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Savour Sublime Asian Flavours at Seefah

 

SAVOUR SUBLIME ASIAN FLAVOURS AT SEEFAH

For erstwhile fans of The Blue who began to notice that something was missing from the food (and from the folk in the kitchen area) and were beginning to mildly panic, 2019 brings excellent news. After the successful launch of Soi69, Chefs Karan and Seefah’s little jewel in Breach Candy, the couple have, without any fanfare, opened a new eponymous space on Hill Road. It’s called Seefah and it is wonderful!

Seefah, 3rd Floor, Khan House, Next Time Square, Hill Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 089288 95952/089288 88710

READ GENESIA ALVES'S STORY

Important things first.

The menu at Seefah features almost* every single one of your absolute favourite things at The Blue. As a recap, the focus is very much on Thai and Japanese cuisine with crowd pleasers and palate teasers.

The papaya salad, fried chicken, sushi, and sashimi (the tobikko – the roe’s tiny, briny, orange orbs with their firm pop) are all still sublime. That seasonal mango salad, with or without the crisp squid, has taken permanent residence on the menu. That green Thai curry is as aromatic and complex, and the steamed fish in its piquant, citrusy, sinus-blasting glory is even more perfect that before.

And now comes the better news.

The restaurant, on the third floor above the McDonald’s (and the inexplicably popular Kaitlyn’s Beer Garden) is large and can accommodate 50 covers as opposed to The Blue’s mere, table-hustling 20.

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There is a little terrace that the place overlooks suffusing the interiors with light at lunch time and with a rare (for Bombay) sense of space at dinner. The interiors are beautiful and unpretentious; blue walls with a few cherry blossom sprigs painted here and there, furniture and décor in cane, wood and velvet, tables for four set up around the large dining room, and an island of high-bar chairs and an elevated table in the centre for larger groups or many individuals.

Chef Seefah says the kitchen is much, much bigger than the one at The Blue, and it features gas cooking rather than induction, which she says will only improve the deep flavours of what they serve. (I personally cannot imagine how it could be better, but I take her word for it.)

Those familiar with The Blue will also be delighted by the familiar faces at Seefah, because almost all her staff came to work with her at the new venture.

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Children are allowed in the evenings as well, because the chef says she would like to watch her customers enjoy their food with their entire families.

In the few days since she opened, Chef Seefah herself has been walking to say hello from table to table and smiling at those who are thrilled to have finally found her again after she ‘disappeared’. “I wanted to do it quietly and properly,” she says, “and make sure everything was perfect before we started telling people.” Her generosity and sweetness seem to suffuse the space with a warmth that is as authentic and addictive as her flavours.

And people are talking.

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Just via word of mouth, all the tables are full on a Friday night, four days since they opened their doors. This is fine for fans of Seefah. We know good things come to those who wait.

*Seefah the restaurant has replaced the pork dishes with other meats in acquiescence to the landlord’s religious dietary rules.

(It’s a New Bandra thing.)

Photographs courtesy Seefah

 
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10 Things You Need To Know About Ramen, Sushi, And Izumi With Chef Nooresha Kably

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10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RAMEN, SUSHI, AND IZUMI WITH CHEF NOORESHA KABLY

Izumi is a Japanese restaurant in Bandra that makes a delicious ramen. Although Japanese food is traditionally associated with seafood (think sushi and sashimi), there is plenty on offer for vegetarians here as well.

Izumi, Shop No. 4 Sunbeam, Perry Cross Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 098212 18003

READ GENESIA ALVES'S STORY

1. In the beginning, there was the broth.

The broth is the soul of the ramen. There are three basic viscosities. The kotteri is a rich, dark broth, opaque with the emulsified fat, minerals, and protein leached out of bones simmered for hours and hours. The assari broth is a light, thin liquid that is made when vegetables, fish, or bones are cooked quickly. The paitan is a white bone broth.

2. Broth + Flavouring = Soup

Your ramen will have one of four main flavours – shio (just salt), shoyu (seasoned with a sauce made from fermented soy bean – not soy sauce), miso (turns the soup opaque and has that familiar, complex umami), and tonkotsu, the richest of all – a pork bone broth that is glistening with gelatin.

 3. At Izumi, the broths take hours…

“The pork is a rich, creamy broth that is slow cooked for over eight hours,” says Chef Nooresha. “The chicken ramen is called chicken paitan. We serve it in five flavours, each making the same broth different. Veg shoyu is a chintan soup (a clear soup slow cooked for two hours), which is very distinct, flavoured with konbu, soy, shiitake and onion.”

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 4. Okay but straight up – is the vegan broth as good as the tonkotsu?

