Seefah-band

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

 
Dolcemi-band

Dolcemi Delivers Authentic Italian Confectionary

 

dolcemi italian sweets

DOLCEMI DELIVERS AUTHENTIC ITALIAN CONFECTIONERY

Dolcemi, a dessert kitchen in Bandra, is the brainchild of an Italian jewellery designer and Indian entrepreneur. Confections such as tiramisu, biscotti, semifroddo, gelato, mousse, and more can be picked up from their base or delivered to your doorstep via delivery apps. Orders have to be placed before 2 p.m. on the previous day.

Phone: +91 90290 17000 (from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday)

READ KRUTI DALAL'S STORY

Everybody knows that dolce means sweet in Italian and that Anita Ekberg was really living the good life when she waded into that Roman fountain in her legendary black dress. But dolce is also an Italian musical term – an indication to play an instrument in a tender, adoring manner; to play a chord sweetly, with a light touch. That is what Dolcemi’s tiramisu does – it caresses your palate gently, the subtle sweetness melting on your tongue. The coffee liqueur diffuses into your throat, leaving behind a warm glow instead of the familiar burning sensation. You have to close your eyes and mouth to hold on to the feeling of being in sunny Sicily before it evaporates.

The pastina de mandorla elicits a similar reaction, accompanied by a deep, content sigh possible only in the absence of guilt. The small almond biscuits – crispy on the outside with a condensed centre – are dairy-free and gluten-free. For those who crave all year for marzipan sweets, Dolcemi’s soft dough pastry is Christmas come early.

Chocolate lovers have a long list of unusual suspects to choose from, but one item stands out. The chocolate salami may sound suspicious to vegetarians, but what looks like black pudding is a log of semi-frozen dark chocolate dotted with tiny pieces of biscotti. The specks, although substantial, aren’t quite enough to grasp the incredible nature of the Italian classic.

Luckily, Dolcemi offers 100gm biscotti packets and four tempting options, including the newly introduced walnut and gianduja.

Just scanning the luscious menu is enough to cause acute cravings and intense confusion at the same time. What’s certain, however, is that to live the good life in Mumbai, you need a certain amount of foresight and Dolcemi on your speed dial. Order early, then sit back to dream about an Italian summer. All dolce things are worth waiting for.

Feature photograph courtesy Dolcemi

 

 
Beer-Guide-band

The Craft Brew Guide to Mumbai

craft beer mumbai
 

THE CRAFT BREW GUIDE TO MUMBAI

WORDS BY KASTURI GADGE

Mumbai has hopped on the craft beer bandwagon, and we think a pitcher is worth a thousand words.

Gateway Taproom

First they created a fan following in the city. Then the brand opened their standalone taproom in Bandra in 2017. It has a wide selection of beers, relaxed décor, and a happy vibe. While there’s always a limited edition beer to sample, regulars swear by the delightful White Zen and the hoppy, dark. A prime location and affordable menu makes finding a table here after work can be difficult, so head early to grab a spot.

Gateway Taproom, BKC, Unit no. 3, Ground Floor, Jet Airways Godrej BKC Building, G Block, Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai 400 051. Phone: 081045 90734.

Verbena Brewpub and SkyGarden

It’s been a while, but this Kamala Mills establishment finally has its brewery up and running. The concise craft beer menu features a basic German recipe along with a refreshing Hefeweizen. What stands out, though, are the Cider and the Jagermeister beer (it isn’t a cocktail; the crafty brewers have managed to develop a powerful flavour profile, just like that of the liquor). A chilled pint in a beautiful rooftop garden is a rare treat in the city, so cheers to that.

Verbena Brewpub and SkyGarden, 4th Floor, Trade View Building, Kamala Mills Compound, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 098206 95034.

