Bungalow 9, Bandra, Mumbai

[singlepic id=1727 w=80 h=92 float=left]The reason to review Bungalow 9 was more than just food. A little more inventive thinking and I wouldn’t have confused Bungalow 9 with the home furnishing store, Bungalow 8 as most still do, a year into it’s existence. The restaurant does however stand tall in the list of expansive (that’s expansive, not Punjabi for ‘expensive’) eateries that are a must-visit. True to its claim for most part, I must say.

Situated in a small by lane of Bandra, the restaurant is spread over a sprawling 20,000 square feet, making it one of the largest places to dine out in suburban Mumbai, albeit with a ‘blink and you miss’ entrance – look for a calligraphed ‘B’ and ‘9’ joined at the hip. Our suggestion? Walk, which you would anyway, given the paucity of parking space.

[singlepic id=2330 w=320 h=240 float=left]Step inside and Bungalow takes you out of Mumbai, literally. Housed in a quiet, 150-year-old cottage (equivalent to a palace today),  little appears to have changed from the original: sloping roof, the wooden staircase, the brick walls, the cabinets, even the book shelf; it’s all there, intact. What’s altered are the sprawling living room which houses the main restaurant, the outhouse is the bar and what could be the master bedroom on the top is now the first private sitting area (where the Bachchan’s have dined post Baby B’s arrival). The verandah is the second open bar area with a grill and the back of the main house is where the pizzas are made in a wood fired oven. In short, every inch of this cosy old cottage has been utilized, giving diners ample choice of seating.

Not sure what it’ll say to you, but the ambiance at Bungalow 9 nudged me to sit down and talk… and talking is one activity I’m quite good at. I liked the audio leveling; audible enough to recognize the song and soft enough to allow a decent conversation. This, besides the charming old world décor is one of the USPs at Bungalow 9.

Bungalow 9 appears to have been wise enough to not include too many items, while having enough diversity on the menu to support it’s claims of ‘world cuisine’. You’ll therefore find a variety of pizzas cosying up to a Sri Lankan Yellow Curry (advisable only for chili fanatics). A favourite among corporates in the vicinity, Bungalow 9 has a fixed lunch menu and a la carte dinners. In retrospect, perhaps dinner would have been a better idea though sampling their fare over lunch did allow us a few signature dishes.

We visited on a Saturday and found ourselves booked on a window side date seat for two; cosy without much of a view. Seating offers a choice between old style cane chairs and low-lying sofas.

We suggest clarifying the location of your table while making reservations, which is a must if you are going on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Also, you may need to do a little jig to get the staff’s attention.

[singlepic id=2327 w=320 h=240 float=right]Like most places, the staff are a little low on knowledge, so you would do well to be precise in your requests. My lime water (nimbu paani) landed on the table minus salt or sugar, either of which I would have welcomed. I found the menu quite vast. Everything from soups and appetizers to main courses and desserts, with enough vegetarian and non-vegetarian choices for everyone. Our menu was a mix of simple and exotic though the nimbu paani experience made us wonder if the lovely-sounding menu would be delivered just as well.

First up was soup. Mine was a Cream of garlic (325) with a mushroom stuffed phyllo parcel bobbing around within and my guest chose a Spanish tomato and bread soup with jalapeno cream (325). Both were served in a glass and cup and saucer respectively instead of the quintessential bowls – I do like the way food presentation is breaking all the set norms these days. Interestingly, the Cream of Garlic soup was served at room temperature and the other, hot, which was by design, in case you thought otherwise. The flavors and textures of cream, garlic, mushroom and mango came through clearly though my personal tastes demand a less creamy texture. The presence of phyllo was puzzling though, considering the texture would be similar to a standard flour casing after a few minutes. The Spanish tomato and bread soup with jalapeno cream was much appreciated; we even found nostalgic hints of the flavors used in my Mum’s noodles. Spicy, comforting and full of flavor, we’d recommend this one anyday!

[singlepic id=2333 w=320 h=240 float=left]We picked the Classic Caeser Salad (395) and the vegetarian sushi called Hella Hot (450) for the next course. While the Caeser salad was bang on – fresh good lettuce and parmesan- the sushi left much to be desired. It wasn’t hot or fresh as hell, though one doubts if Sushi is served to souls in Purgatory or Hell for that matter. The rolling could have been much neater and the presentation bordered on blasphemy; one doesn’t present sushi the same way as a mango cheesecake! Okay, so the brown was soya, the yellow was mango and the red was chili sauce (chili sauce?!) – all flavors that may complement a piece of sushi; still, the flamboyance didn’t seem fitting. The second dish that went right up on our list of recommendation was the thin crust Spanish Pepperoni pizza (575) baked in a wood fired oven. The pizza was surprisingly crunchy… a texture I personally like pairing with wines. The secret we were told is to baste the sides with olive oil before popping it into the oven.  It passed muster. In case you’re wondering what was Spanish about the pizza, it was the pepperoni that Bungalow 9 claims to import from Spain.

Our main course was Grilled Grouper (Catch of the Day, 775) served on a bed of rice noodles and Merlot braised New Zealand Lamb Shanks (1,500). Fish you see, is a tricky sort of meat, which I’m thankful was done just right. The sauce was too bland for my taste though it may taste lovely to you. The undressed rice noodle base didn’t help things either. Perhaps a spicy dip as an option for diners like me could be considered? The Lamb Shank on the other hand looked scrumptious, and would have been so if the mashed potatoes weren’t submerged in gravy and the vegetables weren’t floating in the same substance, of which there was enough for 3 such shanks. Coming down to the basics however, the dish itself was meaty and delicious. If you order it when you visit Bungalow 9, remember to ask for everything on the side – gravy, mash and vegetables.

[singlepic id=2325 w=320 h=240 float=left]Dessert, finally! Grand Mariner Chocolate Volcano (475) and Tiramisu Semifreddo (395). Essentially innovative versions of the typical molten cake and traditional Tiramisu, desserts are the chef’s specialty. Did it stand up to the hype? Nope, neither. While the Grand Mariner Chocolate Volcano was a let-down for me as I prefer a soft crust as opposed to a hard baked one – not the case here. The  Tiramisu, while missing the key elements of Tiramisu – texture and coffee, also came without the semifreddo (Italian for ‘half frozen’) element, which demands the blending of frozen and un-frozen components.

In all, the experience was a mixed one. Though the food was reasonably well executed, the portion sizes large and plating that tried hard to be innovative, one expects more from a restaurant that looks and talks about itself the way Bungalow 9 does, especially given the fairly high prices. We suggest you try Bungalow 9 and find your own special items in the menu; you may just be surprised.

Madhulika Dash

Madhulika is deeply interested in eating, sniffing, looking at and writing about food among other possible activities. Madhulika enjoys trying different types of food and travelling to distant locations, with the North Pole and Timbuktu prominent in her wish list. Madhulika covers Mumbai for Chef at Large and can be reached at madhulika.dash@www.chefatlarge.in