Ballard Estate is that part of Mumbai which can, even today, transport you back a century or two. The stately old European-style business district with its wide tree-lined streets is just the right setting for long and lazy lunches and warm suppers that allow you to wrap the day early in pursuit of a perfectly balanced work-life.
True to that spirit, the cafes and restaurants here serve up some relishing fare freshly prepared and served to its guests—mostly long-time patrons—and wind up as the clock strikes 10, a time when Ballard Estate gets ready to retire for the night, under a canopy of trees.
The neighbourhood has some iconic eateries—National Hindu Restaurant—that has been serving authentic South Indian fare for over 80 years; Britannia & Co.—the vanguard of Parsi cuisine in Mumbai, is nearby too. Naturally, when newer F&B outlets make a foray here, they have high standards to match.
One of the youngest entrants in a neighbourhood dotted by legacy restaurants is Bombay Coffee House. Located near the statuesque Grand hotel, this cozy café with checkered flooring, warm wooden tones and old photographs hanging on the walls, introduced a Parsi section to the menu recently.
For chef Onkar Samarth, corporate chef, the task was to craft a menu that reflects the Parsi ethos—and if you begin with the mutton chops, you’ll know he’s committed to getting it right. The juicy cutlets hit the right notes, and if you aren’t opting for the 3-course Parsi Bhonu, I’d suggest ordering a second round of the cutlets. Samarth tells us that he likes to source his recipes from home chefs, and the Salli Murgh, I could have sworn, came from the kitchen of a benevolent home cook. The sweet and sour sauce spiked with spices does the fine art of balancing flavours and I ate it with rice, and then scooped it clean with bread. Post this, nothing matched up. The veg Dhansak you can pass, and the Murg na Farcha may please hardcore chicken lovers, which I am not..
Just like the décor, the menu has the feel of a typical café—it is to the point and values your time, so don’t go looking for gourmet anything, but there’s enough happening to keep you satiated. Their signature item, a warm bowl of Sapo rice—is a one-pot meal of rice with chicken and veggies tossed in a tomato-based sauce—it has the kind of Indian-Chinese-Oriental appeal that gets a vote from Indians of all ages.
What I wouldn’t miss are the desserts at Bombay Coffee House, they’re not dainty or deconstructed—but generous chunks of good ‘ol fashioned desserts. The chocolate mousse is beautifully textured, though I swiftly assigned the chocolate desserts to the youngsters on the table and dug instead into the nuanced, yoghurt panna cotta, and Lagan nu custard. The Parsi staple never fails to evoke a ratatouille-esque flashback of childhood flavours—of a time when mom's basic pudding baked with honest ingredients felt like the most delicious thing ever made by mankind. The kind of emotion I like to end a good meal on.
By the time I finish dinner and look around, the servers are winding up, and Ballard Estate is getting ready to retire after another day of being an island in the high seas of change.
The Parsi Bhonu is available for Rs 550+
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