Toit Brewery

When the iconic Blue Frog closed, this Bangalore import set up shop in its stead and had to navigate massive expectations from the locals. It managed to exceed them all with its upbeat vibe, comfort food, and heady brews. The beer menu is identical to the Bangalore outpost, including the seasonal beers. From a crisp Basmati bond to a hoppy pale ale, a refreshing witbier to a creamy stout, the menu has it all. Added bonus: they have a pet-friendly section too.

Toit Brewery, Mathuradas Mill Compound, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 093245 55223.

Crafters Tap House

The newest member of the craft beer crew, Crafters Tap House is tucked away on the second floor of Powai’s Haiko Mall. The large space, with its stripped-down vibe, is refreshing and unpretentious. The beers on offer include a Pilsner, the easy-going Hefeweizen, and the Belgian Wit along with darker beers like a stout and a dark pilsner. Apart from the beers, there is also a fine selection of Indian spirits worth trying.

Crafters Tap House, Level 01, Haiko Mall, Central Avenue, Hiranandani Gardens, Powai Mumbai 400 076. Phone: 080078 85674.

The Beer Café

This bar chain has a menu featuring handpicked brands from all over the world. If you’re lucky, you might find some rare ones. Apart from global brands, they also offer local craft beers on tap. The bright yellow décor is youthful and quirky and the place has a fun vibe.

The Beer Café has multiple outlets at Churchgate, Chakala, Thane, Mulund, Andheri, Mahim, Powai, and Lower Parel. Check the website for details.

The Irish House

Usually heaving with a younger crowd, The Irish House has ‘Irish style’ décor and upbeat music. Their newest space at BKC has a little garden and a wood-fire oven. The menu has a few additions as well. Offering craft beers on tap (including brews from The White Owl, Drifter, Independence, and Erdinger), they also offer international beers presented by brew – lagers, ales, stouts, ciders or wheat.

The Irish House has multiple outlets at BKC, Fort, Malad, Thane, Kurla, Lower Parel, and Bandra. Check the website for details.

Effingut

Another one of the Pune microbreweries that made their way to Mumbai, Effingut found a home in one of the most iconic buildings in Colaba. The house brews lean towards the dark side – a Dunkleweizen, Indian Brown Ale, Citrus Burst IPA – but there’re also a couple of light-bodied beers like Hefeweizen and Kolsch. The junk-meets-funk interiors are extremely Instagram-friendly too.

Effingut, Dhanraj Mahal, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005. Phone: 086574 40661.

The British Brewing Co.

Straight from Hampstead, London, The British Brewing Company is a classic Brit  watering hole. The menu offers a wide selection of beers from both domestic and international brands. For craft beer lovers, fine beers from Gateway Brewing Company and The White Owl are on offer. Last year they also collaborated with the Gateway Brewing Company to make a special brew for the brand in India.

The British Brewing Co. has multiple outlets at Vashi, Lower Parel, Marol, Dombivali. Check the website for details.

Royal Oak Brewery

A new addition to Navi Mumbai nightlife is the Royal Oak Brewery. The American diner décor and rock music feel familiar and fun, and their in-house brews can be ordered in up to five-litre barrel size servings! The beers are a mix of German and Belgian origin along with ales like the Rice Blonde Ale, Pale Rye Ale, and Red Ale. If you’re feeling adventurous, try their fruit flavoured beer.

Royal Oak Brewery, Ground Floor, Satra Plaza, Sector 19, Palm Beach Road, Vashi, Navi Mumbai 400 703. Phone: 098331 06180

Kaitlyn's Beer Garden

Kaitlyn’s Beer Garden in Bandra tries to replicate Munich with faux grass and picnic benches. On tap they have a selection of local brews starting with an easy Hefeweizen, going on to a Pale Ale, and then a heady Stout. Kaitlyn’s Beer Garden also has a selection of domestic beers and a few popular international labels.

Kaitlyn’s Beer Garden, 202 Khan House, Hill Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 081042 94735

Feature photograph copyright Cherries - stock.adobe.com. All other photographs courtesy the restaurants.

 
Izumi-band

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

izumi
 

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!”