“We make two vegan broths for vegetarians,” says Chef Nooresha, “and both taste great! One is a veg shoyu. The other is a miso broth that is creamy with soy milk and also served in a curry flavour (Japanese curry). At every tasting, the veg ramen has managed to hold its own despite the chicken and pork ramen served, so I’m very happy with the outcome of the veg. In fact, I’d strongly recommend the non-vegetarians try the veg broths.”

5. How should we eat sushi?

“The sushi school I attended emphasized nigiri as that’s real Edo (old name for Tokyo) sushi,” says Chef Nooresha. “You can pick the sushi up with your fingers. No dipping in soy as we put a nikiri sauce and garnish to complement it. And there’s no need to apply wasabi either and it’s already been put between the rice and seafood or vegetables.

“Even with rolls like uramaki, maki, hosomaki, futomaki – the flavours are all there. Maybe you need a touch of soy or wasabi.

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“Gari (the pink pickled ginger) is to be eaten separately between each nigiri to cleanse the palate and ready you for the next seafood nigiri. Don’t pile the gari up on top of the roll and eat it together – it’s not done and not the right way at all.

“Wasabi, salt, soy, gari, sushi rice vinegar, and cooking sake all work as anti-bacterials and keep your stomach safe.”

 6. What are the condiments on the table?

An incredible burnt garlic oil, jigoku tare (made with sesame and seasoning), a bottle of Kikkoman soy sauce, and a sesame mill.

7. What’s the story behind the whale moustache in Izumi?

“Not all whales have moustaches – so it’s a rare thing,”’ says Chef Nooresha. “It’s used to filter the plankton and krill they eat. My teacher in Japan gave it to me as a gift and said good luck with your Jap ramen Shop. He has one in his ramen shop too.”

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 8. What can fans of the Sushi Koi menu expect to see on the Izumi menu?

“Sushi being rolled out live,” she says, “sashimi cut, your order served immediately – not packed and delivered. And ramen! There are also some small plate specials, tuna, salmon, and hamachi that you may not have eaten before.”

9. Izumi makes its own noodles.

“I learned how to do it, and it’s easy and fresh!”

 10. What are Chef Nooresha’s top three favourite things on the menu?

“Spicy ramen and veg shoyu ramen… chutoro sashimi, tuna zuke, seared sashimi. Sorry, I know you said three, but I also love the sugoi maki!”

 
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Buy Fresh, Organic Food At The Bandra Farmers’ Market

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BUY FRESH, ORGANIC FOOD AT THE BANDRA FARMER'S MARKET

The weekly Farmers’ Market at D’Monte Park is an excellent place to find fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. You can also buy organic cakes, regular coffee, juice, lassi, and other fresh foods from local producers and suppliers. The market takes place every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Farmers’ Market, D’Monte Park, Next to Bandra Gymkhana, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050.

READ GENESIA ALVES'S STORY

On the spring equinox in March 2010, we went to the first ever Farmers’ Market in Mumbai. In the tiny, cruddy park attached to the Bandra Hindu Association (Khar), we warned my small girls away from the rusty swings and walked in to see what we could buy.

It was a bare-bones set up – stalls, farmers, fruit, vegetables. I can’t remember if they were selling those jute bags yet, but there were some serious posers – sun hats, sun glasses, white linen – smoking cigarettes in the corner just in case you missed the point.

There was also an organic candyfloss man! My then 4-year-old, seriously allergic to artificial colour, ate her first cotton candy ever that morning and proceeded in absolute ecstasy to wipe her hands all over my pregnant belly.

It’s been 8 years since, and the Farmers’ Market has grown and evolved and travelled, from the Bandra Hindu Association to Maharashtra Nature Park to Bhalla House to where it sits today, in lovely D’Monte Park in Bandra.

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Kavita Mukhi, author of this weekly wonder and the woman who started Conscious Foods, who brought the slow food movement to us. She still walks around like a wood sprite – ageless and beautiful (and very intimidating despite how tiny she is). She has worked tirelessly and selflessly – there at every single market, explaining organic certifications, raising an eyebrow at people who bargain, making sure the farmers are treated well, the other vendors are relevant, and sometimes offering you a ridiculous hat made of newspaper. (I wore it out of sheer fear respect.)

There is more space now, and tables to sit at and eat at or gawk while musicians perform. A buying system was set up that involves baskets, coupons, and queues. The posers are far outnumbered by very serious organic produce consumers who will jostle and elbow you in some survival-of-the-fittest routine. There is a selection of fresh food; local bakeries present organic cakes, regular coffee, juice, lassi, brands of kombucha, delicious Indian treats like khichdi or pakoras or idlis but made with healthy alternatives like barley, millet, or red rice. Packaged organic domestic supplies, mosquito repellents, dried food are available. For a while, you could buy the eggs of the absolute on-trend Kadaknath chickens.

