BONO ICE CREAM IS THE CREAM OF THE CROP
WORDS BY GENESIA ALVES AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY SURUCHI MAIRA
With flavours like Salted Caramel and Blue Cheese and Honey, Bono Ice Cream in Bandra is a revelation.
I have a speckled history with this area. I approach the building, Savia, following a faint scent of caramel that cuts warmly through the rain. Under the Bono signboard, I ring the bell and wait. I see an old friend who lives in the vicinity and we flick our eyebrows briefly in the way of the Bandra-people. “Later,” I mouth.
Only recently, another old friend, widely regarded as India’s finest food writer (is it still name-dropping if I don’t tell you who he is?), came over for a casual dinner, carrying, as he so often does, wine and something wonderful to eat. His generosity is matched in depth and scale only by his keen, equal opportunities palate – he has introduced us to the joys of foie gras and phulkas, a Bengali fish head curry with short-grained rice, persimmons, smoked mushrooms, local beers, exotic Indian seasonal things… But last night he handed me a bag that said Bono, chuckling at how peculiar it was having to ring a bell to buy this new ice cream – Mango and Passionfruit, Hazelnut, Blue Cheese and Honey. “They had run out of the Salted Caramel,” he said. I shrug like Shania Twain. I’ve yet to meet a Salted Caramel that has impressed me much. He nods and says, “No, this one is particularly good.”
Some people say ice cream cravings come from a yearning for your childhood. I, however, certainly have no yearning for the time I used to go to a maths tuition sweatshop next door, run by a brilliant but eccentric tutor called Sharma. I was squeezed into a tiny classroom with 40 other mouth-breathing kids, elbow-to-elbow, all of us working our brains out for an exhausting hour after school. At the end of that year, some of us were faster than those working with calculators. I suspect we’d have been even faster with more oxygen (or fewer people) in the room. Could have done with some ice cream too.
The ingredient list reads like an EU summit. The truffle oil is from Italy, chocolate from Belgium, the blue cheese is Danish and the bacon is Spanish.
The door to Bono opens and I walk into a clean, bright space perhaps no bigger than that maths sweatshop and packed just as tightly but with far more delightful things than smelly schoolboys. This is the factory and outlet of Bono – there are churners, freezers, a sink and, I imagine, all the other tools necessary for the alchemy of delicious.
I meet the sisters Chesson – Alyssa and Simone – the former is the Cordon Bleu trained flavour-maker, the latter handles all the logistics. They live on Altamount Road, but Alyssa has friends in Bandra, and, over the years, as she came on weekends to party or hang out, realised something about the suburb. “Bandra is more open to experimentation,” she says, “more likely to taste new flavours.” Bono delivers to South Mumbai, but she’s clear that Bandra is where her ice cream people are. Besides, the still hidden parts of the suburb remind her of Goa, and there’s a typical Bandra Christmas tree that leans just outside her shop that fills her with joy. She laughs as she says, “Where else will you find real Christmas trees?”
A while ago, Alyssa’s company, the Caramel Carousel, brought the croquembouche to Mumbai, providing towers of golden profiteroles and instant validation of “mostess” to any discerning hostess. The ice cream business began there with folk raving about their Bacon and Milk chocolate and that Salted Caramel. Caramel Carousel will still create made-to-order tarts, profiteroles and the like, but Bono is gearing up to go big retail in a saturated dessert market. They’re eyeing the sweet spot in the gaping hole where a chic, quirky niche brand should be.
Bono’s ice cream is preservative and chemical additive free. “We tested it for longevity,” says Alyssa. “It stays fresh for up to three months in the freezer.” I comment that anyone who leaves ice cream in the freezer for more than three months is likely a psychopath. The girls grin and nod. The ingredient list reads like an EU summit. The truffle oil is from Italy, chocolate from Belgium, the blue cheese is Danish and the bacon is Spanish.
With so much talk going on about ice cream and its connection to childhood, Bono’s ice cream is a revelation. There is a casual sophistication to the balance of flavours that you know can only come out of pure skill and relentless experimentation. The Mango and Passionfruit is bright on the tongue. I’ve had blue cheese ice cream that, while delicious (to a stinky cheese lover), had no subtlety to it. Bono tempers the salty sting of a good bleu perfectly. “It took a few tries,” says Alyssa. Not only is the ice cream not too sweet, Bono pulls off a fine balance in texture (honey doesn’t freeze, and any ice cream with too much in it will remain unfreeze-able and fatally mushy). The Milk Chocolate and Bacon and the Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt have perfect equilibrium, and I’m surprised by just how adult the Dark Chocolate and Italian truffle oil is! So grown up it should come with a rating!
I buy a few jars on my way out, including a Hazelnut for my friend’s little daughter. I walk over and we review the flavours, she and I. She loves them all, as any 10 year old should. “But you must try the Salted Caramel,” she says, “it is the best.” I tell her she must have the palate of a true gourmet.
You can also taste or buy a cone at Bono, Shop No. 3, Savia building, Rebello Road, Off Dr. Peter Dias Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050.