 
HOP-Hostel-band

HOP Hostel Wants Travellers To Feel Welcome In Mumbai

hop hostel backpackers hostel bandra
 

HOP HOSTEL WANTS TRAVELLERS TO FEEL WELCOME IN MUMBAI

Horn Ok Please Hostel is a backpacker hostel in a 100-year-old building in Bandra. It has co-ed dorms, a female dorm, and a private room, all with freeWiFi; all beds are reasonably priced at Rs. 799.

HOP Hostel, 22, D Monte Street, Santosh Nagar, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 099855 44000

READ GENESIA ALVES'S STORY

There are fewer backpacker hostels in Mumbai than you’d expect, given our (a) ridiculous real estate rates and (b) the numbers of young people who want to visit the city as a pit-stop or more. And they’re mostly either far away from places of interest or in soulless neighbourhoods.

Rishabh Maskara and his friend Smit Jain were travelling in Budapest when they realised that hostels facilitated young travellers in ways they’d never imagined. Rishabh’s wife, Adina Goerke (of German origin), had already used them as a young traveller. And so the idea of starting one in Mumbai came to fruition. They began to make plans in 2014, but HOP – Horn Ok Please – opened its doors only in September 2017 in Bandra.

The hostel has one female dorm with eight beds, two co-ed dorms with eight beds, two co-ed dorms with six beds, and one private room which is a double. There are shared bathrooms and showers, a library, and a communal table where everyone sits down to breakfast together. The hostel sources all its essentials from the markets nearby, including the neighbourhood anda-pao chap whose fortunes have taken a turn for the better since HOP opened. Word of mouth has been all they needed. They run at almost full capacity all the time.

The best part about the Horn Ok Please Hostel is you could walk right past it. It is at the edge of the higgledy-piggledy heart of one of Bandra’s old neighbourhoods. Around it, the lanes are like a series of children’s squiggles – walk this way and you will reach Bandra Station; walk that way and you’ll get to Lilavati Hospital or Bandra Bazaar. The hostel itself is in an old traditional East Indian house owned by one of Bandra’s oldest families. The signage, a large H O P rendered in jute woven through the mesh on the entrance, is discreet.

hop hostel backpackers hostel bandra

I am familiar with the area, and the Google Maps pin is perfect. But still, when I pause for a second, I am heartened when a local woman, bags of vegetables weighing her down, stops and immediately says, “Hostel? It’s right there. The lady is waiting for you outside it.” This is the kind of neighbourhood where everyone knows everyone. It’s old Bandra. And the old-time resident likes HOP, or she’d have given me the wrong directions. Don’t ask me how I know.

Adina is waiting at the entrance and, as you step inside, a mess of footwear greets you amicably. It looks like a typical Indian household patio on a party day. Inside, there’s a sense of European efficiency that sits comfortably in the traditional layout of this house. A cosy living room (young folk on the diwans, reading, chatting) houses a reception desk in a nook. We walk into the large kitchen with its massive dining table. Having grown up with people whose intimate socialising always happened across huge dining tables in or near the kitchen, I find this instantly comforting.

hop hostel backpackers hostel bandra

It’s not just about being a place to stay. HOP wants people to feel welcomed in this typical big city with its typical big city hustle. “Sometimes people arrive panicked or just exhausted,” Adina says, “we want this place to be an oasis. We want to offer a chance to socialise, share common interests. We take people out to local places; we organise game nights and jam sessions. We take Bandra walking tours.” The best part of being in Bandra, she says, is that the locals are used to seeing foreigners, and they tend to treat them like expats, not tourists. There’s less cynical opportunism in that, and it tends to put visitors instantly at ease.

