Two years ago, when Yash Bhanage and Sameer Seth – co-founders of Hunger Inc, the hospitality brand behind The Bombay Canteen and O Pedro – conceived the idea of Bombay Sweet Shop, a spanking new mithai shop of sorts in Byculla, the conversation, began with a musing. “We were debating about Indian products that make for good gifting options that reflect our rich heritage. For example, when we visit friends in other countries, we want to carry gifts that offer them a flavour of India. Things that are innately Indian; there’s Old Monk, which has a great nostalgia factor to it, but it’s not the best kind of rum that is available. There’s masala tea, but it isn’t portable . So, what is that one thing which is intrinsically Indian and has been a part of our culture? And that's how we came up with mithai,” Bhanage shares.
As a team that believes in celebrating the flavours of India, taking the love for mithai a step further for millennials, who are staying away from traditional mithai, forms the ethos of the Bombay Sweet Shop. On offer are Indian mithai staples, re-imagined mithais, plated desserts inspired by Indian sweets and a few savoury options modeled around Indian chaats. The Bombay Sweet Shop is an extension of the Hunger Inc team’s endeavour to put Indian food on the global map by marrying research and knowledge drawn from the nooks and corners of India with the accuracy and skill of a culinary expert.
The team's overarching philosophy – evident in the food, narrative and décor – is present in a continuum in all of Hunger Inc’s establishments, be it in their modern Indian restaurant, The Bombay Canteen (TBC), Goan-Portuguese diner, O Pedro, or now, this contemporary mithai shop. You can find strains of it in the Bombay Sweet Shop’s ambiance, which much like TBC, relies on an Indian vintage aesthete. Think bottle green banta makers, worn out weights fitted into tables and sprightly origami birds.
The menu gives a spin to the traditional classics—kulfi in kesar and puran poli, reinvented with a smoother finish and freshly churned out of a softee machine. There is raspberry soda and Goan sea salt toffees alongside Indian gummies in flavours like citrus and gulab, fruit and nut and an all seeds variant, comprising sesame and poppy. There is also a modern chikki bar covered in chocolate and the good 'ol aam papad re-imagined as a lollipop.
Of these, a few hit the sweet spot. Like the kaju bon bon, which makes use of kaju katli (instead of marzipan) as a roll filled with salted caramel and covered in chocolate. There’s aamchi kulfi made with puran-poli, a combination of flavoured milk, sprinkled with black pepper for puran poli lovers, who can now satiate their craving anytime of the year, and not just on Holi! Those who crave a touch of savory to snap out of the sugar-induced coma, do sample their avocado papri chaat, which isn’t much different from a regular sev puri, but worth a try. Another must-try is the matri taco with a peas-and-pickle filling, a winner with its tangy-sweet-salty (read chatpata) flavour-profile.
While we are all game for some fun experiments for the palate, some of the offerings on the menu don’t quit add up, like the kaapi pak, which is innovative but lacks the indulgent, velvety texture of the original Mysore pak. The ghevar tart does little justice to the OG version that we all know and love. The Bombay Sweet Shop’s version is a tad brittle and boring with a palatable rasmalai and rabri filling, but unlike the scrumptious, ghee-laden honeycomb-like ghevar that is a real treat.
To put it simply, Bombay Sweet Shop looks like something born out of wedlock between a mithai ki dukaan and a candy shop. It is innovative, imaginative and all those things that you seek when you visit a place for the “experience.” The menu and food tell a story, something that more and more F&B establishments are trying to embody and offer today. But a few loose ends need tying up when it comes to Bombay Sweet Shop's offering, because a strong narrative cannot single-handedly hold a story up. As we know, when it comes to stories around food, the climax is in the taste alone.
Images: The Bombay Sweet Shop