Bandra – Sweet Little Haven of Mumbai

I absolutely love staying at Marine Drive and never want to stay at any other place in Mumbai but sometimes you should break out from your comfort zones and explore other places too. Once I decided to stay in Bandra and explore the places around instead of hopping local train to Bandra every day. I booked Airbnb stay for 2 nights instead of hotel to connect more with local. Practically it was chaos the night we (I and my mother) arrived but the next morning feel so good instantly. It was the best decision to stay here. The British built most of their great monuments in South Mumbai and the Portuguese decided to stay at Suburbs of the city. Bandra have such a quaint and quiet winding bylanes, cute cozy cafes, crumbling but amazing bungalows, lots of tree shades, and some Indo-Portuguese-Colonial style houses still standing strong. In the 1950’s the rich and famous as well as wannabes moved to Bandra to be closer to the Bollywood film studios of the suburbs. It quickly became a vibrant and cosmopolitan neighborhood like no other. Soon Bandra has become famous and became Mumbai’s has unique lifestyle, full of contrast yet harmony neighborhood. Modern high rise architecture with marvelously colorful graffiti and old Church at Chapel Road is my most favorite one after Bandstand. Lesser than anyone know, Bandra will certainly reminds you of Goa ❤ as well Bandra (West) is listed in 2018 Time Out’s 50 coolest neighborhoods in the world on number 15!! 🙂

One of the defining characteristics of Bandra West is its pervasive Portuguese heritage. Bandra was originally a little fishing town, named Vandre which means ‘Port’ in Marathi. In 1534, a Portuguese sea captain raided the village and burnt it down, making the area officially a part of the Portuguese crown. Father Manuel Gomes completed the capture by fortifying Catholicism and converting over 2,000 fishermen to Christianity (cruel!).  The Catholic Churches the Jesuit missionaries built at this time are still there in Bandra, all within a diameter of only 4 kms. There are still some remains of a Portuguese fort and many beautiful Catholic Village areas with old colonial houses. Bandra remained part of their territory even after the Bombay Islands were transferred to the British in 1662. Some old villages and stately Portuguese ancestral homes still remain amid the increasing urbanization. These include Chimbai Fishing Village, and arty 400-year-old Ranwar Village where the lanes in the vicinity have recently become renowned for their quirky street art created by artists from all over the world.

BEST PLACES I HAVE EXPLORED IN BANDRA: 

BANDRA STATION (LOCAL)

If you are traveling by local train to Bandra, you must have seen the amazing architecture dated back to 19th century – the blend of Victorian Gothic and Vernacular styles <3, if you haven’t, you really need to see this! 🙂 This station is one of my favorite after Victoria Terminus – CSMT (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus).

IMPORTANT: Do not get confuse with Bandra Terminus. Bandra Local Station is for local trains while Bandra Terminus is for inter state trains. Distance between Bandra local station and Bandra Terminus is around 10  to 15 minutes walk.

CASTELLA de AGUADA AKA BANDRA FORT

Castella de Aguada, meaning: ‘Fort of the Water point’ in Portuguese, also known as the Bandra Fort now. “Castella” is a misspelling for Portuguese “Castelo” (meaning: castle). Built by the Portuguese in 1640 as a ‘watchtower’ overlooking the Mahim Bay to the south, the Arabian Sea to the west, the islands of Worli to the south and the town of Mahim to the south west. The fort also guarded the northern sea route into Mumbai Harbour. During the Portuguese rule, it was armed with seven cannons and other smaller guns as defense. A freshwater spring in the vicinity supplied potable water to passing ships, thus lending the fort its name. The strategic value of the fort was enhanced in 1661 after the Portuguese ceded the seven islands of Bombay that lay to the immediate south of Bandra to the English.

