Bandra is the queen of Mumbai’s suburbs, one of TimeOut 50 coolest neighbourhoods in the World. This is where the stereotypical Indian contrasts meet at its extremes: the opulent and the decaying, the migrant and the nouveau riche, the hip and the traditional; they stand out more starkly than anywhere else in the city. Or maybe in the world.
This is also where I live. This is also what I love. Aw, gush.
I’ve lived in Bandra for three years. I think it is easily the best part of Mumbai to live in. So if you think the same, I will list out my favorite things to do. Also, continue to post as I discover new stuff. This list is my favorites and not to be thought epicurean and critical.
My favorite cafes
Usually thronged by college going crowds, Candies has several branches in Bandra. The cafes are Portuguese themed, coupled with vintage posters and Parisian paraphernalia. Sometimes I feel like I'm stuck inside a jewelry box. Their coffee and salads are great, and the food is affordable too. A single shot cappuccino still costs 50 bucks! Service is pretty slow. Very Goa like.
Koinonia Coffee Roasters
I am totally digging the recent trend of locally-sourced, organic, fair-trade coffee in India. Simultaneously delicious and soul lifting
Koinonia, this tongue-twisting cafe name is Greek for 'communion, or joint participation' (wow, that must have taken some research!). The cafe at Chium Village is tiny, available to seat only around 6 to 8 people at one time. It is basically a roastery or tasting room. But you can take-away their freshly roasted coffee and cold brew bottles to savor at home. The cafe also sells delicious croissants and macaroons. And along with the jazz that comes wafting from the stereo overhead, you'll definitely be transported from Chium to Paris.
Open from 8:00 AM – 9:15 PM every day. Located at Chium Village.
Another locally sourced, organic, fair trade coffee maker, Blue Tokai was one of the first to arrive on the scene. I have been a big fan of their coffee and coffee making philosophy. I have sampled all of their single estate coffees!
Even their vision statement will make you salivate.
Our mission since we started has stayed simple: introduce our customers to the estates we directly buy our great tasting coffee from, roast the beans with care, and make high-quality coffee more accessible through our cafes and our website. The coffee we roast is the coffee we like to drink, and we hope you like it too.
Be warned though, all their cafes are almost always spilling over with people, no matter when you go.
Open from 8:00 AM – 11 PM every day. Located at Perry Road.
The Village Shop
A small cafe by St Andrews Church. Organic coffee again, tad expensive. Pair it with some delicious organic, homemade cakes and cookies. There's also lovely soup and masala chai to be had. Very cozy and quaint.
Open from 8:30 AM – 11 PM every day. Located at Chimbai Road.
Taj Mahal Tea House
Ooh, now we have upped the game!
Taj Mahal Tea House is not exactly a cafe, although you can drink filter coffee here. It is more a 3,500 sq. ft porcelain palace, done up in blue and white. You can attempt to read a book here. You can also tap away on your laptop, or chat up an old friend! You will certainly look very posh doing it.
Or do as I do, marvel at the wonderful decor and wonder why I can't replicate the same in my house. The restaurant has beautiful colonial furniture, vibrant upholstery, and tons and tons of books at every nook and corner. Sitar music plays while I politely sip on my tea like the gentlewoman I am (so not!). Some fun pretending will be involved, for sure.
Open from Open from 7:30 AM – 11:30 PM every day. Located at St John Baptist Road.
My favourite neighbourhoods
Bandra was made up of 24 villages during the British rule. They were largely occupied by Koli fishermen and farmers. A few of them, still in existence, are – Kantwady, Sherly Rajan, Waroda, Ranwar, Boran, Pali Mall, and Chuim. Many of the houses in these so-called villages are centuries-old. They are built in the typical Indo-Portuguese-Colonial style with large wooden porches, external staircases, pointed roofs, and expansive balconies.
As you walk down their narrow winding lanes, you’ll find a slice of old town sandwiched in new. People conversing across verandahs, women combing their hair whilst lamenting about the traffic below in their typical Bandra English! Men gathered around for a cup of tea and idle chatter! Home shops selling bombil pickle or Goan Pork sorpotel, tiny lamps and fairy doilies on rusty grilled windows. Are'nt these simply quite magical.
Ranwar village is located between Hill Road and Mt Carmel Road in Bandra . It is flanked by Chapel Road, Waroda Road, and Veronica Road. During the rule of the British, Ranwar had a tennis court and a club. The club was famous for its Christmas and New Year eve dances. Today, the hamlet is only a tiny square with old houses around it. The Ranwar Village Festival in December brings out Christmas festivities, otherwise, it is silent the year round.
