The tale of five festive Christmas meals in Mumbai's Bandra. One of which was the quasi Radio Finely Chopped food podcast launch party

Our Christmas dinner, ordered in from Indigo Delicatessen,  Bandra.
Pumpkin squash ravioli.
Turkey roulade with gratinated potatoes & snow peas
Grilled salmon. Medium done. Grilled vegetables instead of mashed potatoes

An article of mine was published in the DailyO this Christmas. I started off the piece by talking about how lonely I felt on my first Christmas in Mumbai, when I had come here from Kolkata on a training assignment, way back in 1997. And, of how things have changed since then, as Mumbai slowly became my home.

This Christmas has been particularly wonderful. Which is why I thought I will do a dairy style post of what we did and ate on Christmas and then share some news that I am excited about at the end.

Christmas 1975, Canterbury. That's me, trying to
out drink a fellow doctor colleague of my dad

1. Christmas eve at Hakkasan, Bandra

K & I wanted to go somewhere special for dinner on Christmas eve but was not sure if travelling outside of Bandra was wise given the possibility of traffic on the the roads. I suggested that we go to Hakkasan. We got a booking at ten and walked down to the restaurant from home. K and I had been there when the place was new, and not since then together. I had recently been to a media preview at Hakkasan though and that is how it came back in the consideration set for me.

The restaurant was packed when we entered and they had opened a section on the terrace too. We sat there and the the place was pleasantly cool, the music was peppy but did not get in the way of the conversation. The vibe was quite nice. 

Service was good too. A young gentleman named Pushpar (or so the badge said) attended to our table and was very knowledgeable about the menu. I could see chef Raymond Wong, the Malaysian exec chef of the restaurant, looking very busy in the open kitchen with his team of 23 (!) chefs. I went up and said hi to him. He smiled and greeted and me and recalled me as the 'only person in India (whom he has come across) who likes chicken feet.'

Chef Raymond Wong of Hakkasan gets into
the Christmas spirit in the kitchen

We had the tiger prawns with Sichuan pepper at Hakkasan, soya braised pork belly, duck with spring onion and garlic, an egg fried rice and an orange juice. 

What distinguished the food was how well each of the proteins had been cooked. Each was rendered juicy, was not tough or overcooked at all. It was obvious that good quality produce was used. The only drawback was that thanks to the dominant dark soya sauce presence, the flavour note of each of the three dishes seemed rather monotonous and similar. It was rather spicy and desi too if one might say, compared to the sort of subtlety that we like in Chinese food. I am talking of Cantonese food of course. The portions at Hakkasan were ample and honestly we were rather stuffed after the prawns and the pork. I packed a bit of the duck (wish the spring onion was chopped finer) and the rice and mixed the two and had it for lunch the next day.

The bill at Hakkasan came to close to Rs 6,000 without alcohol and dessert. I would say that the quality of the produce used somewhat justified it though the meal didn't blow our minds. Wish that the flavours were a bit more inspired and less Indianised though. I guess would choose Ling's Pavilion or perhaps Yautcha for my fill of non-chatpata Chinese, a more Cantonese one.

Tiger prawns with Sichuan pepper. Hakkasan

Duck with spring onion & ginger. Hakkasan

Pork belly in soy sauce. Hakkasan

To sum up, we went hoping to have a good time at Hakkasan...and did so to be honest. K & I usually prefer to go out for breakfast or occasionally lunch. Rarely do the two of us go for out dinner these days and we enjoyed the change when we went to Hakkasan.

"We forgot to click a picture with the food.' Hakkasan on
Christmas eve

Bringing in Christmas on the streets of Bandra

We walked back home from Hakkasan and this meant that we were at the lane outside our house when the clock struck twelve. The streets were empty. The fairy lights were boomeranging happily and K and I wished each other a merry Christmas on the streets.

This felt magical.

2. And a piece of plum cake from the Pereiras of Candies and chocolate brownies from the Grovers to bring in the Holy Night

The plum cake from Candies

We didn't have any dessert at Hakkasan. We had other plans. 

I came back and took out the plum cake with a marzipan and sugar fondant coating that the Pereiras of Candies had sent us and cut myself a slice had it, once I had posted pictures of the dinner on my Instagram stories (@thefinelychopped on Instagram) of course.

Meanwhile, K took out the coffee brownies from Harsh Chocolates that our friends Anu and Manoj had sent us. We are clear on our dessert preferences and in this case and our choices differed that night. 

Both of us had just what we wanted and we settled down to watch one of the last seasons of Downton Abbey on Netflix with our treats. 

Feasting on the greens of ye olde English countryside seemed perfect on the Holy Night.