Located at Bandstand where famous Bollywood Shahrukh Khan’s house MANNAT is situated. You can either reach Bandra Fort by Bus from Bandra Station costing INR 8 per person or hire auto-rikshaw costing INR 30-35 for 2 person sharing same auto. Distance is  appx 8 kms. The last drop / pick point will be Taj Lands End, from there you need to walk around 5-8 mins to enter the Fort premises.

[Well, if you are traveling by auto, the driver will make sure you should get down and click a picture at the outside of Mannat :D. No kidding!! I never did though].

Taj Lands End, Mumbai

The current condition of Bandra Fort is on the verge of collapse. I am not really sure why Bandra Fort is not maintained well by the Government even though this place is visited by huge number of local and international people. The structure that were crafted ages ago, still stand testimony to the test of time they have undergone.

Photo Credit: DNA India

They have limited seating space around the fort and mostly occupied by senior citizens who come here for walking and enjoy the beautiful Arabian Sea view. Also this place is popular place for couples to spend the evening watching the golden hour. With uninterrupted view of Bandra-Worli Sea Link – cable-stayed 5.6 kms bridge carries 4 lanes of traffic in each direction. This spot have my heart ever since I have been here 3 yrs back. You need to trek a little bit down crossing huge stones. Make sure to wear good shoes or there is a chances to slip down. Sit here and feel the wind touch your face, your hair and fill your lungs with salt air. This place is my mom’s favorite place too 🙂 watching sun goes down. Last year I got few shells here.

Quick Note: There is a big not fancy kinda Cafe Sea Side exactly parallel to Taj Lands Ends. Make a quick stop here for tea/coffee. Not sure about the food, but the view here is majestic!

View form Cafe Sea Side.

MOUNT MARY CHURCH

The Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount, more commonly known as Mount Mary Church, is a Roman Catholic Basilica located appx 15-20 mins walk from Bandra Fort. Stands on a hillock, about 80 metres above sea level overlooking the Arabian Sea. The feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated here on the first Sunday after 8 September, the birthday of the Virgin Mary. The feast is followed by a week-long celebration known locally as the Bandra Fair.

[THE STORY AS PUBLISHED ON WIKIPEDIA] Although the current church edifice is just 100 years old, the history behind the current statue of Our Lady goes back to the 16th century when Jesuit priests from Portugal brought the statue to the current location and constructed a Chapel. In 1700 Arab pirates interested in the gilt-lined object held in the hand disfigured the statue by cutting off the right hand. In 1760, the church was rebuilt and the statue was substituted with a statue of Our Lady of Navigators in St. Andrew’s church nearby. This statue has an interesting legend. It goes that a Koli fisherman dreamt that he would find a statue in the sea. The statue was found floating in the sea between 1700 and 1760. A Jesuit Annual Letter dated to 1669 and published in the book St. Andrew’s Church, Bandra (1616–1966) supports this claim. The Koli Fishermen call the statue as “Mot Mauli”, meaning “The Pearl Mother” (Mot being corruption of the word “Mount” and Mauli, meaning “Mother”, hence the name suggests). However the previous statue is now restored and now enjoys the place of honor in the Basilica. Both Hindu and Koli Christians visit this shrine often giving it a kind of syncretic nature.

READ HERE: Sunday Morning, South Mumbai Churches Walking Tour.

BANDRA RECLAMATION 

Located appx 5 kms from Bandra Station, Bandra Reclamation promenade is one of must visit sea side locations after Marine Drive. Locals of Bandra gets another public jogging spot which is pollution free with cool sea breeze, ideal for morning and evening walks. You can hop on bus and ask them to drop at Reclamation Promenade or Lilavati Hospital, you can walk from here. If you love sun basking, definitely you need to visit here around 4 4:30 PM. The sun light view of Bandra Reclamation is amazing!! Though people visit here after sunset to enjoy cool breeze. Witness Bandra Worli Sea Link and lots of cute fishing boats around. This road known as Western Express Highway, connected to Mahim Creek, S. V. Road and Reclamation flyover bridge coming from National Highway 8 of Mumbai. The tunnel here have lovely painted wall which you can actually pay attention to its details when you are walking because the road connecting here is not safe for cars to halt.

