An unforgettable multi-sensory experience

In November on a Sunday morning before heading out for brunch Ingrid, Stephan and myself headed over to the Dadar Flower Market. It is one of Bombay’s largest wholesale flower markets. On a Sunday morning the station was not as crowded as it is on the weekdays.

The market is located right outside the station entrance within the by-lanes, spilling over onto the main road and under the flyover. The rising scent from the fresh flowers tries hard to deodorize the filth filled air. The street-scape is layered with street side sellers with their flower-filled baskets and shops selling flower by the weight.

Some flower sellers insisted that they be photographed. Charmed by Ingrid, a particular flower seller insisted she take a rose and handed her a wilting rose.

After soaking in the colourful sight we began walking down the road towards the Dadar market and the rose scented air was traded with the smell of a sea-like odor. We were surrounded by men unloading trucks, men and women balancing baskets and buckets of fish. The surface beneath our feet was covered in fish-juice, this was certainly no Pike Place Market. There was plenty of catfish to be found and they were live and gave of an eerie vibe. One such catfish bounced off and tried to escape only to land on the muddled juice-filled floor. It was then thrown back into the same basket and packed off in a taxi for delivery.

We then dashed off to Cafe Madras for an early brunch. Located off King’s Circle this cafe is known for the South Indian fare that they serve. The cafe caters to regulars and a growing number of tourists. After a twenty-minute wait we were seated by a window on the lower level. This two-level cafe is simple, tight on space with walls painted unevenly and the owners have chosen to keep it that way but that has not stopped them from growing popular.

The service was prompt and friendly. The options were incredible. We called for idlis, medu vadas, rasam vada, ragi dosa and upma podi. I have always avoided rasam but I was blown away by this south Indian soup and the rasam absorbed vada’s that were truly divine and melted in your mouth right-away, I felt blessed. Ingrid seemed to have a cold and a bowl of Rasam worked like magic and was very comforting.

Upma is another dish that I always found to be dry and never appetizing. Our server insisted that we call for it – and guess what we ended up calling for more. Upma podi was essentially an upma cake like an idly covered in a yogurty coconut chutney. It complemented the dryness of the upma really well and was an instant winner.

Sambhar, a lentil based broth made with a medley of vegetables and tamarind is what let me down at Cafe Madras. I found it to be a tad bit bland and boring. The ragi dosa felt healthy and was crisp.

Our conversations that day circled around real estate, urban planning and informal growth of the city. Ingrid and Stephan’s experiences in the city and their experiences on the local trains kept us in splits.

We ended our meal with cups of hot and frothy Madras filter kaapi(coffee). The service is quick but polite not once did we feel rushed. However we behaved and let go of our seats so that the next group of diners were not kept waiting.

Bombay Brunch Brigade meets once a month. The purpose of this group is to meet  – have fun, find a travel partner, a date(may be), share brain farts and savour brunches. We will be exploring different brunch places all over Bombay. Join our Facebook group for the next brunch date and location information.

Stephan and Ingrid are in the city working on an independent research project exploring the informal aspects of the city. To learn more visit Interdisciplinary Structure for Sustainable Space research.

Advertisements
Posted in Culture, Food, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dim sum ‘n’ more

After skipping brunch last month I was really looking forward to brunch at Vongwong which occupies the first floor at the Express towers. It is located well off of marine drive behind the iconic Air India building and across from the Trident(earlier the Oberoi Hotel). Located on the first floor of this mundane looking office tower the space has plenty of natural light filtering in and high ceilings. The tables are well spaced, making it a luxurious dining experience – ideal for a relaxing afternoon with friends.

The staff is very friendly and do not hover around the table. The brunch includes a salad bar, dim sums served at the table, an entrée, a khow suey station, a platter of desserts and designer cocktails. The sunday brunch is accompanied by a musician who visits each table with a guitar in hand taking in requests.

In order to maximize our brunch time we do not wait for everyone to get there and started off by calling for their designer cocktails. I had the Head or Tails which was a concoction of melon, cucumber essence and vodka. It was a refreshing start that was followed up by a caipirinha, a checkmate (whiskey and apple juice) – which was delightful but could have been better with a dash or two more of whiskey. While most of us began with drinks my friend Rohini as always began with a plateful of desserts that she found to be strictly ok.