This came from Manoj the next morning when I thanked him for the brownies
and said that I couldn't click a pic as K had finished them. 
#GroverIsSantasMiddleName as I wrote on FB later

3. Some neighbourly cheer to start Christmas morning with

Christmas goodies from the Cutinha's

Our neighbours, the Cutinhas, had given us a plate of Christmas treats, typical to the Christians of Bandra, the previous day. It featured marzipan, kulkul, rose cookies, Christmas cake and guava cheese. Treats that Goan, East Indian and Mangalorean Catholic families celebrate Christmas with. You can get versions of these in the Catholic run cold storages of Bandra. Possibly Boriviili and Vasai too, as there are Goan and East Indian settlements there. We have had the good fortune of getting these from various Christian neighbours since 2010 even though we have shifted three houses since. This is such an integral part of life in Bandra as it once was.

I started my Christmas morning by feasting on these traditional treats before we got ready and headed out for breakfast.

4. Breakfast at Candies featured a Christmas miracle on the side

We were trying to decide between La Folie and Candies for breakfast on Christmas morning when I looked at K and said, "I wore red as I thought we will take a picture by the tree at Candies."

That swung the decision for her she said and we went to Candies.  The one at McRonnels or Pali Naka.

The place was packed as expected, but then a Christmas miracle happened. You might have heard me lament these days about how it is impossible for us to get 'our table', the one at the entrance, at Candies now. 

Well, the table got vacated just as we entered Candies on Christmas morning and I grabbed it.  

Though crowded, the new ordering system ensures that one gets ones food faster at Candies. I didn't have to call out to Sylvia for help as I used to in the past when the place was buzzy on holidays. I wanted to wish her but she was surrounded by the Swiggy pick up folks.

The Christmas spirit was palpable at Candies. If you looked at the smiles around, you would think that you were at the happiest place in the world at that moment. And you were.

At 'our bench' at Candies. Christmas 2018

Do check this picture that Subhash from Candies took, while we enjoyed our cappuccinos and the softest chicken sandwiches in the world, to see how happy we were to get our table.

We shared the table later with a couple who were expecting. Possibly another future Candies fan was getting ready to come out. His/ her parents were taking their last couple Christian selfies alone, before he/ she was born, when we left.

5. Our 'Best of Bandra' Christmas dinner and a pudding that set the night on fire

KC at his Buddha-like best. His friends, the squirrels, chatting with him
from the tree outside

We had friends over for dinner on Christmas. KC and his wife, who calls herself @Bdeshibou on Instagram, from Kolkata. 

They were counting days till their return to Kolkata I know. They had come to Mumbai for his bypass operation sometime back and thanks to the excellent doctors at the Global Hospital and the support of his wife, KC was almost ready to head back, and we were all happy for them even though we will miss them when the leave for home tomorrow. Joining us was their friend and now ours too, 'JayZee who is not JayZee,' as I refer to him on the blog. And Sassy Fork. The idea was to meet at our place for dinner, and KC gave me the onus of ordering dinner, which he said he would treat us to. 

'Non-Indian,' was his only brief. I took on the task with utmost seriousness. The spread should match up to what he would have ordered or cooked if he could, I told myself, and KC and bdeshibou are generous hosts.

Bdeshibou made herself the official photographer of the dinner at our place
and hence she is not in this pic

After phoning the usual suspects (Salt Water Cafe, Smoke House Deli & Indigo Deli) and checking their menus on the Internet, I ordered in from Indigo Delicatessen,  Bandra, who delivered and how. The food lived up to the occasion!

I ordered the Turkey roulade from their Christmas menu which came with gratinated potatoes and snow peas. I also called in for butter squash nut ravioli from the special menu. For KC, there was a grilled salmon medium done. 

We were all thrilled with the food and it was quite different from what we normally eat in western restaurants in Bandra. Keep in mind the fact that we ate the food long after the chefs had prepared it  and yet it stayed so well. That talks of great cheffing skill. As did the done-ness of the salmon said KC, which had not dried up at all. I was very impressed.  Unlike at Hakkasan the precious night, each dish from Indigo Deli was distinct from the other and showed great variety.

Turkey roulade, Indigo Deli

I loved how tender the turkey strips in the turkey roulade were and how well they complimented the stuffing inside. Most of us in the room had been scarred by inedible turkey dishes in the past and this dish from Indigo Deli was such a welcome relief and surprise. Given the Christmas theme, the sauce was slightly sweet and starred cranberries and figs and the like. There was a bit of paprika to balance out the sweetness. The stuffing was soft and comforting.

Gratinated potatoes from Indigo Deli

The potatoes could have been seasoned a bit better, but on the whole tasted like good comfort food and combined well with the turkey jus. I used the leftovers to make grilled sandwiches later.

Butternut squash ravioli, Indigo Deli

And the ravioli. How exquisite was it! 