Bandra Worli Sea Link
Bandra Worli Sea Link
Fishing Boats
Fishing Boats
The Tunnel
The Tunnel

If you love fish, there is a nearby small not so fancy family restaurant named Bandra Gomantak. I found this on Zomato while browsing for Fish Thali for lunch. They offer 1+1 on food if you have Zomato Gold (except on Thali). I got Bangda Fish Fry for free 😀 The food was exceptionally delicious!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!

Surmai Thali
Chicken Thali
Bangda Fish

LINKING ROAD, HILL ROAD, CHAPEL ROAD AND CARTER ROAD

Linking Road – Hill Road – Chapel Road – Carter Road

Oh! I would’ve probably banned from blogging by ladies out there if I didn’t mention about Linking Road here ya’ (hahaha…. joke apart!). Located at 10 mins distance from Bandra Station and the auto riders here have a policy of “sharing” meaning: they will take 3-4 pax in one auto if you are going to same place (specially Linking Road). They charge nominal INR 10 from each pax, but if you don’t want to share auto with anyone else, they will charge INR 50 for 1 or 2 pax to Linking Road and on meter if you want to go any where else.

Linking Road was one of the first arterial roads “linking” the far-flung suburbs of Bandra and Juhu during the 1940’s (I tell ya’ Mumbai history is worth learning!) The oldest name of the road was Dadabhai Navroji Road. Linking Road and Hill Road were two of the main shopping hubs in the suburbs of Mumbai. Over the years this shopping hub has stretched beyond its original length. The road starts from S.V Road (Swami Vivekanand Road) in Bandra and continues to Khar, and extends beyond this towards Santacruz and Juhu in the north of the city.

Believe it or not, Mumbai is famous for local street shopping than fancy big shopping malls. Linking Road is the Mumbai’s hippest suburbs!! Here you will get fusion of modern and traditional stuff. Cheap branded / local made tees, chappals, shoes, belts, accessories, make-up and much much more. Practically a shopping hub for every pocket size (also be aware of pick pockets!). First time when I got here with my cousin 5-6 yrs back, I hated this place! but now, I can be your google map 🙂  Oh! Did I mention there are Mc’d, KFC, Starbucks, Kailash Prabhat here?? 😀

INSIDER TIP: Come here during weekdays in the morning till late afternoon. Evenings and Weekends here is worst than Fish Market. Also wear good shoes if you are planning to buy lot of things because you need to walk a lot. As well please bring backpack, because carrying poly-bags / paper bags while shopping are so overrated. Carry a small (secure) sling bag to keep your money / cards safe. 

Hill Road has been officially renamed as Ramdas Nayak Road, but seriously who cares. Locals are still calling it as Hill Road only (even google). Hill Road is other cute neighborhood with sloppy tiny roads passing by 🙂 One of the Mumbai most prestigious schools, the 160-year-old St. Stanislaus High School, and its adjoining St. Peter’s church, St. Joseph’s girls’ school, the Apostolic Carmel convent school and St. Andrew’s Church all lie on Hill road. This area will reminds you Panjim’s (Goa) Altinho :D. Two prominent Hospitals, Bhabha Hospital and Holy Family Hospital also here at Hill road. The Tata Parsi Agiary built in 1873 is a prominent landmark on Hill road.

Chapel Road is where I rented Airbnb. Cozy 1 BHK in a mix neighborhood of Muslim and Christians and exactly located on the corner of the Chapel road, 10 mins walk to Starbucks. Chapel Road connects Carmel Church to Hill Road. The most charming road! Flooded with zesty and zingy street arts and tiny alleys which scares you if you have been here for the first time and have no idea where google map is asking you to walk. But trust me, the alleys here are safe here (my friend who stays here confirms it as well). The most prominent murals on Chapel Road are the work of the Bollywood Art Project. Incredibly amazing!!

Carter Road is famous for Jogger’s Park. A 1.25 kms long walkway with a small chess-board ground and a large gazebo along the sea. It is simultaneously a popular hang out spot next to Bandstand Promenade. Located appx 6 kms from Bandra station and 2.5 kms from Khar station.

I HAD BEST MEAL AT MAMAGATO AND BOMBAY SALAD CO.

Well, I really haven’t explore Bandra eateries much like how I had in South Mumbai except Nom Nom, Kailash Parbhat, Mamagato and Bombay Salad Co. I have been to Mamagato at Banjaara Hills, Hyderabad 2 years back and keep praying since then that they should open a branch in Ahmedabad now. But before that I got a chance to dine-in at Hill Road branch last year 🙂

Mamagato means “to play with food”. Mamagoto is a fusion Pan Asian café/restaurant with a cute, cozy, quirky decor and casual atmosphere where you can enjoy authentic Asian Street Hawker Food at one place. I and my mother love “Street Vendor’s Penang Chicken Curry Bowl” here. They serve it with raw peanuts over sticky rice and in same style how you get it at Malaysia / Indonesia streets. The Dimsums here are so delicious!

Street Vendor’s Penang Chicken Curry Bowl

Here is the not so funny incident. Two years back during Christmas time I and my mother dined at Café Basilico which was exactly opposite to Mamagato, now it is permanently shut down (Sigh!). It was 2 hrs waiting at Mamagato and past 8 in the evening already but luckily got a table at Café Basilico. I had the best “Shiitake Consommé” in my life at Café Basilico 🙂 Food links to memories, always.

Other best picks at Mamagato: Old School Gyoza Chicken, Masaman Lamb Curry, Chiang Mai Train Station Noodles, Prawn/Chicken Three Pepper Bomb, Stir Fried Vegetables with Burnt Garlic, Mama’s Ramen Bowl, Laksa, Grilled Fish. And never miss their Home Made Chunky Caramel Sponge Cake (I dine-in at Mamagato for this!! :D)

Bombay Salad Co. serves giant cosmic bowl of healthy salad which makes you fall in love with salad. No! It’s not that typical crazy salad we are been eating at home, this is different. CHECK THE MENU HERE. Even the half bowls are wholesome enough to be full meals. They have inside and outside seating. If you visit inside the café, you will witness the ingredients constantly being tossed around, literally like a human blender. I got this place recommendation from one of my most favorite blogger / instagrammer / influencer / traveler – Alisha Mishra. Follow her on instagram HERE. I am following here since December 2014 maybe. I don’t really remember. But she is the beautiful soul out there which writes beautifully and can fix anyone’s mood. She also have publish an e-book for Thailand and Bali recently. Check her Bio on instagram for more details.

Mr. Bean and The Red Samurai Salad

Here, you can build your own big bowl of salad, or pick from a bunch of the menu ones. My mother had Mr. Bean, full pack of veggies and I had The Red Samurai – 100% buck wheat soya noodles with lots of veggies and chicken teriyaki. We asked for warm bowl. They serve healthy and detox juices too. win-win!!

The last thing In know is, Karishma Dalal, ex Suzette chef, now chief tosser at her own Bandra Café, Bombay Salad Co. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!! Please do visit early for lunch / dinner, the waiting here can take up-to 2 hrs. Yep! you read it right sister.

There are many other restaurants / cafes recommendations from my fellow food bloggers and my friends in Mumbai to go to: Jamjar Dinner, The Fatty Bao, Kitchen Garden by Suzette and Craving Salad.

That’s it for today folks! Thank you for still sticking by and hope you are enjoying reading my blog post 🙂 Please do leave a comment below for other suggestions in Bandra. Wish y’all a happy and great weekend! See ya’ on Sunday with some other amazing post. If you have missed my Sunday post last week, READ IT HERE. Ta-da!!

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