While they knew their location in the heart of a bustling, authentic neighbourhood, their competitive pricing, and their excellent facilities would always be welcome, the one thing that did surprise the folk at HOP is the number of domestic tourists. Most of their international travellers arrive in the “cooler” months, but the rest of the year, a bulk of their visitors are people from places like Bangalore and Delhi who come to visit friends, go out, and shop.

hop hostel backpackers hostel bandra

It’s a win-win situation for everyone, including people outside the cliché age-bracket you’d typically associate with hostels. Adina says while most of their clientele are young, they often have older people staying with them, retired folk backpacking across the world.

Like the elderly American gentleman I met earlier in the week – lost, distraught, panicked, and heat-exhausted in a taxi cab, who handed me a piece of paper with the HOP Hostel number scribbled on it. I calmed him down and called the number, and the person who picked up was kind and reassuring. I passed on his directions to the worried taxi driver. “I’m sorry,” the American man said when he finally calmed down. “I just haven’t seen another American in four days.” I smiled at him. “Don’t worry,” I told him, “Mumbai is not such a bad place. I’m sure you’ll make some friends.”

After going to HOP, I’m even surer what I said is true.

Photographs courtesy HOP Hostel

 
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Enjoy Flavourful Comfort Food At Maharashtra Chana Bhandar

 

Maharashtra Chana Bhandar

ENJOY FLAVOURFUL COMFORT FOOD AT MAHARASHTRA CHANA BHANDAR

Maharashtra Chana Bhandar is an unassuming shop in Bandra that sells farsan, chaat, and other snacks. Priced at Rs. 50 or less, every item here is affordable. They have a small counter if you want to eat-in, but you can take your food to-go if you prefer.

Maharashtra Chana Bhandar, 3 Pali Naka, next to Janta Bar, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 2600 4652 / 098677 99950

READ RAJESH TAHILRAMANI'S STORY

The hipsterfication of Janta bar has been happening for more than a decade, but I still thought things were going a little too far when I noticed fancy Audis and Mercs stop for a second to let well-heeled Bandra people jump out. So it was with some relief I observed that they were not bound for Janta but going to Maharashtra Chana Bhandar next door.

Maharashtra Chana Bhandar has a menu that is smaller than (but as unpretentious as) its name. They have the best vada pav and bhajias in the neighbourhood and an excellent bhel, sev puri, and pani puri.

People used to come here their pre-packed farsan but ended up staying for the other goodies. Now, a makeshift counter has been set up inside as an “eat-in” option. Everything here costs less than Rs. 50; their ingredients are fresh and, by street food standards, the place is really hygienic. If you, like me, are a bit of a food nerd, watching them make the chaat is a joy in itself.

Rumour has it if you ask them to parcel more than six sev puris or bhel puris, the man behind the counter will balance several plates along one forearm as he flamboyantly seasons and garnishes with the other. It’s not quite salt bae, but chaat theatre at its finest.

Located in a square km that has three salad places, two Mediterranean style cafés, and an assortment of over-priced, underwhelming food places, Maharashtra is a standing-room only, comfort food establishment you will fall in love with. Don’t forget to ask for the sukha green chutney. If pakodas from Maharashtra with a quarter from Janta is not your idea of fun, then I’m sure you’ll like the pan-fried basa down the road from here (in both directions).

Feature photograph by Suruchi Maira

 
Farmer's-Market-band

Buy Fresh, Organic Food At The Bandra Farmers’ Market

farmers market
 

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

 
Comic-Books-Guide-band

Your Guide To Buying Comic Books In Mumbai

 

YOUR GUIDE TO BUYING COMIC BOOKS IN MUMBAI

WORDS BY MEHER MIRZA

Most people seem to assume that, as a writer with two MAs in English Studies, I ring out my days with the works of Foucault, Genet, Pynchon, and such. For the most part, they would be right. But smuggled into my edifying literary library lies a filthy secret—a slab of beloved comic books, powder-fine from age.

Comics, I suspect, are still seen by people as being not quite the thing, old chap. To these people I say, “Go away”. Go away, and take your barren, strait-laced pleasures with you. There is a time for Jane Eyre and a time for Hawkgirl: comics are far too pleasurable to be sullied by the vapidity of a bunch of sanctimonious puritans. For many of us, Phantom, Mandrake, and Flash Gordon are the plinth on which our library of reading is raised. Which is why, every so often, you may catch me stapled to the comics section in your friendly, neighbourhood bookstore, dribbling over Art Spiegelman, surrounded by shambolic piles of Justice League Dark and Mister Miracle comics—in short, happy. Here is a smattering of stores that I frequent to get my fix of favourites.

Granth

Upstairs at Granth, cocooned from the bedlam of car horns on Juhu Tara Road, is a small sanctuary for superheroes. If you pan its shelves for glimmers of comic gold, you'll find plenty of Watchmen, the luminous Mandela: The Graphic Novel, a watermelon-hefty Drawn & Quarterly anthology, and Black Hole (Charles Burns's graphic novel about teen angst generously leavened with horror) together with a hank of DC, Vertigo, Dark Horse, and Marvel collections.

Granth, 30/A, HM House, Juhu Tara Road, Mumbai 400 049. Phone: 022 2660 9327

VL Nayak

What VL Nayak lacks in square footage it makes up for in density of choice. As a child, I teetered and tottered through the tiny shop, pillaging the shelves like a bandit, carting away heaps of MAD magazines, Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha, and (as a tremendous treat), DC and Marvel singles. It is a river I continue to drink from—it still stacks a whole coterie of pulp writing.

VL Nayak, Plot No. 8126, Surajpati Bhavan, 1st Road, Opp. Rly Station, Khar (w), Mumbai 400 052. Phone: 022 2648 4082

Title Waves

Over at Title Waves in Bandra, you'll find a sort of Top 20 hits of the comic world; nothing terribly esoteric, no Cable or Birds of Prey, just the usual Marvel and DC titles, Neil Gaiman, Peanuts, and Tintin. Title Waves also ventures into collectables territory, with a small shrine to memorabilia such as t-shirts, figurines, mugs, and other baubles.

Title Waves, St Pauls Media Complex, 24th Road, Off Turner Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 2651 0841

Trilogy

Raghuvanshi Mills’ Trilogy store is scalpelled into two sections—the library and the bookstore. The collection at the store reads like a roster of high art comics, all beautifully rendered but haphazardly stacked. What can you buy here? Shigeru Mizuki's bizarre, protean manga, Showa: A History Of Japan. Joe Sacco's Journalism, a ferocious comic that scrapes at the wounds of the world's worst war zones. And among many others, the extraordinary graphic novel based on Martin Luther King's life, I See the Promised Land, written by Arthur Flowers and illustrated by a Patua scroll artist, Manu Chitrakar.

Trilogy, 1st floor, Building No. 28, Above Mercedes Service Center, Raghuvanshi Mills Compound, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 080805 90590

Crossword

Once a fine bookshop chain of some stature, Crossword has now mutated into a sort of portmanteau of DVD toy/book store—a Frankenstore if you will. Still, it does venture briefly into the comic realm; a small collection (mostly DC's Justice League) reposes on its shelves, an excellent gateway to those who came to the comics via their live-action movie versions.

Crossword Bookstores across the city.

Leaping Windows

It would be folly to leave out Leaping Windows, a space reverential of comics, packed with perfectly organised pages and pages of Neil Gaiman, plenty from the DC and Marvel multiverses, as well as the ubiquitous Tintin, Calvin & Hobbes and Asterix. All this, and a cheery café to boot.

Leaping Windows, 3 Corner View, Dr. Ashok Chopra Marg, Off Yari Road, Andheri (w), Mumbai 400 061. Phone: 097699 98972

*Special mention: Kitab Khana, which has shelves heaving with Amar Chitra Katha, Asterix and Tintin, a collection hidebound by nostalgia.