Perfectly formed ravioli. Not doughy. Each pasta was a Parmesan flavour cracker/ bomb, built on a foundation of the mellow taste and texture of the butternut squash. The hazelnuts, which lay snuggled happily on the top, gave a lovely textural contrast to the pasta. The buttery sauce gave the pasta  just the right amount of moistness required and was not stodgy or excessive. The seasoning was perfect too.

The salmon was seasoned just right as well and KC was very happy with the way it was cooked. I tasted a bit and marvelled at the fact that it did not taste dry though it had been grilled at least a couple of hours back. I have had such disappointing grilled salmons when I have ordered it in room service in various five star hotels in India. Perhaps the chefs at Indigo Deli Bandra should give lessons on how to time the cooking of a salmon well.

Grilled salmon with grilled veg instead of mash from Indigo

I found the food easy to take out of the containers in which it was sent and serve unlike when we order Indian food for parties. The latter works out way cheaper of course. The salmon and four portions of each of the other dishes came to close to Rs 8,000 and the quality was nonpareil and was more than ample for the 6 of us.

For those who wonder if there's any point to social media influencer posts on brands, well I first got the idea of checking out Indigo Deli after I saw a blogger share pictures of it (I am not sure whom) and was happy with the result of what I ordered and will consider them in the future again. Mission accomplished!

Lamb sausages & greek salad from Salt Water Cafe, Bandra

K took care of the starters and ordered her favourites and her discovery (as she will stress and say if you meet her), lamb sausages and potatoes from Salt Water Cafe and a Greek salad with chicken  from there too, through Swiggy. Three portions of the sausages worked well for the 5 of us and everyone loved them.

For dessert, I took out and steamed the Christmas pudding from Katy's Kitchen that Kurush and Rhea Dalal had gifted us. I quickly called Rhea when the pudding was ready to check whether the brandy butter should be placed on top. "Anywhere is fine, but top is good," she said.

I was requested to flambe the pudding by our guests but I had never done so before. They then instructed me on how to do it and encouraged me the way grown ups would for a toddler taking his first step. I enjoyed it so much at the end, that I did it twice for photos and would have done it once again if not stopped.

Here's how I flambed the cake. I took a big serving spoon and placed a couple of tablespoons of alcohol (Old Monk in this case) in it and placed the spoon on a flame on the gas burner. The rum burst into flames and I then went to the hall from the kitchen and poured the content of the spoon and the flames on the pud. The flames turned from yellow to blue then. The pudding looked electrifying when flambed and tasted amazing too.

The Katy's Kitchen Christmas pudding with brandy butter

Alexa had moved on to the Beatles, after playing Sound of Music on KCs request, by the time I had begun to cut the cake. I was playing the DJ with the Alexa machine, and with so many Bengalis and a Parsi around, I had started off the evening with Cliff Richards earlier, but Silent Night was first of course.

Our friends left after giving us a most lovely evening with their company. Unlike when we serve Indian food at a house party, it did not take much time clear up the kitchen after that!

K & I then settled down to watch the story of lady Mary and her suitors in Downton Abbey.

K with her coffee brownies. Me with the remaining Christmas pud.

It's nice to be predictable. 

And now for some good news....

The launch of Radio Finely Chopped. My podcast on food

I have some great news to share with you. I have finally launched my own podcast on food!

It is called Radio Finely Chopped. It is hosted on the Anchor app and you can listen to it on most major podcast apps including iTunes, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify too among others. 

I got the idea of doing it from my friend Rahul Ghosh. He is an avid podcast listener. Over lunch at Ling's one Sunday, he suggested that I look at podcasts as a place to tell the sort of reflective feature stories that I do on the blog. He said that there are people like him who still look for such stories but prefer to listen to it these days than read all the time.

Well, I listened to him and thus was born Radio Finely Chopped. A place where I tell stories of what makes me happy from the world of food.  I currently record and publish the episodes from my iPhone using the Anchor app in my study and I find this quite convenient and easy to do.

Here's the link to the Radio Finely Chopped podcast and there is an episode on Candies as well. Hope you give it the sort of support that you have given to me on all my endeavours so far.

And here are some pictures from what I have just decided to call the quasi Radio Finely Chopped 'launch party'. It was our Christmas dinner actually and I had not thought of this then. But then it was a happy occasion. Spent in the company of the one who had first suggested that I start a blog and named it too. And of friends whom I first knew of readers of my blog and who are now like family to us. I couldn't think of a better gathering for this.

Can you?

Here's wishing you a belated merry Christmas and a happy new year in advance.

The flambe instruction manual video

  1. Here's my article on Christmas in the Daily O
  2. Here's the blog post that my mother, Rekha Karmakar, wrote yesterday about our Christmases in the UK when I was just born.