An Ode to Bandra’s Bakeries

Table for Three

An Ode to Bandra’s Bakeries

I

am a Bandra girl. It is where I was raised and schooled. My mother’s family was from Bandra, my parents still stay there, and after marriage I converted my Matunga “idli with extra sambar and chutney”-loving husband into a Bandra boy.

For those not familiar with Mumbai, Bandra is a well-known suburb toward the North of the city. It is the nucleus of the city and a popular suburb to live in, as it is incredibly cosmopolitan. It combines an old-world charm with hip, modern eateries and stores, and is home to an incredible diversity of food experiences.

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My favourite food memories in Bandra go back to its vast collection of bakeries. I don’t know of any other suburb that has so many to choose from and I am glad most of them are still around.

As a child, the best bakery was Mac Ronells and was located on Hill Road. My birthday cake always came from them and for many years consisted of a chocolate sponge with icing, on which lay a marzipan house, a marzipan train and a marzipan rabbit. I remember being more interested in what was on top of the cake, than the cake itself: And so after blowing out the candles, I would usually make a beeline for the marzipan rabbit first. Ah, the joy of being the birthday girl!

Mac Ronells eventually shut down to my great dismay. But soon after, two wonderful bakeries, Candies and Mac Craig opened. Apparently, they were opened by the second generation of the same family that ran Mac Ronells.

Newer bakeries continue to open in the suburb. But at the risk of sounding like an old fogey, I have to say that the original Bandra bakeries are still my favourite.

Candies is now a Bandra institution, but when I was in school it was a tiny little place located on 17th Road in Khar. I’d stop by for a snack on my way to French class and their most memorable offerings then were the chicken mayonnaise rolls and chicken jungli sandwiches. Today, their bustling outlet near Pali Naka and their extensive menu is a far cry from that tiny start, but the food is just as amazing. In fact, such is my fondness for Candies that every trip back to Mumbai has to consist of at least one meal from there, and in addition to the good old chicken jungli, my order also consists of their kheema roll, mutton pattice, potato chop and a slice of their Rich Chocolate Cake.

Mac Craig, located very close to the Candies store at Pali Naka, didn’t become as popular but it reminded me a lot more of Mac Ronells. So when I wanted to eat my favourite childhood desserts like rum baba or the deliciously soft lemon sponge cake, Mac Craig was the place to go.

Hearsch was a discovery toward the end of my school years. Located in a garage of an otherwise run-down property adjacent to the Holy Family Hospital, this little bakery turned out to be a heavenly find. No one in Bandra, in my opinion, makes better chicken puffs than Hearsch. The puff pastry is always fresh and flaky and the chicken inside, oh-so-moist and delicious. Hearsch used to have the lowest prices and being located close to three schools ensured that it was always packed.

Right across the road from Hearsch is possibly my favourite bakery in Bandra. The American Express Bakery. It’s old-fashioned, just like their vintage cakes which are a welcome relief in a new world of cheesecakes and brownies. Where else can you experience a Hungarian coffee cake or a Linzer slice? My husband and I once chanced upon the lady who owns and sometimes sits at the store and I made the mistake of telling her I loved AMEX. With a look that suggested she was considering banning me from visiting it again, she asked in a stern voice, “What is AMEX?! It is American Express Bakery!”

On Hill Road was also Eureka, a Bohri bakery whose burgers and chocolate eclairs kept me going through the 10 days of my final-year school exam. For a change, my mother had decided that keeping my soul happy, so I could pass with good grades, was more important than my diet.

Newer bakeries continue to open in the suburb. But at the risk of sounding like an old fogey, I have to say that the original Bandra bakeries are still my favourite. Now, if only I could find a way to bring them to Singapore, because as much as I appreciate kopi and kaya toast, on a day when I am struck by homesickness, nothing but my chicken jungli sandwich, chicken pattice, and lemon sponge cake will do.

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