 
Poetry-band

Spoilt For Choice At Poetry By Love And Cheesecake

 

poetry by love and cheesecake

SPOILT FOR CHOICE AT POETRY BY LOVE AND CHEESECAKE

Poetry By Love And Cheesecake is a café in Bandra that is kind to the keto (low carb diet), vegan, and gluten-free diets. Of particular note are its desserts, specifically the baked New York cheesecake. Those not dieting needn’t despair – there are plenty of carb-filled and non-vegetarian options as well. Poetry also has outlets at Lower Parel and Fort.

Poetry By Love And Cheesecake. Bandra: Pali Darshan, 33rd Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 082912 95412. Lower Parel: Kamala Mills, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Fort: Machinery House, Ground Floor, Bharucha Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 6237 8411

READ SADIYA UPADE'S STORY

Scrumptious cheesecake, filled with love,

Humble bread left scorned, sulking

Forgive the poor attempt at a poem, but I am still trying to get over a bruschetta without bread! Then again, that's the beauty of Poetry besides the mellow interiors and framed verses on the walls. With the kitchen serving keto (low carb diet), vegan, and gluten-free meals, the menu needs your attention, or you might just overlook the purple star besides the bruschetta and start penning poetry. You will polish off the plate nevertheless, given the perfectly grilled chicken and fresh tomatoes and sprouts.

Spoilt for choice, you will then move on to the cheesecake, happy to have missed the carbs, leaving room for all the sugar. As you pick from Nutella, salted caramel, Oreo, and tiramisu, to name a few, more trysts will follow. Eventually, you will find your rhyme. The baked New York cheesecake sings for me each time. As does Devil's Desire, which comes with a layer of caramel, Belgian chocolate, mousse, and hazelnut. 

The savoury list here is just as long, with a variety of pastas, salads, and meals cooked around avocado, chia seeds, kale, and cheese. In the mornings, they are also kind to bread. The breakfast spread spans freshly baked focaccia, croissants, multi-grain, along with muffins, herb butter, eggs, and a coffee that can hold its own. Just like Poetry, which can draw in the health-nut and sugar-crazed with equal elan.

Feature photograph copyright skumer - stock.adobe.com

 
Taj-Mahal-Tea-House-band

Cutting Edge Chai At Taj Mahal Tea House

 

taj mahal tea house bandra

CUTTING EDGE CHAI AT TAJ MAHAL TEA HOUSE

Taj Mahal Tea House is, as the name suggests, a tea house. Located in an old bungalow in Bandra, the space is beautifully designed by The Busride Studio in warm, inviting tones that make you want to linger over your cup of tea. You can also purchase their tea from the small shop inside the tea house.

Taj Mahal Tea House, 36/A, Sanatan Pereira Bungalow, St. John Baptist Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 2642 0330 

READ SHIVANI SHAH'S STORY

The first thing you notice about Taj Mahal Tea House is how pretty it is. Ochre walls with framed art, blue flowers, and turquoise, patterned accent tiles. Cane furniture, vintage wooden tables with marble tops, indigo and white cushions. The homey feel is intensified by the fact that it occupies the ground floor of an old bungalow in Bandra.

The tea house is owned by Hindustan Unilever – its full name is Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Tea House – which is in no way a deterrent. Mumbai may be shying away from corporate to embrace young, independent brands, but Taj Mahal Tea House is proof that there is room for both.

Most of the flavours here are ones you aren’t likely to blend at home. Mint is passé (although available for those who like to play it safe); curry leaves, coconut, even paan flavoured teas make you wonder just how versatile the little tea-leaf is. And if you’re a coffee drinker who’s been dragged here by a tea-loving friend, you needn’t fret – there may be just two coffee options for you, but they’re just as good as anything your friend will order.

Whatever you decide to drink, pair it with their buttery brun maska served with seasonal jam. I broke a no bread-no sugar rule for it during a Very Important Work Meeting, and I have no shame in saying I tuned out from business talk while eating it. There might even have been soft murmurs of appreciation as I not-so-gracefully devoured it. Caffeine and carbs always come first, and they’re both absolutely delicious here.

Photograph by Suruchi Maira