Many of the houses in Chuim Village are over 100 years old and do not seem like they've ever seen a touch of paint. But it is still quite a picturesque street to walk in, with several photography points. Most of the houses are two storey cottages with circular staircases, attics, and iron grilled windows. Old Catholic aunties and uncles sit on their verandas talking to one another and occasionally scowling at passersby. Especially, the kinds that honk a lot.
Chapel Road connects Mount Carmel Church to Hill Road. A walk from end to end takes ten minutes amidst winding roads, narrowly missing honking autos. As you walk past you will see the following in no particular order! Tailors, pizza shops, sweet shops, chaat places, groceries, snack shops, second hand book stores, boys playing gulli cricket, roosters crossing the road. And Graffiti. Never a dull moment.
Several roads in Bandra – Perry, Carter, Bullock, Kane, and Bates had been named after British collectors and magistrates. Mr. Carter, for example, worked as a collector in 1924. (Source: Bandra.Info) Carter Road has several eateries and boutiques to visit. Some nice apartments are to be gawked at. My favourite activity here is walking along the 1.25 km Carter Road Promenade. I walk along with joggers, lovers, and watch the sunset over the sea. As waves slap on the jagged rocks, I am mesmerized. If hungry, one may pop over to restaurants on the other side of Carter Road. These are – Corniche, Oh Fudge (best thick shakes), Theobroma (Best brownies), The Belgian Waffle co., Carter's Blue. See more at LBB.
Bandstand is a popular place to walk, jog, or hang out in Bandra. It can get very crowded during the evenings and the weekends. Instead, try catching the sun rise and soak in some humid sea air then. Not the cleanest of places though, let me warn you. Despite that, the 1.2 km stretch, starting from St Andrews Church to Bandra Fort, offers some interesting visiting points. The prime among them, Castella de Aguada or the Bandra Fort, Taj Landsend, and Mannat. Mannat as you may is SRK's place. You can easily identify the superstar’s bungalow by the throngs of people. They photograph from a mile away as menacing guards stand cross-armed in front of Mannat.
End your walk or run at Bandstand with some yummy bun maska and chai at Good Luck Cafe. It is opposite Mehboob Studios. If adventurous, you can also try their Kheema Pav. Good Luck is a legendary, hole-in-the-wall Eatery in Bandra, though the quality of their food has fallen over the years. Still, the bun maska and sugary, milky chai is a spirit booster. Cheap too.
My favorite entertainment spots
Ooh, what can I tell you about Gaiety?
It is the last bastion of the original cinema watching experience. I hope large posters, rickety fans, big bags of popcorn and samosa, watery chai, balcony and whistles never changes. Hope the Western poshness never gets to you, my love.
The Cuckoo Club on St Andrews Road is a venue for movies, plays, and stand-up comedies. I don't like how cramped it is, but I love the sort of stuff they show here. There are trial runs for stand up shows and newbie plays with dirt cheap tickets. Among my other favorites are the Books on Toast events, improvs, open mics and assorted movie screenings. Definitely worth watching out for what's on their calendar. Choose a weekday to avoid the crowds and the claustrophobic feels.
The cafe upstairs though could do better.
La Reve means dream in French. The place has roses on the walls and white marble everywhere. La Reve Cinemas is a recently refurbished single-screen movie hall on Hill Road, above Marks & Spencers. It's beautifully done up, like a French dream. The food and coffee are great too. Prepare for a very cozy movie watching affair. Very affordable also.
Hill Road and Linking Road
Shop till you drop on these two roads. If you want to pick up imitations of celebrity dresses and shoes, this place is it.The prices are already quite reasonable, still bargain hard. Shop from the stalls, but if looking for brands-for-less, try Fendi, Hues, Cherry Fig, and Clothes Rack. For some party wares, go to Cheap Jack. It is my go-to for quirky gifts and stationaries too.
Title Waves is one of the city's largest independent bookstores. It is spread over an area of 8000 square feet. It and sells everything from bestsellers, to noir, to comic strips, games, figurines, and T-shirts. It is located just off Turner Road and also co-houses Di Bella Coffee House. Sit here for hours, browse through a treasure trove of books and sip some great coffee. There are book launches held here almost every other weekend, so you could catch one.
By the way, my book launch happened here! (You didn't think I wasn't going to plug in a bit of self-promotion, did you?)