We skipped the salad bar and requested that the dim sums be served immediately. We had steamed pork, chicken and tenderloin dumplings. The pork dumplings were tasteless, the chicken passable and the tenderloin gratifying. We were also served a variety of crispy chicken – that were good. With a hint of wasabi and mayonnaise the deep-fried wasabi prawns drizzled with parsley were truly divine, I must admit I got greedy and had quite a few. After which I still tried the khow suey and was disappointed.

This time at brunch we missed some of our regulars but we also had a few first timers. Satyam who worked in the same office as me in New York joined the brigade to see what all the fuss is about. I think he left satisfied. Also joining us was Stephan an architect from Austria, who is in Bombay working on an independent research project exploring the informal aspects of the city. To learn more visit Interdisciplinary Structure for Sustainable Space research.

Midway through brunch our server walked over offering us magic shots and he approached Amrita first since she seemed to be having the most fun. The shot included two pieces of fruits a tea-spoon of pop rocks and a mouthful of a mysteriously looking red coloured syrupy vodka. The shot should be rechristened mouth cracker.

Our conversations that afternoon were amusing they ranged from discussing pop culture, trashy television shows from Big Boss to Rakhi Sawant to the Indian version of Masterchef that was really disappointing to the various neighbourhoods/ areas that make up the framework that is Bombay. As Stefan noted that our conversations were like a whirlpool as they would start somewhere but then come back to Bollywood. Shahrukh Khan, the overplayed song Chammak Challo by Akon and the Ra.One doll that is on Prashant’s birthday wish list.

I was most intrigued by the conversation about the surfing swamis that reside in Karnataka and a search online revealed the numerous surfing ashrams, associations, bespoke surf companies that exist in India.

The brunch was as it was meant to be – an afternoon of endless dim sums and bottomless cocktails. I would definitely like to go back for the wasabi prawns and the stress free ambience. After brunch we took a heady walk along Marine Drive.

Bombay Brunch Brigade meets once a month. The purpose of this group is to meet  – have fun, find a travel partner, a date(may be), share brain farts and savour brunches. We will be exploring different brunch places all over Bombay. Join our Facebook group for the next brunch date and location information.

Posted in Culture, Fashion, Food, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The power and magic of imagination

This past saturday I was given the opportunity to share my love and passion for architecture with the Responsible Champions. This third grade class of the Dharavi Transit Camp Municipal School are being nurtured by Srini Swaminathan, a Teach for India fellow. To know more about his journey visit his blog here.

Mahek, is enamoured by the stained glass windows of the Victoria Terminus in Mumbai. Image courtesy Srini Swaminathan

Srini has an interesting program in place called the Different Careers and Dreams Workshop. Through these workshops the champions are introduced to different fields and career options to help them broaden their horizons.

I reached the school about thirty minutes earlier and as I approached the building entrance I recognized a familiar face. Kajal, one of Srini’s brilliant students greeted me with her precious smile. She often waits for Srini by the entrance but made an exception this time and sweetly offered to walk me up to her classroom.

Settling down and getting organized was a task but Srini handled it elegantly. The kids were disciplined and passionate. The children were introduced to the concept of architecture and design by the idea that while paintings are two-dimensional(sided), architecture is four-dimensional.

The first exercise titled ‘Where am I?’ required the children to guess some of the iconic buildings such as the Taj Mahal, VT station and the Gateway of India. Through this exercise they also learned about arches, towers and distinctive features on buildings that help us identify or recognize these iconic structures.

'My Classroom' wall map, Image courtesy Srini Swaminathan

Drawings are an essential part of the process of design and construction. In this next exercise, ‘My Classroom’ using a tape measure the children helped measure a wall and then plotted the elevation(wall map) onto gridded sheets provided. In a previous exercise Srini had asked the children to draw a map(plan) of their house and so this exercise helped build on that and introduced the kids to measurements.

(A) Calatrava's L’Hemisfèric at the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, Spain and (B) Sahba's Lotus Temple in Delhi. Image courtesy Srini Swaminathan

Lastly I shared with the children images of works by Santiago Calatrava, Zaha Hadid and Fariborz Sahba. The children were able to identify the imagery attached with Calatrava’s L’Hemisfèric (Planetarium) located at the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, Spain and Sahba’s Lotus Temple located in Delhi. Hadid’s digital paintings that she then translates/ animates into massive sculptures/ buildings helped establish that architecture is not about just measuring walls and gridded paper.