Every week, the market shape-shifts a little in terms of what extras are on sale, but it remains the best place to buy organic, in-season fruit, vegetables, herbs, and the best broccoli you will ever eat.

My small girls are now teens who are too cool for the market, but the now 7-year-old runs around dodging the marigolds strewn on the lawn, looking for the turkeys and geese that strut around D’Monte Park. I nod at an odd woman who, seeing me buy two large pineapples, asks if I can clean and cut them. She is as impressed as if I was smoking a cigarette, wearing a sunhat.

Photographs by Suruchi Maira

 
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A Cautionary Tale Against Going Out On Valentine’s Day

 

A CAUTIONARY TALE AGAINST GOING OUT ON VALENTINE'S DAY

WORDS BY GENESIA ALVES

Though I’d chased and shot down a boyfriend and carried him around like a trophy, I still couldn’t say the word “boyfriend” without feeling a bit queasy. It may be hard for you young folks to imagine, but in my day, many of us tried hard to conform. In the adolescence of our relationship, we attempted normal “couple things” – sharing an ice-cream cone (gross), drinking out of a coconut with two straws (I got competitive and nearly choked), and going out on Valentine’s Day.

Someone should have told us that the pagan precursor to Valentine’s Day was Lupercalia, a fertility ritual that may or may not have once involved human sacrifice. On Lupercalia, two goats and a dog were sacrificed, their blood smeared on the foreheads of two young men (who were then required to laugh – because this was ancient Rome which by all accounts was a very wild party), and then, the fun bit. “Thongs” were cut from the skin of the sacrificial animals and two groups of young men would run around thwacking women with the bloody strips of skin so that they’d Get Pregnant Easily. Lupercalia also featured an early version of Tinder – a bowl full of names from which you picked a lover for that night. And if it worked out, for longer.

I’d have stayed at home.

But no, we went out to The Ghetto feeling quite sure that all the pinky-pink would not survive the black light, graffiti and grunge playlist. We were wrong. The Ghetto – that hideaway with the DJ who always agreed to play you Pearl Jam – was full of loved up couples, dusting the glowing dandruff off each other’s shoulders, fluorescent grins singing the chorus to “Jeremy”, roses and boxes of chocolates lying like sacrilege on tables so pure they were only good for beer slosh and stale popcorn.

The next year, though the word had not been invented yet, we did feel some FOMO. The internet had not been invented either – otherwise we’d have known that a few centuries later, still in Rome (now occupied by the blood thirsty Emperor Claudius Gothicus) there was a campaign to make sure fighters weren’t converted to lovers. Rumour has it the Emperor believed unmarried men would be better at war, and a priest, Valentine, was out marrying off people so that there would be peace. Claudius found out and executed not one but two Valentines (both on February 14th, but years apart), and that’s where the term My Bloody Valentine comes from. (It doesn’t. I’m just showing you how hard it was before the internet was around to double check stuff.)

They say money can’t buy you love, but there’s a Mastercard Valentine's Day Love Index that tracks how much it costs anyway.

So we went to this bar in Juhu called On Toes. The bar is still around, but in those days it was furnished in a special aesthetic called “Coming out of the shadow of socialism” – dark formica tables, “mood” lighting enough to know your Chicken Manchurian had arrived but not to know what colour it was, and a big blue TV that usually played sports. When we walked in, we were so relieved. There was not a single couple there celebrating Valentine’s Day. Better still, the big TV was playing Terminator 2. We sat all night watching Linda Hamilton kick robot ass, didn’t say a word to each other, and went home feeling stupid.

They say money can’t buy you love, but there’s a Mastercard Valentine's Day Love Index that tracks how much it costs anyway. Hong Kong men are Asia’s big spenders, but Thailand is the most enthusiastic about the day and buying flowers and chocolate. Hong Kong boyfriends were planning on average to spend $273, while guys in Indonesia thought $16 is the thought that counts. And on average, men were spending up to 40 per cent more on presents than women, especially in India. And I don’t know why they call that cherub Stupid Cupid, because even with no pants and just a bow and arrow, the little fattie is as good a banker as he is a chemist. That flutter in your heart that goes straight to your credit card is caused by a mix of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. But despite having that cliché chemical formula, C8H11NO2+C10H12N2O+C43H66N12O12S2, coursing through your veins, some of you are still going to try to do things differently.

