parsi cooking which made me feel proud. She's evidently come a long way from the time when I had visited her house with another former colleague of ours close to two decades back and she had made us salads for dinner!

Ties anchored in food are the loveliest ones after all.

PS I have no idea what they serve in the vegan menu at The Bagel Shop

The Bagel Shop details:

AddressNo.30, Pali Mala Road, Pali Hill, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400050
 · 9AM–10:30PM
Phone022 2605 0178

Average meal price for 2 could range from Rs 1000 to 2000 depending on what you order. We paid Rs 1600 for 2 drinks, 2 mains and a dessert. Most people hang around there for a while. They have wifif. None of us logged in that afternoon.

1. Post link  from 2010 when Veera and I went to Goa Portuguesa
2. Link to a post on chef Aloo and the East Indian bottled masala which i had written recently