Exercise 'My Creation,' Image courtesy Srini Swaminathan

The kids in the last exercise ‘My Creation,’ were each given an inspirational image that either had a pattern or an object and were required to use their power of imagination and draw/ paint their responses/ reaction. Some of the results amazed me and I think we may just have discovered our next Frank Lloyd Wright in Sahban.

Sahban's Creation, Image courtesy Srini Swaminathan

I gained a lot from the children as well and their cheerful smiles made my weekend truly delightful. Also Srini was very supportive and helped me reach out to the kids – they are truly the Responsible Champions!

Srini and Teach for India are raising funds for their classroom resources. If you would like to help Srini’s class and TFI then please do so by visiting Srini’s page at Give India here: Pledge Page. Give India will match your donation. Thanks!


Posted in Architecture, Art, Culture, Design | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Architecture in India since 1990: a survey of the contemporary built environment in India

Image courtesy Pictor Publishing

Rahul Mehrotra a practicing architect and urban designer in Mumbai and Boston, where he also teaches at Harvard University was on a seven city tour in India to launch his most recent publication – Architecture in India: Since 1990.

In Mumbai the book was launched at Project88. Nestled in Colaba in a warehouse like building, this avant-garde and trendy gallery space, that earlier used to be a printing press made for an apt location for Mehrotra’s book launch.

In this survey of the contemporary Indian built environment Mehrotra classifies the buildings not based on typologies but places them under four lenses – Global Practice, Regional Manifestation, Alternate Practice and Counter Modernism.

Economic liberalization and rapid growth is influencing the architecture and planning of most Indian cities. The country as Mehrotra mentions is “plagued by an impatient capital and it is capitalism that is shaping our cities.” After independence as India looked to establish it’s identity iconic buildings were being built under the responsibility of the state. Today the state’s are engaged in building and developing Infrastructure.

Read the full article here Architecture in India since 1990: a survey of the contemporary built environment in India

Posted in Architecture, Culture, Design, Indian Art and Architecture, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Brunch Paintings

This past Sunday the Bombay Brunch Brigade met at Candies, in Bandra. We were blessed to have Teach for India fellows – Anaka, Srini, Resham, Shweta and Shalini join us along with children from their respective classrooms. The multi leveled sky-garden at Candies was the perfect setting for an urban picnic.

It was wonderful to see some of the children dressed in uniforms and some in colourful informal gear. Anam quietly but cheerfully invited me to join her for some puzzle making. At the table there also were Aditya, Farhan, Hussain and Rohit. They were smart and competitive. In between slurping freshly squeezed watermelon juice and bites of mini red velvet cupcakes they pieced together Cinderella’s escape from the ball.

Anam sketching, Photo courtesy Huzefa Rangwala

Zoya and her colourful house, Photo courtesy Huzefa Rangwala

After some puzzle making the kids played dog and the bone, an essential out-door party game. While most of the kids were playing, Anam and Zoya chose to doodle – Anam was determined on illustrating her own Cinderella. She made sure that her Cinderella was fashionable, wore a patterned dress that was paired with magenta pink gloves. Zoya designed a colourful house that probably had a stained glass tiled roof with fluorescent yellow-green walls.

Nasreen gleefully narrated the story of Cinderella for the group. I enjoyed the part when she exclaimed that when the fairy godmother casts her spell she says, ‘Abra Kadabra.’ Her enthusiasm had to be seen to be felt.

One of the other TFI fellows, Anchal mentioned how teaching the kids has made him realize the importance of questioning everything and having an open mind that is curious. Interestingly I recently read somewhere that imagination is important for kids. It certainly is and most often we do not have to remind kids to imagine whereas we have to remind ourselves to be more creative and not worry so much about the result.

This was a fun-filled brunch and I am looking forward to more picnics and collaborations with the kids at TFI.

Bombay Brunch Brigade meets once a month. The purpose of this group is to meet  – have fun, find a travel partner, a date(may be), share brain farts and savour brunches. We will be exploring different brunch places all over Bombay. Join our Facebook group for the next brunch date and location information.

Posted in Art, Design, Food | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Heartening brunch at Le Mill Cafe

Le Mill located in Wadi Bunder is one of the few places in Bombay still untouched by development. Hope that this neighbourhood does not go down the same path as Lower Parel. Designed by Ashiesh Shah this old mill is now a concept store that retails home accessories and fashion products.

