Mumbai is a city, Bombay is an emotion.
Or so they say. [I can’t actually confirm that – I’m a proud Punekar].
Nonetheless, Mumbaikars swear by it. And with its stark contrasts, one cannot deny.
Mumbai might be the fast-paced financial bull of a metropolis, but at its heart, it’s still a place with its quaint buildings and colonial charm.
Tastefully decorated place
The Bombay Canteen is one of these quaint buildings. A former bungalow redesigned into a chic modern Indian restaurant-bar. The place feels like a page out of Art Deco style of architecture – liberal use of stone and brick, stained glass windows and vintage patterned tiles. This, I learn, was an ode to the city’s SoBo heritage. Yet, with its dhinchak music and lively atmosphere, it definitely gave us an urban vibe.
And an equally tastefully designed menu
In fact, the cocktail menu here is inspired by the very Art Deco architecture Bombay boasts about. We tried out the Eros ka Raja, a clever take on the cult classic Kir Royale. The cocktail comes in a Banta [goti soda] bottle containing sparkling [read – carbonated] Chenin Blanc combined with Cassis [Black currant liqueur]. The name ‘Eros’ comes from the 1938 Art Deco cinema house located opposite Churchgate Station.
For appetizers, we ordered the Desi Tacos and the Pork Seekh Kebab.
Mind you, the Tacos were brilliant — well-cooked chickpeas were drizzled with tangy lime yoghurt and lachha onions. And the taco shell? Methi theplas. Yup, you heard it right. All my years with Gujarati friends, and I never thought of thepla being elevated to such a dish.
The Pork Seekh Kebab was a treat for the taste buds. Succulent pork flavoured delicately, on a bed of turnip and kohlrabi juliennes with a robust green garlic chutney — man, it was an explosion of flavours.
We skipped the mains [I know, too bad, but we had to] and jumped straight to the desserts. The Gulab Nut, they told me, was the speciality among the sweet somethings. Drenched in Old Monk Rum [my favourite!] was a gulab jamun, albeit shaped like a donut [or doughnut? 🤔] filled with pistachio cream and liberally sprinkled with pistachios.
Another dessert we tried was the Falooda Sundae. In the sweltering Mumbai heat, the Falooda was a refreshing cool respite. In a glass jar [jar desserts are THE thing these days] came a generous scoop of rose ice-cream with rose syrup, vermicelli, strawberry jelly and chia seeds. It reminded me of the falooda I used to eat at Duns Dairy in Camp back home [Pune]. Eating Indian desserts with a twist has improved my perspective towards them.
The Bombay Canteen has definitely achieved the goal with which it was established — it modernizes Indian, uplifts local ingredients and turns them into world-class dishes. Hats off to Chef Thomas Zacharias, a Culinary Institute of America alumnus [known for his stint at the Olive Bar and Kitchen, Khar], and his team. A special mention of Rahul Raghav, Bar Manager and the creative head behind the Art Deco cocktails.
As for the experience, all I’d like to say is “Ekdam Jhakaas!”