My fondest childhood memories from Bombay hark back to the lunch-time bell at school. Foodies back then too, my friends and I would rush down to meet our designated dabbawalas who had ferried over scores of still-warm lunch-boxes from our houses.
On a particularly benevolent day, Cookie might have packed misal pav – a spicy curry brimming with potatoes and sprouted beans, to be ladled onto buttery chunks of pav. Or ragda patties – fried potato fritters, festooned with chopped onions, coriander and chutneys. The ensuing rush of comfort that would inevitably follow, came flooding back in nostalgic waves recently – over a vibrant lunch at Bombay Bustle.
Opened by the team behind the Michelin-starred Jamavar in Mayfair, the more laid-back eatery on Maddox Street is a homage to the Maximum City, albeit laced with touches well-suited to London.
Interiors take their cue from the vintage train carriages which remain the lifeline of present-day Mumbai, the aesthetics heightened by the city’s rich art deco heritage. Think pale green seats and leather banquettes, bolstered by a blushing shade of pink wallpapering the surrounds! It’s a capacious space, with ample room for a shiny pewter dining bar by the entrance and a separate dessert bar in the dining enclave downstairs.
As for Bombay’s Bustle – well it practically bounces off the the eclectic menu, reflecting the rich melting pot of cultures and sub-cultures characteristic of a city that has historically attracted people from all over India.
The Trio of Dosas (fermented rice pancakes) are just as good as you’d find in one of the South Indian canteens of Matunga, an area also known as the Mylapore of Mumbai. Crisply-golden and stuffed with the traditional masala accompaniment – they’re arguably the most authentic dosas I’ve had in London yet.
Meanwhile a separate section dedicated to the Tandoor draws attention to North Indian cooking techniques (the Paneer Tikka proving an instant classic). There are also biryanis and all sorts of curries including the lust-worthy Chole Baturey – a signature Punjabi dish pairing deliciously deep-fried puffs of bread (the batura) with a spicy chickpea curry (the chola). It’s the essence of a comfort boost, especially on a chilly day.
There are several nods to Bombay’s signature street foods too – such as the Bambaiya Ragda and Misal Pao, which I alluded to at the start. Billed as small plates, just a few of these dishes are substantive enough to amount to a full meal.
The Masala Akuri is not to be missed either, a spicy slant on scrambled eggs originating from the city’s Irani café culture. Executive Chef Rohit Ghai’s rendition sees it skilfully served up on a buttery chunk of naan, with black truffle shavings adding a triumphant twist.
Of course, the burgeoning mix of people, passions and professions inherent in Bombay’s Bustle will find close parallels in the dynamic environs of London too. In particular, the versatile menu (and indeed space) lends itself just as easily to a quick lunch out of the office, as to a more relaxed and drawn-out affair – preferably ballasted by a round (or a few) of the lush cocktails.
I recognise that I’m in a slightly odd spot as I write this review. The restaurant’s co-founder Samyukta Nair is a dear friend and as Fay Maschler recently (and rather astutely) observed, “to review friends, if not exactly an unknown situation in the restaurant business, is ticklish.”
On reflection though, perhaps it is fitting for to me to be penning this post. After all, it’s this very sense of familiarity which is ingrained in the social fabric of Bombay.
By the way. For those who wonder about Mumbai vs. Bombay, the answer is fairly straightforward.
Mumbai is the city, but Bombay an emotion evocative of timeless traditions, moving with a modern train of thought. It’s a sentiment synonymous with a spirited zest for life and a steadfast spunk. How entirely felicitous then, that Bombay(‘s) Bustle has found an easy harmony in the high-octane world of London too.
Bombay Bustle, 29 Maddox Street Mayfair W1S 2PA
And for more on what makes Mumbai, quintessentially Bombay – there’s some food for thought here.