Finding the place was a little troublesome but once we got there we realized it was not that difficult. Besides the white washed and white tiled walls the space has largely been kept intact reminiscent of the old mill.

Le Mill

Sitting in one corner of the mill is the cafe. At Le Mill the brunch deal allows you to call for an unlimited number of small plates, entrees and desserts. Alcohol is not included in the deal. The salmon on toast with cream cheese, garnished with onions and capers was excellent and made for a great brunch snack. The toast was made from fresh-baked bread. I could not help having two of those. The French toast and pancakes were terrific.  We are always thirsty so we called for a bottle of sparkling rose and then a Sula Dindori. By the end of the afternoon we had consumed about six bottles of wine but who is counting.

Instead of the eggs benedict I called for the eggs royale, which is similar to the eggs benedict but here the ham is substituted by salmon. Delicious, well poached eggs, fresh salmon and a buttery hollandaise left me very satisfied. I also had a big bite sized chicken burger with fresh creamy ricotta cheese rich in texture and mild in taste. Surprisingly good were the sautéed mushrooms on toast; well garnished and every bite was flavourful.

We had many newbies joining the brigade this time and for the first time architect’s were out numbered. The conversations ranged from sexuality to food to philanthropy. In between bites we wandered around the store. I confess without shame that I could not resist the king size bed and comforting cushions and a full stomach made it that much more inviting.

Having polished off all this food we still had room for dessert. The lemon poppy-seed cake was delightful and I find any dessert with lemon utterly irresistible. The Belgian cake had just the right amount of sweetness.

Great ambience, attentive service, delicious food and amazing company made for a perfect Sunday brunch. Being high on life as I walked out of the space I knocked down an earthen home accessory, which if I had broken would have cost me just as much as the brunch and as a friend remarked, “it had to be the ugliest thing in that store.”

Bombay Brunch Brigade meets once a month. The purpose of this group is to meet  – have fun, find a travel partner, a date(may be), share brain farts and savour brunches. We will be exploring different brunch places all over Bombay. Join our Facebook group for the next brunch date and location information.

Posted in Culture, Fashion, Food, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Shiro’s – not your regular brunch place

Brunch at Shiro is a pan-asian experience and a sushi lovers delight. Shiro is located in Bombay’s old mill district. With high ceilings, no windows and an imposing statue – Shiro transports you away from the din of Bombay. As always we were the first to arrive (we like to maximize our brunch time). With rising temperatures we had to cool off inside. So we could not wait to get started. I called for the lemon-drop martini which was refreshing, followed by a caprioska, an apple martini. Slowly and gradually the brigade started to arrive.

The first to get there was Susan, which was no surprise and it also happened to be her first week in Bombay.  The brigade made sure that she received a bag full of survival tips and how to be safe during the monsoons.

We requested our server to keep bringing appetizers till we asked him to stop. They had a variety of sushi; the spicy tuna wrapped in cucumber was my favourite – with the right texture and complimenting spice and herbs. Vietnamese prawns were delightful. The chicken tarts were bland and disappointing.

We soon realized that we were the only ones – which meant no random conversations or stories. Next I tried the sangria and followed it up with a bloody mary, then the green apple martini and  lemon drop martini. Yes, I was thirsty.

Besides the appetizers they also had a soup and salad bar. I tried the lemon chili soup that was fresh and light. For mains we called for beef basil and Thai green curry. The beef was tender and well spiced. The Thai green curry with chunks of tender chicken was wholesome.

For dessert we had molten chocolate with generous scoops of ice cream. Since we were the only ones there the service was great. The place has a mysterious vibe. I have never been to Shiros at night but with no daylight brunch might as well could have been dinner. The place has great potential and I hope more people would show up for brunch at Shiros.

After brunch we joined Phil, Stu, Alan and Doug in Thailand for Stu’s wedding. Hangover Pat 2, the  movie was plain bad.

Bombay Brunch Brigade meets once a month. The purpose of this group is to meet  – have fun, find a travel partner, a date(may be), share brain farts and savour brunches. We will be exploring different brunch places all over Bombay. Join our Facebook group for the next brunch date and location information.

Posted in Culture, Fashion, Food, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments