THECITYSTORYXAIRBNB: AN ALTERNATIVE GUIDE TO BANDRA
WORDS BY GENESIA ALVES
Live like the locals do with The City Story & Airbnb’s guide to the best things to do, see, and eat in Bandra.
Bandra sticks out into the Arabian Sea, shaped like an elven shoe, the toe of the Bandra Fort touching the Sea Link, a heel on Mahim Creek, the ankle nipped by Kherwadi and Khar.
Once a cluster of fishing and farming villages, Bandra is now all things to all people – canvas for street art, star map for Bolly-bhakts, a shopping hub ranging from high-street to street-stall, marathon training venue, restaurant smorgasbord and picture and literary muse for everyone from amateur writers and photographers to Salman Rushdie.
The traffic can be maddening, the tourist crowds ubiquitous but if you’re willing to walk, like the old locals of this once genteel little huddle of bungalows, you’ll find the old Queen of the Suburbs hides a few jewels yet. In this guide to Bandra we give you a few pointers to explore the real side of Bandra and live like the locals do.
EAT: Goodluck Café
Good Luck Café is run by an Iranian family, the third generation of which takes turns sitting at the cashier. Its blue-white tubelights and tiled walls speak of a no-frills-necessary time when food was food and ambience was for fops.
Their forte is the all day workman’s breakfast: pao with keema (curried mutton mince), or a single-egg plain omelette. You could also have a shawarma or emu keema. But if you need a place to spend half an hour out of the sun, ask for a chai aur bun-maska, ek saath main. White bread pao, dotted inexplicably with lurid green and red fruit peel, slathered with butter will land in its steel thali on your table. You may have to remind him to bring the chai (that is usually had at the end of a meal). Sip, dunk, bite. You will walk out replenished.
Good Luck Café, 106 Hill Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 2642 2250
EXPERIENCE: Sona Shopping Centre
This is a labyrinthine market in the heart of Hill Road that specialises in all things fabric – whether it’s cotton, silk, linen, georgette, crepe, seersucker, sharkskin and at least a dozen types of lace as well as multiple varieties of PVC. A few meters away from the chaos of the main traffic-laden Hill Road, Sona Shopping Centre is a delight to experience even if you have no intention of buying anything. Bolts of fabric tower from every corner making you feel like you’re in a seamstress’s Narnia. Keep a look out for Anwarally’s – the most well known fabric shop in this market.
Sona Shopping Centre, Hill Road, Opposite Globus, Bandra (W), Mumbai 400 050.
SEE: Bandra’s churches and chapels
Bandra has, rumouredly, the highest density of Catholic churches in the world. This is possible. The Basilica, St. Andrew’s, St. Peter’s, St. Theresa’s, Mt. Carmel’s, the Church of St. Elias, and St. Anne’s are located within a four square-kilometre distance.
In days before Bandra got heavily populated, the bells of the angelus would chime across the 7 p.m. sky, from one church to the next. Young footballers on the field, working women rushing home with their bags of vegetables, retired widowers walking to church, the bhelwalla, the random delivery guy cycling down the road – they would all pause for a minute. Not all of them Catholic, but all culturally Bandra, they waited till the last echo of the bells and then continued.
The churches used to remain open all day. Not so much anymore. But if you’re looking for small places of worship for a moment of quiet here’s where you can find it – Prathnalaya, Fr. Agnel’s Ashram on Bandstand, the chapel at Mt. Carmel’s and the hewn out of stone chapel outside St. Peter’s, which is always two degrees cooler than the outdoors.
Church of St. Andrew, 115, Hill Road, Bandra (W), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 2642 3680
DRINK: Toto’s Garage
Quintessentially Bandra, Toto’s Garage has made it to this list because whether you’re a visitor or a resident, a quick visit to Toto’s is always a great idea. Toto’s is the perfect dive bar with its loud rock & roll music, cramped space and cheap beer and a VW car nailed to the wall (that last one is a bonus). Toto’s has been around for 22 years and has remained a microcosm of Bandra with its casual vibe, loud chatter, friendly faces and spicy food. Here’s something not a lot of people know about this bar – Toto’s is short for Totlani’s, which happens to be the owner’s name. We suggest you leg it or “rick” it to 30 Lourdes Heaven on 30th Road since parking is a nightmare.
Toto’s Garage, 30, Lourdes Heaven, 30th Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050.
FOOD/TAKEAWAY: Jude Cold Storage
If you’d like to use your palate as time machine, step in to Jude Cold Storage. You can buy everything from the traditional condiments of the aboriginal East Indians and the early Goan immigrants to the ready-to-eat meals favoured by the first hipsters who moved to tiny digs in the old houses alongside modern day treats and peculiarities like Indian-made Italian “style” cheeses, barracuda steaks and the absolute mystery titled Vegan French Garlic Polony Slice Sausage.
There are “heat and eat” packages for kitchen virgins, frozen meat and seafood for the more adventurous and all sorts of ready-made masalas that housewives have been pretending to make from scratch for years, including the elusive East Indian Bottle Masala.
Pali Naka outside has changed irrevocably in the last 25 years but inside Jude’s, the service is reassuringly friendly as the shop bustles with the new-Bandra-demographic of bossy, native Bandra “aunties”, tall, blonde European catalogue models, yuppies, hipsters and other assorted locals.
Jude Cold Storage, Ashwini, Pali Mala Road, Pali Village, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 2600 5570
There’s no better way to experience a place than living like locals do. Whether your needs range from a single room, a studio or an entire spacious apartment, we’ve got you covered. Bandra has an mélange of spaces to pick from, and we’ve picked our favourite room, apartment and studio. For more options visit Airbnb.com