While I’m always looking forward to trying new restaurants in Mumbai there is one place Ajay and I always love going back to, The Bombay Canteen. We’ve frequented this place since it opened in 2015 and have loved the offering ever since. Last night, after our fabulous Indian Christmas Dinner, we thought it was high time we wrote about it.
The Bombay Canteen is the place that serves seasonal dishes inspired by Indian regional cuisines and if there is one meal to eat in Mumbai, this is the place we recommend you should head to. It’s honest good food on a plate without any gimmickry such as molecular gastronomy or such.
The premise of opening this restaurant was simple, at the cost of repeating myself, get the taste(s) of India on the table, with local and seasonal ingredients. And that is where the Executive Chef, Thomas Zacharias stepped in to design a menu that makes us go, here, take our money, every month or three. While he is emerging as the face of the restaurant, there is a team of passionate restauranteurs who are all partners in crime.
The Indian Christmas Meal
After a Christmassy meal we set up at home for family and friends, we also wanted to be left alone on Christmas day. Most places were serving the usual Christmas fare which we’d already eaten at home, but then there was the Indian Christmas spread at the TBC which we still hadn’t tried. We tried booking a table, but everything was sold out, so we had to make a Twitter wish to Santa to make it happen. It was a done deal in a bit.
Santa is DMing you right now! 😊
— Chef TZac (@ChefTZac) December 24, 2017
We walked into Kamala Mills and right at the end, there stands this quaint place with a non-flashy neon board spelling BOMBAY. Kamala Mills has over 50 eating outlets and if you haven’t visited the place before or choose to ditch Google Maps for the day you could easily miss the entrance to this place.
We walk inside and are greeted by our name and the host walks us to the table. In spite of it being Christmas, the restaurant had kept its keeps causal look intact, decorated in a minimalist fashion.The only attraction was the inverted Christmas tree in the centre.
Right from the time you enter, you feel nostalgia take over if you grew up in India. Advertisements from decades ago on the walls, Kismi & Melody toffees at the entrance, local Malad stones incorporated beautifully in the seating area and colourful tiles on the flooring.
Overall the entire place has a casual vibe to it. Not just that, even the menus come in the register format. This must be the only place I lay my hands on a rustic register, given all the fancy stationary we are used to now.
Our server also handed us over the special Christmas menu along with the regular menu that is printed in non-fancy old style ledgers. Every time the menu changes, the new additions are highlighted in neon so that you know.
We almost knew what we wanted to start, so we did not waste much time in ordering the beef stir-fry. Our server suggested that it tasted better with the Malabar parantha, so we added one of those too.For a Christmas beverage, what better than to drink Mulled wine or Eggnog. We went with the mulled wine, which was served warm and had a very sweet spice smell topped with a star anise.
TBC serves an array of seasonal appetizers called Chintus which are brought to the table. I usually look out for the dried salted shrimps. This time, however, I went with the corn and ponkh chaat.
The chaat is a mixture of charred corn and jowar sprouts with spices and green chutney. It was spicy and tasty enough for us to order seconds.
The beef stir-fry turned out to be finger-licking good, melt-in-the-mouth meat cooked generously with spices and topped with onions and chillies. The Malabar paratha was a soft and flaky, good to go along.
The famous Kejriwal Toast, a longstanding tradition at the Canteen was being served with compliments on all tables on the occasion of Christmas (or was it because it was the Chef’s Birthday, we don’t know?). Even though we had heard the story many times before, our server enthusiastically told us how the famous dish got its name from one Mr. Kejriwal, a patron at the famous Mahalaxmi golf course in Mumbai.
The Indian Christmas Menu included 5 mains that were inspired by different communities of India that celebrate Christmas. Apart from an offering from Goa, there was also a delicacy from north-east Nagaland. We ordered the Ammini’s duck curry with egg appams. This is a Malayali Christmas special and the recipe comes straight from the chef’s home.
The Ammini’s Duck Curry was roasted duck breast with potatoes floating in a spicy-coconut based brown gravy. The Chef brought the dish over to tell us about it, and make sure we knew how to eat it. That is the thing about this place, it’s honest. And the people are approachable and on the floor all the time.
The appam, in this case, had a fried egg encased in the centre with the golden yolk oozing out when I digged into it. This was real comfort food on the table and it was good enough for two.
I kept my wine glass filled till I was a bit tipsy. But I was trying to be proper, eating with a fork and knife, while the husband rolled up his sleeves and let the hands do the digging in. It took us about three of those appams to get through the big plate.
We couldn’t have ended the meal without trying the Anglo-Indian Christmas special dessert, the carrot toffee pudding, which was plated in a lopsided fashion with whiskey-soaked raisins and toffee sauce. Our server guided us that the best way to savour this is to scoop every element on the spoon and then enjoy the medley in the mouth.
It was delicious and just when I didn’t want to ruin the taste in my mouth, Ajay called for the Guava tana-tan, which had just come back on the menu a month ago. While I was not going to share since I am not a Guava fan, I ended up eating over half of it. That beautifully crusted inverted puff baked with guava slices along with the hit from the chilli ice-cream was sort of irresistible you know.
We’ve been here a countless number of times and can’t wait to visit the Canteen again. But if this is your first time, here are some house favourites that could get you started
- Goan Pulled Pork Vindaloo Tacos: These are small Methi Theplas topped with Goan Pork Vindaloo.
- Deviled Eggs
- Red Snapper Ceviche: Fresh Indian Red Snapper floats like a flower in beautiful pink sol kadhi. The black and puffed rice add the nice crunch to this appetizer.
- Whole Tandoori Red Snapper: Good enough for 4-5 people. Advise you to hold off further ordering till this is over!
- Chicken Poha Biryani: Who would have thought of replacing the biryani staple basmati rice with poha would have turned out so good? This is currently off the menu but may be back sooner than you know.
- Bamboo Rice Khichdi: Indian comfort food served in tiffin style.
- Coffee Rasgulla: Coffee flavoured rasgullas served with salted caramel ice cream and topped with crushed peanut chikki.
Like you’d see, we tend to binge on the non-vegetarian menu. But there are quite a few vegetarian options as well. I’m sure you’ll be well fed even if you walk in as a Vegetarian.
Have you been to The Bombay Canteen? What has been your experience around here? What are your favourites?