I visited the much talked about The Bombay Canteen four days ago. Yes, I know I am late to the bandwagon, especially since everyone rushes to review a new restaurant seconds after it has just launched. Some how I am always weary of those reviews since initial teething problems need to be taken into consideration. My The Bombay Canteen visit was long overdue, for some reason I was never in Lower Parel during meal hours. Having gazillion dining options in and around Bandra makes one lazy.
I had read and heard such wonderful things about The Bombay Canteen – impeccable food, innovative menu, comforting ambiance, and an ever smiling staff. I went and experienced all those things for myself. My The Bombay Canteen experience was filled with lots of hits, a few misses, making for an overall above average meal. I decided to do a review of the place initially, but I later realized nothing I say or write will make a difference to the popularity of The Bombay Canteen. It is a hit, immensely popular, and will do well irrespective of what we write about it, akin to a Salman Khan blockbuster if I may.
The Bombay Canteen is here to stay. Here is my take behind this eatery’s unprecedented success. And why I think we need more such innovative dining out options in a city like Mumbai which is open to experimenting with what’s on their plate.
The Desi Connect:
Hats off to Chef Floyd Cardoz, Top Chef Masters Season 3 winner, and culinary director of The Bombay Canteen for sticking true to his roots, and ours too with the largely India inspired menu. It’s Indian cuisine, served with a twist. Gone are the heavy cream laden gravies, and kebabs that we’ve grown to associate with Indian food. The menu here is a perfect amalgamation of Indian dishes yet served with a contemporary, international flare. The menu is experimental without trying too hard, yet grounded in comforting flavors.
Take for example the Pork Thepla Tacos we tried which feels so wrong yet tastes so right. Thin slivers of methi thepla, come filled with the most delicious, succulent pork gravy, making it something every staunch Gujarati will roll their eyes at. Another case in point was the Seafood Bhel – finely julienned vegetables, teekhi meethi chutney, sev as garnishing, and prawns! Such a beautiful way of experimenting with a classic favourite – where plump prawns intersperse your every bite. Sadly our bhel was lacking calamari that afternoon, which I’m sure would have elevated the dish further.
This trend is seen throughout their menu, in everything you order, right from their cocktails, to their ‘Chhota’ snacking plates, to the ‘Bada’ main courses, and their desserts. Where else do you get to see a ‘Jackfruit Tan-Ta-Tan’ – a twist on a conventional Tarte Tatin, or Tandoori Pork Ribs replacing the chicken. Full marks to innovation, indeed.
I would return to The Bombay Canteen because of how deeply nostalgic it made me feel. The rainy Saturday afternoon Bee and I visited, we were greeted by old Hindi classics playing on the speakers. Very few fine dine restaurants consider Hindi or Indian music worthy of being on their track list, and this was such a surprise. While Mukesh crooned on the speakers, Bee sang along with him, the rain pitter-pattered outside, I couldn’t have asked for more!
We spotted such miniscule details in the ambiance of this ‘canteen’, it truly took us back in time. It gives off an Irani cafe feel in so many ways, and this Irani was thrilled. Old school, vintage tiles and stained glass patterns that perfectly off sets the industrial look walls, the vibe is genius.
You’ll see small knick knacks around that will remind you of your school canteen, especially if you are a 90s kid. The bar has Thums Up and Energy Milk bottles on display along with the usual alcohol bottles. The menu comes filed in what looks like the cover of an old attendance register. Our Canteen Tiffin Box – mustard chicken curry, maska pao, crispies, and sprouts salad – came in a stainless steel dabba that looked like a dabba I took my lunch to school in. And don’t forget to spot the little counter on your way out that has Phantom candy cigarattes, Wibs slice bread, Frooti, mawa cake peeking out at you, inviting you to take a trip back in time.
This canteen may not be priced like your office canteen, or like the canteen from your school days, but it is pleasantly priced. We paid Rs. 1800/- for a meal for two, including a beer, and ‘ghastly’ taxes as they mentioned on the menu. Considering how assorted taxes, and charges have butchered up our bills, the pricing at The Bombay Canteen was a pleasant surprise. Also keeping in mind how other find dine, fusion Indian restaurants in the city are priced (will refrain from taking names here), the pricing here falls perfectly in the middle bracket.
The service is also warm and smiling, with Executive Chef Thomas Zacharias personally chatting up the diners. I wish he had come spoken to us that afternoon so we could tell him what a wonderful ‘experience’ we had. Our food was decent, but there was so much more that adds to eating out. Dining has become an ‘experience’, and The Bombay Canteen gave us a fun lunch we loved.
(The author dined at The Bombay Canteen anonymously and paid for her own meals. The views are purely her own.)