Celebrating the season’s bounty at Bombay Canteen

Mumbai may not have much of a winter, but the Bombay Canteen certainly has a delicious winter menu. And you can sample it till mid-April.
The food at bombay canteen celebrates regional flavours.
The food at Bombay Canteen celebrates regional flavours.

Every time I am in Mumbai and decide to swing by the Bombay Canteen, I get the feeling that everyone else in Mumbai had the same idea that evening. While Mumbaikars take the presence of fellow humans in their stride, it can be a novel experience for a Dilliwala accustomed to hushed dining rooms where you can hear someone three tables down slurping their soup. Of course, I love it. There’s something magical about a restaurant whose tables are heaving with good food and libation, and where you have to raise your voice a tad to be heard.

I caught the tail end of the Bombay Canteen’s winter menu, featuring some very seasonal flavours and ingredients. We mostly allowed the waitstaff to help us wade through the menu — with only one caveat: we’ll eat like ‘normal’ people, not reviewers, we pleaded. Small portions and a reasonable number of dishes followed.

The Bombay Canteen also has a celebrated bar programme but I wanted to focus solely on the food and settled for a simple cider.

To the food then. Inspired by the sheer amount of produce available around this time of year, the menu designed by Chef Hussain Shahzad reimagines regional Indian flavours in the unique Bombay Canteen way. Wet markets throughout the Indian winter are flooded with fresh, seasonal ingredients like green garlic, hara chana and a wide variety of leafy greens.

The smoked pumpkin launji hummus and charred winter carrots at bombay canteen are to die for.
The Smoked Pumpkin Launji Hummus and Charred Winter Carrots at Bombay Canteen are to die for.

Take the Smoked Pumpkin Launji Hummus we started off with. This buttery smooth creation — which is vegan and gluten free, while we’re at it — comes topped with charred ponkh (tender jowar greens which enjoy cult status in the Maharashtra-Gujarat belt), fragrant mustard oil, a chunky Kashmiri chilli crisp and served with a flaxseed khakhra.

Each dish that followed displayed a similar attention to detail and assembly, several seemingly disparate ingredients coming together in perfect harmony on the plate or bowl to create complex and surprising flavours.

Next up was the geometrically plated Charred Winter Carrots, which were so popular last winter that the Bombay Canteen had to bring them back. The carrots were served with pickled onions, goat milk cheese and toasted pistachios, each of which offered a texture and flavour contrast to the other.

Bombay canteen's guchhi & girda celebrates the flavours of kashmir (left), while their bhopali chicken rezala is the ultimate comfort dish.
Bombay Canteen’s Guchhi & Girda celebrates the flavours of Kashmir (left), while their Bhopali Chicken Rezala is the ultimate comfort dish.

I may have said elsewhere that Kashmiri gucchi or morels are having a moment at restaurants across India. Bombay Canteen elevates an already exotic ingredient to rarefied heights in Gucchi & Girda, where winter greens like Kashmir’s haak saag and kohlrabi and radish greens are cooked to a creamy puree, and served with plump Kashmiri morels and shimeji yakhni made with yoghurt whey, fresh fennel, gucchi stock and spices. Garnished with dried mint, the dish comes with a side of poppy seed Girda, a popular breakfast bread.

It was nice to meet a rezala, one of my favourite non-vegetarian gravies, on the menu. Bombay Canteen’s version, the Bhopali Chicken Rezala, is made in a green chilli yoghurt curry and topped with soft-cooked eggs and a drizzle of fresh lime leaf oil. Yes, it’s as heavenly as it sounds.

There were a few other dishes, but you get the idea. Much effort and thought has gone behind each dish, which is why there are layers and layers of flavour.

The peanut butter jam kulfi looks, deceptively, like a 'choco bar'.
The Peanut Butter Jam Kulfi looks, deceptively, like a ‘Choco Bar’.

The dessert, a Peanut Butter Jam Kulfi, was redolent with nostalgia and looked like the innocuous ‘Choco Bar’ of our misspent childhoods. But don’t be fooled. Inspired by the PB&J, the layers of this ice-cream bar include peanut butter kulfi, house-made blueberry jam made with locally sourced fresh blueberries, and crunchy chocolate feuilletine, all dipped in silky chocolate. It’s a must-try but I hope it doesn’t set the bar so high for you that you’re not able to enjoy a plain choco bar ever again!

Apart from all this, some other highlights of the menu are Mohammad Ali Road-inspired Bone Marrow Nihari , Paya Soup Momos  and Bohri Pyali Chaat, which has been reimagined with chickpeas, spicy potatoes, chutney, besan kadhi with Assamese gutti aloo, green wheat berries, airy besan chutney and crispies. Like the city, these dishes are about maximum flavour.

A couple of things I regret not being able to try — simply because we didn’t want to be wheeled out in a stretcher — are the Begum’s Baked Brie, which is served with sticky persimmons, fiery house-made Naga hot honey, crunchy toasted almonds and a black pepper Nipattu and the Hara Chana Salad consisting of creamy green gram hummus, roasted in-season cape gooseberries, toasted almonds, pickled tendli and crispy pao papad  (made using pao leftovers; that’s sustainable dining for you). Both are crowd favourites.

The hara chana salad (left) and the nimona kulcha are some other highlights of bombay canteen's winter menu.
The Hara Chana Salad (left) and the Nimona Kulcha are some other highlights of Bombay Canteen’s Winter Menu.

No menu change at Bombay Canteen is complete without the addition of new kulchas. Inspired by the late Chef Floyd’s iconic Kulcha Club, there are two new kulchas on the menu this time: the Nimona Kulcha, a hearty combination of fresh green winter peas, stracciatella, mint oil and a pea tendril salad and the wonderfully satisfying Crab Kulcha with butter garlic crab meat, narthangai zest and a gently-poached egg to top it all.

Don’t worry if you, like me, don’t know half the ingredients. Just leave it to the amazing waitstaff, sit back, relax and have a great time. And, guess what, you’re in luck: Bombay Canteen’s Winter Menu is available till mid-April so do go have a bite while you can.

The Bombay Canteen, Unit-1, Process House, S.B. Road, Kamala Mills, Lower, Parel, Mumbai 400013
For reservations: +91-8880802424
Email: reservations@thebombaycanteen.com
Timing: Dine-In: Monday to Sunday: 12 pm – 1 am / Saturday-Sunday: 11 am – 1 am
Delivery: Monday- Friday: 12 pm – 11 pm / Saturday-Sunday: 11 am – 11 pm 
Order online on: https://thrivenow.in/thebombaycanteen

Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Max: 5 stars)
Food: 9
Service: 10
Interiors/Décor: 8
Vibe: 9
One dish we loved: Smoked Pumpkin Launji Hummus

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