A taste of Chowpatty: Chennai's reopened Bombay Brasserie gives you that homely Mumbai feeling
Here's the gist of this outing: it was a laidback, rainy Sunday late-afternoon brunch, spent equally in sampling a new menu, and watching the rain trickling down in synchronous streams along the window panes of the designated ‘glass room’, at the newly reopened Bombay Brasserie in Nungambakkam.
You might, for a moment, make the mistake of thinking this was an afternoon out in say, Bengaluru. Matter of fact, in a snapshot of the rain on the window, this could’ve well been a café in any city around the world — from Sydney to New York, via Kensington, London and half a dozen Michelin-star fine diners that serve Indian cuisine.
But, read that again: this was a laidback, rainy Sunday late-afternoon brunch... in Chennai. Rare as that prospect is, even with the onset of winter — and brushing off a shout out to next summer! — the sheer joy of such an outing did make us gush ever so much.
The view from the ‘glass room’, reassuringly, is of a leafy nook of Nungambakkam, and looking over the green skyline of this well-situated neighbourhood, you’re in some fairly high-profile company.
But we were more concerned about catching the sun in our eyes (and blinding our Instagram pictures) as we settled down at a table in the ‘glass room’ with the sun behind us. Why would anyone want to sit inside on such a lovely afternoon, was the statement I did blurt out, to our waiter-in-charge.
Food-wise, straight up, we’d have to say — the moment we’d finished our meal, and made our way out, it was like we’d just stepped off the kerb at the Lotus Cinema Building in Worli, Mumbai — instantly caught up in that outstretched half-moment of hailing a cab, outside Nehru Centre.
We might as well have been there. That goes to say, the promise of good food rings true at the Bombay Brasserie in Nungambakkam, as true to the real deal as you could expect.
From our jottings at a tasting of the new menu here, we have to begin with a note on the chur chur paratha. Sure, we’d be delighted to wax eloquent on the paratha being as lightly flaky as dried leaves held between the crinkly pages of a book, and delicately roasted like crackling spices on a hot griddle.
But then again, with a sprinkling of chaat masala laced on top of its rumpled and scrunched-up form, as it’s served, the chur chur paratha is just perfect — it’s an art book, a sculpture of wheat flour and maida, and a trophy that you could parade up and down any Parathe Wali Gali, in any city around the country.
In the mouth, each bite of the chur chur paratha crackles like pops of hot toast. When dunked in a bowl of Smoked Jodhpur Mutton or Chicken Tawa Roast, you get a mouth-so-full of flavour, it would have you running circles around Chowpatty.
Of course, Chowpatty is the promise here, and that’s exactly what you get — from the Corn Chaat, laced with pomegranate seeds, to portions of Karara Gobi of cauliflower buds, golden-fried and delicate as dandelions. Even the Papad Bowl is the kind of dish that would have you calling for a flask of chai, and turning up to the skies, looking out for rain.
The Kashmiri Naan Kebab — a hefty portion of meat, best eaten as a roll, is a great working meal in itself. Add a choice from the in-house line of chilled, fruity beverages such as the Jaipur Gulabo (rose), Nagpuri Santra (orange) and Pondy Rush (peach) — and you have a quick working meal that you’re sure to repeat at the very next opportunity you get.
Still, the hands-down winner of our meal has to be the Bombay Lunch Home Veg Curry and Banana Leaf Rice — a serving of a very special rice preparation doused in coconut milk, and a flavourful curry worth scooping up in every last spoonful.
Our dessert, of the Bombay Ice Cream Sandwich, did give us a few more sweet notes to mull over, but by then, we admit, we were a long way off from Chennai, in our heads.
A touch of Mumbai
• Bombay Monsoon Chai: ‘Tapari’, street-side brew, with adrak (ginger).
• Chinese Bhel: very Bambaiya snack.
• Bambaiyya Vada Pao & Mirchi Bhaji: Batata vada in a pao, sprinkled with ‘ghati’ masala, green chutney.
• Street-style Scrambled Egg & Maska Pao: Bombay’s street special ‘anda bhurji’ and buttered pao.
• Potato Toasty: rasta-style grilled aloo bhaji sandwich.
Meal for two approx INR 1,500.
— Jaideep Sen