On our last attempt ever, my boyfriend and I went in an autorickshaw from bar to bar, restaurant to restaurant trying to find one that checked our boxes. We finally found a really weird looking place on the WEH that shone out in the dark. It was called the Silver Horse, and we stood, slightly wobbly from being punched in the bottom by rickshaw-suspension for over an hour, and sashayed like two sailors to the door. I tried to follow behind the boyfriend who entered but was barred by a very large man. “Ah,” I thought to myself, “checking to see if I’m of legal age, how cute.” “I’m 22,” I said. “Only serving ladies,” he replied. Confused, I asked, “What?” “Only serving ladies!” He repeated. As I began another, more bristly, “wh…” my boyfriend burst out the door and walked me briskly towards the main road. “What the f…” I began. “It’s a dance bar! There were women dancing! Professionally,” he said, eyes wide with fear, like he’d rather have been whipped with bloody thongs made of dead dog.

I laughed at him all the way home. And we never tried to go out on Valentine’s Day again.

 
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Spend Your Sunday Mornings Playing Housie At Bandra Gymkhana

 

bandra gym

SPEND YOUR SUNDAY MORNINGS PLAYING HOUSIE AT BANDRA GYMKHANA

Although entry to the Bandra Gym is normally limited to members and their guests, Housie Sundays are an exception. For Rs. 30, you can enter the gym to play housie with a few hundred people. Bring your own pens.

Bandra Gymkhana, 42, St. Andrew's Road, D'Monte Park Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 2642 8512

READ GENESIA ALVES'S STORY

It’s not often you get to be inside one of Mumbai’s old gymkhanas if you’re not a member but Housie Sundays at the Bandra Gym are a pretty good way in. What a resident calls “riding the Delorean”, it’s the perfect time-travel machine in terms of location, folk, and yes, activity. After all, who plays Bingo anymore? 

Don’t ask the 200-odd people who show up at 10:15 a.m. that. Non-members pay Rs. 30 to enter and are given an entrance-ticket to hold on to. Walk into the badminton hall arranged with rows of chairs and ’80s music for ambience. Buy a clutch of five tickets at Rs. 10 each, coloured differently for each of the five games. The nice people behind the desk will give you instructions like, “Write your name and entrance-ticket number behind each of the tickets. It’s important! Don’t forget!” 

Find a nice seat and take in the view. The wire cage filled with ivory numbers is at least a couple of decades old. The marquee style boards that light up with announced numbers and game points is quite new. Nelson Carvalho is something of a bingo celebrity and reads out the numbers at a few events around the city. He hosts the opening game.

Eyes down, the numbers are called out, and you have a chance to win the Jaldi Five, Top Line, Middle Line, Bottom Line for Rs. 300 each. Then there are two chances at a Full House at Rs. 800 and Rs. 400 respectively. At the end of each game, everyone’s tickets are collected and you’re up for a quick Lucky Draw which could win you Rs. 50.  

We forgot to write our names, won a Middle Line and then got loudly tsk-ed at by everyone there when we were disqualified! Random strangers really want you to win, and it’s charming and hilarious.

Games start at 10:45 a.m. and end at 12:25 p.m. Bring your own pencils or felt pens. Do not forget to write your name at the back of the ticket! 

Feature photograph by anghinet - stock.adobe.com

 
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The Bandra Guide To Creating The Perfect Christmas Feast

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THE BANDRA GUIDE TO CREATING THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS FEAST

WORDS BY GENESIA ALVES

The digging outside is spiteful, and the traffic is just so frightful… and even if there’s nowhere to go…. here’s an anti-dote to Christmas FOMO…

It’s never too early to start planning your Christmas feast! Set up a gorgeous, generous Christmas table with roasts, hams, Christmas sweets, cakes, and wine with this guide to all the season’s jollies.

American Express Bakery

Deck the halls with the American Express’s special Christmas catering menu. There’s the rich plum cake made with a traditional recipe, the Dundee cake, and fruit-mince pies. Their traditional Christmas plum pudding –  a best seller for years – features fruit peel that has sat in a decadent mix of rum, cognac, and warm spices for two whole months. There’s traditional sweets like marzipan, coconut toffee, and guava cheese as well as Portuguese sweet bread (not the offal), apple pie, and stollen with marzipan.

You can also order a roast chicken stuffed with walnuts, peas, and chicken sausage, prawn patties, and steak and kidney pies.

Orders should be placed before December 20.

American Express Bakery, Plot No 87, Villa Sushma, Hill Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 26422857

Mark’s Cold Storage

Head down to Mark’s Cold Storage for this season’s offerings of a whole smoked ham leg or a honey roasted ham. There are also whole turkeys and whole ducks for roasting if you have an oven that’s big enough and a little culinary ambition. (Hint: It’s not hard. Just enlist the support of one other foodie friend, get a good recipe from a reliable, no-fuss chef like Nigel Slater or Jamie Oliver, and go for it!)

Mark’s is also stocking the whole Christmas sweet shebang – Irene D’Souza’s famous guava cheese and kulkuls. And there’ll be marzipan and milk cream as well. Ask Leon at the counter for some recommendations. He’s lovely.

Mark’s Cold Storage, 2, Shahina Building, Pali Mala Road, Pali Hill, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 2640 8626

christmas feast

Rejoyce

Known for her spectacular wedding cakes that are atypically as delicious as they are pretty, Rejoyce makes a Very Famous Christmas Cake that comes so rich with rum the cake has to be double wrapped in cling film. The best thing about this truly delicious, very boozy cake – sold in 1.5kg loaves – is that you don’t have to order it in advance… so you don’t have to decide right away. However, keep in mind that the rum-fruit cake does fly off the shelves closer to Christmas day, so you may want to get yours and keep it in a tin. It will keep whether you eat it all at once or save it for cheat weekends in the future, a slice of Christmas spirit, quite literally.

Rejoyce, Shop No. 5, Luminous CHS, 50, Chapel Road, Bandra (W), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 6513 7444

Laurabelle’s East Indian Christmas Sweets

The bad news is we’re too late – you have to order Laurabelle’s sweets in the first week of November, and you have to elbow in past her very closely-knit list of clients who have been buying sweets from her for years.

The good news is, you can send her a text and ask her if she may, just may, have some sweets left over and if you can buy them.

On the menu are milk cream, marzipan, chocolate walnut fudge, cashew toffee, date rolls, nankaties, guava cheese, kulkuls, coconut sweet, and coconut cake. The Bandra families swear by her sweets, so save this number and set a reminder for November 2018.

Laurabelle’s East Indian Christmas Sweets: 9820562605

christmas feast

Jude Wines

We called Pamela at Jude Wines for some recommendations. Sweet port wine is a Yuletide favourite in Bandra, but the Sula Port Gold is less sweet than other local brands, so it may work for you. If you’re looking for a light lunch tipple, there’s the Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blancs from the big-name wineries. And there are a bunch of great reds at great prices, including the Fratelli Cabernet Sauvignon, Sula Dindori, or Samara Red. If you want to impress your guests or a host, she recommends a bottle of Jacob’s Creek or a Chilean Pinot Noir.

There’re also liqueurs like Bailey’s, Kahlua, and Cointreau (which is great to drizzle on fruit cake if you bought a non-alcoholic one). No fruit brandies, though.

If you’re looking to make mulled wine, then ask for a sweet port or a cheap red. If you’re going to make a big bowl of Sangria, the same rules apply.

Jude Wines, Shop No. 4, 10A, Lourdes Haven, Pali Junction, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 6504 9940

Desi Deli

If you’re looking for something much more casual but as delicious, Bandra’s junta favourite, Desi Deli, has rustled up a cracker of a Christmas menu. Lolita Sarkar’s Special Xmas Burgers come in vegetarian, chicken, and buffalo versions. The non-vegetarian ones feature traditional Christmas stuffing, turkey ham, and a special plum and cranberry sauce piqued with orange. It comes served with deep fried camembert drizzled with truffle oil. We’re sure it makes the naughty and nice list. The vegetarian patty is made with green peas and feta, features Christmas stuffing, and pickled red cabbage along with everything else.

They’ve also brought back their no-holds-barred 54 per cent Hot Chocolate, and that comes with flamed marshmallows (and a cracker coated mug rim if you’re eating at the deli).

The Christmas menu is available from December 8 to January 10, and you’ll have to pre-book because they’re only making a limited supply of these treats.

Desi Deli, 86, Chapel Road, Reclamation, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 2640 8333

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A Saluti

Milanda’s fine-dine catering is the stuff of whispered legends, and her store, A Saluti, a hub of the discerning genteel, old Bandra royalty, crunchy food snobs, and eager-to-explore gourmands as well.

You may want to venture in and have a mosey around the cheese and hams and other imported treats she stocks. But Milanda starts making her traditional Christmas cakes six months in advance – boozy, fruity, deeply flavoured delights, although there’s also a non-alcohol version.

She has a Christmas catering menu as well that includes stuffed roast chickens that come with baby potatoes and gravy and a set of small Christmas puddings made entirely with imported delicacies. You’ll have to book in advance, so call and chat with the store.

A Saluti, Shop No. 1, Shahina Apartment, Pali Hill, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 4006 5448

christmas feast

Feature photograph copyright Brent Hofacker

Photos for representation only

 
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The Chicken Map Of Bandra

 

THE CHICKEN MAP OF BANDRA

WORDS BY GENESIA ALVES

When she sees a chicken, she crosses the road, because my daughter Amaia has alektorophobia."Sometimes I dream there's a chicken on my quilt. It's a legitimate phobia," she reassures me, "I looked it up."

We don't know where the phobia came from. It is not, as was the case with a close friend, that there was an alarming encounter with a full-grown hen that, in a panic, landed on her head and refused to jump off. The first we knew of it, we were lost in a small village in Anjuna, Goa, and our rambunctious, restless 2-year -old suddenly went catatonic in horror at a couple of silly pullets.

"I have a live chicken map of Bandra," my child tells me. I get my notepad out.

Bandra's chickens, puk-pukking around, are the last remnants of the village the suburb once was. Time was when every second family kept a small clutch of hens, and there was at least one dysfunctional rooster per street who would cock-a-doodle-do your afternoon siesta to hell, oblivious to loud threats of murder most fowl and having him roasted for Christmas lunch.

Bandra's chickens, puk-pukking around, are the last remnants of the village the suburb once was.

There was other livestock too – donkeys, the odd cow – and oldies will remember the saying, "Throw a stone in Bandra, and you'll hit a pig or a Pereira." The pigs, in fact, were by far the most colourful. In the time of prohibition when the good Catholics of the suburb would brew their own not-so-holy spirits, the wrung-out fermented fruit or hops would be thrown into the gutters on which the occasional pig would feast and then roll into the village pig-drunk, looking for a fight. As a boy, my father was once wrestled to the ground by one in Pali Village. He was saved by his brother with a shotgun and as much courage as he had aim.

Amaia's live chicken map of Bandra begins in Chimbai Village, where she has her earliest memory of being pukking freaked out. At 7, she was sitting on the family scooter while her dad bought puri-bhaji and a chicken just stood next to her. She considered starting the scooter and riding away. Khar-Danda also has its share of chickens, some of whom make their way to Carter Road, near the amphitheatre. I ask if this helps her sprint past on her weekly morning runs there. She rolls her eyes at me. Jogger's Park is also a no-no because of all the big birds. The D'Monte Park has a couple of huge roosters and other large birds, including guinea fowl, which she shudders at and says, "They're all the same, feathery, gross." The road outside St. Andrew's College also has a few chickens hanging around with the teenagers. No one is allowed to throw "birds of a feather" shade though, apparently. She saves the worst for last. Marcus' Pets, an old Bandra institution, has the largest birds she has ever seen. "Those chickens have distinct shoulders," she says retching now, "and the clucking! The clucking is horrific! Once I couldn't cross because of traffic, so I closed my eyes and just prayed aloud in the general direction of heaven." She's being raised agnostic, so I ask her what words she used. She says, "just please please please please please."

The girl is just chicken.

 
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Meet Rehan Merchant, The Man Saving Bandra’s Mangroves

rehan merchant bandra mangroves beach
 

MEET REHAN MERCHANT, THE MAN SAVING BANDRA’S MANGROVES

Rehan Merchant has spent years single-handedly levelling a beach at Carter Road and keeping the mangroves clean. He takes tours of the mangroves for a donation of Rs. 600, which goes towards hiring manpower to help him.

Carter Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050.

READ GENESIA ALVES'S STORY

For the last few months, regulars on the promenade will have noticed two things. There used to be a subtle temperature drop accompanied by an unmistakable acridity in the air in one particular curve of the corniche for years. It has disappeared. And a man, weathered, eyes twinkling, gum-boots up to his knees has appeared in its stead. You spot him now and then, between the winding trunks of the mangroves, putting up signs imploring you to save the mangroves or speaking animatedly with passers-by. His name is Rehan Merchant. And he’s quite a chap.

He rolls up dragging a home-made looking wheelbarrow behind him. He nods in approval at my wellies as he goes over the low promenade wall. “Come on,” I hear him shoot over his shoulder, and we step down into the mangroves.

The area just beyond the wall is surprisingly dry and clean. Rehan points to a large sewage pipe that has a thin stream of grey water running from it. On either side of the pipe, mismatched planks have been hewn together to support a sand bank that rises a few feet on the right.  To the left, it is lower. A tree trunk, probably weighing tons, forms a part of the bank. “You built this entire thing on your own?” I ask. “Well, the tide helped,” he says with a shrug.

rehan merchant bandra mangroves beach

The next 20 minutes go by in a blur. This construction uses the tides to bring in sand and keep the channels clear so the sewage can flow out. Rehan is animated, intimate with his knowledge of the tides, the force of the monsoon, the way the power of each wave can be channelled. He explains the torque of an eddy that helped move that giant tree right into position. His passion for what he is doing is almost overwhelming – his voice arches and, like the ocean, he moves constantly, never still, his arms and face emphasising his words, he crouches, reaches out, walks briskly here and there. I find it hard to keep him in my line of sight.

He is also hilarious. He shows me the things the tide brings in: rocks, construction debris, and junk (that used to block the ebb, resulting in a stagnant pool of sewage). There’s a small chest with spare gumboots, some tools, a lost teddy bear, a huge buoy, what looks like an anchor… “What are these things?” I ask. “You from Bandra?” he double-checks. When I nod, he grins. “Then they’re your grandfadder’s brinjals, men,” he retorts in an authentic Bandra patois.

Rehan is a proper Bandra boy, and when he came back from the UAE a few years ago, he realised the ocean off Carter Road he used to swim in was inaccessible because of the pooling sewage. So he decided to do something about it.

rehan merchant bandra mangroves beach

“Growing up, I thought, I’d either be a prophet or an inventor,” he says with a smile as he gestures at me to follow him deeper into the mangroves. “Whether it’s Jesus, Ram, or Mohammed, or Newton, Einstein, Edison – I look up to ‘doers’.”

The first thing he did invent though, as a teen, was a telescope that looked like a microscope with a singular purpose. “It sounds bad now,” he admits, “but I fell in love with this pretty little girl who lived in the building next door and I needed to spy on her without my mother finding out.” It helps that they grew up and got married.

As we walk in, Rehan scoffs at my reticence – the aerial roots of the trees are daunting, I’m still expecting sewage, and in the distance, I see large, brightly coloured things scuttling. But again, it is clean, the forest sucks up the roar of the traffic, and the temperature drops a few degrees. The scuttling things turn out to be crabs.

In 2005, the Bombay High Court, citing India’s Forest Conservation Act of 1980 and the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification of 1991, ruled to prevent destruction of the mangroves. This included 1690 hectares at the end of Thane Creek, which is now a protected flamingo sanctuary home to 10 mangrove species and over 200 species of birds. Not only do they regulate temperatures and floodwaters, but mangroves are also usually home to a myriad species of flora and fauna and absorb eight times as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than any other ecosystem. There are varying reports about mangrove cover increasing over the last 20 years or being decimated by the builder-politician nexus, but the fact remains that mangroves, like forests, will always be under threat from the minotaur that is “development” in this space-starved city. 

rehan merchant bandra mangroves beach

Carter Road has fared well though. Rehan says the mangroves here weren’t always as abundant. Twenty years ago, when the Chinese ship Zheng Dong washed up on Carter Road and was left there while authorities dithered over what to do with it, the currents on the shore changed, easing the battering of nascent mangrove saplings by the tides. The forest grew up quickly. “You can call it a Chinese conspiracy,” Rehan says with a chuckle.

Still, every day is a struggle. Even coastal dwellers, like the Koli fishing community who are native to these shores, have not evolved to keep up with the city. Their traditional fishing pools, meant to trap crabs and fish, used to fill up instead with sewage. Rehan said he personally interlinked every pool so now fresh water pours in and out. He mentions other problems, like locals leaving offal into the waters to attract crabs, natural scavengers, that would rot and smell. And there was also the problem of human remains, he says, brought in from the nearby crematorium. “They’d put some weird talisman stuff up and the idea was to scare people away from the mangroves,” he says. “That they’d think there was some black magic going on.”

The mangroves form a deep, visually impenetrable “C”, protecting what is the real treasure, Rehan’s piece de resistance.

We walk out onto a wide, clean, empty, sandy beach. A heron skips across followed by not fewer than seven chicks. Clear pools of water sparkle. It is breathtaking. Rehan puts his hands in one and washes his face with the water to make a point.

He explains how the sand in the beach was being eroded because the eddy of each wave that went over rocks created ditches. So for the last five years, he has, single-handedly, moved and broken rocks to level the beach. More sand has come in, to stay. And with the sewage no longer pooling, the water is clean enough to swim in.

rehan merchant bandra mangroves beach

“Look at my whale,” he says excitedly, and I cannot believe my eyes. It is a stone whale he has built with literally tons of massive rocks. He playacts moving the massive rocks with the help of the tide, groaning, “Yer granmudder’s aolas” and is unable to hide how pleased he is with the way it is all taking shape.

“I imagined I’d be able to dive off, like this,” he says, posing. He shows me around. “This is where I chill when the tide comes in, and this is where I keep my things because it is higher than the tide.”

We have been in the groves for nearly two hours, and his enthusiasm is intact. There is much more to be seen and talked about, but it is time to finish for today. The tide is coming in, and I worry about getting stuck. Rehan laughs as he shows me a tiny machan, high in a tree, where he sits on days he must wait the tide out. But never because he’s miscalculated the timing of the waves. Only because he wanted more time in the ocean.

We walk back to the promenade. The heat and traffic close in. Rehan takes his signs out of his wheelbarrow and puts them up. He lights up a clove cigarette and I ask him if his family thinks he’s crazy. He grins. “Maybe. But my mother says, keep walking, the caravan will show up, to follow.”

Somewhere between ecologist, prophet, and inventor, perhaps part dryad part naiad, this Bandra boy changed an entire beach with his brain and his bare hands. He says he only did it because he wanted to swim.

 
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Joseph’s Cold Storage Is More Than Just A Butcher

 

joseph's cold storage

JOSEPH’S COLD STORAGE IS MORE THAN JUST A BUTCHER

Joseph’s Cold Storage sells fresh chicken, mutton, pork, buffalo, pickles, and pre-ground cooking pastes such cafreal, reichad, and tandoori. Their best-kept secret is the soup bones, sold by the kilo. Joseph’s home delivers.

Joseph’s Cold Storage, Shop No. 15, Gasper Enclave Building, Saint John Street, Pali Naka, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 2642 4281/61

READ GENESIA ALVES'S STORY

I used to have a “Welcome to Bandra” list I’d email newly arrived neighbourhood residents. I find I don’t have the opportunity or the enthusiasm to send it out as much anymore, but high on that list is Joseph’s Cold Storage. Let me tell you why.

Joseph’s Cold Storage revolutionised the sale of meat and meat products in a very meat-eating neighbourhood. There was a lot of competition but, pretty soon, even with the slightly higher prices, most people began to come to Joseph’s. The shop was always spotless, the staff was polite and knowledgeable, and the fridges and freezers were reliable (unlike a couple of other places in the ’hood to which I’ve had to return “green” chicken).

In addition to the usual fresh chicken, mutton, pork, and buffalo, Joseph’s also stocks tons of pickles (like the East Indian Prawn Pickle), pre-ground cooking pastes (cafreal, reichad, tandoori), and Costa’s Bebinca which, admittedly, is not to everyone’s taste. 

You can buy the Alf Farms’ smoked chicken, a weirdly delicious bacon called “Howdy”, chicken nuggets, frankfurters, and chipolatas. The store also sells scraps for your pooch though I was once put up to asking for “dog mince” to only be told, very wryly, “Madam, we sell almost everything, but we don’t mince dogs.” Hardee-har-har.

In season (a.k.a. around Christmas) you can check whether he’ll sell you a whole ham (yes, like in the movies!) and ducks as well.  

My favourite things at Joseph’s though are the soup bones, sold by the kilo: mutton or chicken or beef bones, roasted in the oven for an hour and then pressure cooked to leach the flavour and goodness out into a broth that cures everything. Even a bad mood.

 
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YUGO Sushi Serves Sushi Burrito You Can Unwrap And Eat

 

YUGO SUSHI SERVES SUSHI BURRITO YOU CAN UNWRAP AND EAT

YUGO Sushi is a sushi takeaway and delivery service in Bandra that serves both vegetarian and non-vegetarian sushi. Along with its mothership, Toku-enterprises, it delivers, runs a tiffin service, and also caters parties. 

YUGO Sushi, Shop No. 8, Sefa House, 7 Pali Mala Road, Pali Hill, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 09769253378

READ GENESIA ALVES'S STORY

If the first sushi you ate was in a hole in the wall in the back lane of some busy, anonymous city, you will love YUGO Sushi. And if the first sushi you ate was in some super snazzy place where you needed sunglasses for the price column, then you will really love YUGO Sushi.

Maki sushi is casual and meant to be a vehicle for ingredients you love, not just fancy fish with air-miles. This will explain the existence (but not the popularity, unfortunately) of maki sushi rolls filled with cream cheese, avocado and other textural/flavour antipathies. You’ll have to see if you have a personal yen for the Veg California Roll (with Sriracha Mayo), the Tandoori Veg Maguro, and the Veg Bombay Roll featuring butter paneer (the non-veg version stars butter chicken). Open minded is one thing – but sriracha mayo? Thanks but no domo arigato.

YUGO Sushi does have seafood sushi too, including salmon and prawns, and there’s good news: all the rolls here are “burrito” rolls – about twice the diameter of the usual restaurant maki roll and excellent value for money. The Yugos use Indian rice (a tried and tested trick for those who’ve been handling their sushi cravings at home for years now) beautifully, and their Namasu pickles and Furikake (crisp vegetables) are delicious on every roll. If you don’t eat simple carbs anymore there’s also a non-rice roll that’s really crisp, fresh, and delicious.

The best part is that these are built to go, and Yugo will wrap each roll beautifully in butter paper, cut it in half if you want (we didn’t – we just peeled the paper off as we walked about). The kicker is they’ll give you a little soy sauce in a tiny dropper that you squeeze over the roll to season as you eat. Kawaii!