Streets of Your City: The ultimate guide to Mumbai's Bandra (West) neighborhood

Streets of Your City: The ultimate guide to Mumbai's Bandra (West) neighborhood

We've mapped Bandra out like never before, laying down for you the very best this dynamic district has to offer

Not so long ago, Bandra (pronounced Baah-ndra) wasn’t so full of restaurants, designer boutiques and the ooze of urban coolness. But it has always been a laidback suburb. Dotted with crosses and churches, its streets held a largely Christian community that dwelled between small former fishing villages. So modest and sleepy was this place, at one time even taxis found it difficult to ply Bandra's narrow lanes.

From the middle of the 20th century the west-side, called Bandra (West), evolved into something considerably more trendy. Popular -- and quality -- restaurants began to spring up. Together with those churches, they became the iconic landmarks that now guide locals and visitors, that hop in and out of the many bee-colored rickshaws swarming the area.

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Barring the glitzy Bollywood crowd -- many of whom live overlooking Bandra's sea front -- the neighborhood culture here feels creative, cosmopolitan and casual. Almost like what Brooklyn is to Manhattan. That means shorts and flip flops for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even townies come here to kick back.

Most notable is Bandra's appetite for food. More restaurants seem to open and close in these parts than any other area of Mumbai. Everything worth consuming is within an easy walk or short rick-ride and even for the locals, home deliverable.

And now with this Bandra (West) guide, it's never been easier to nail down everything from the best French cheesecake, kooky hairstylist, designer store, corner-pub-styled-like-an-automobile-garage, fresh vegetables, flowers and all the other terrific little discoveries that make up the DNA of this unique area.

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1. Turqoise

Walk into this cozy home store and you feel like you’ve entered an acid-tripped version of Noah’s Ark. Turqoise specializes in animal figures of all kinds -- ridiculously colorful wooden giraffes that stand six feet tall, feline metal CD holders, exotic parrots straight out of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel. They also have some lovely furniture, including hand-painted cabinets and a moss green wash box that (almost) made us want to do laundry.

Shop no 2&3, Sunbeam, junction of Perry Cross Road and Pali Naka Road, Bandra (W); tel. +91 (0) 22 2642 3684

2. Anokhi

Imagine all your souvenir fashion and home shopping and ‘oh my god I have to have that’ impulsive shopping all under one roof. Anokhi is amongst the city’s most popular ethnic fashion stores, a retail Mecca for all things cotton. Here, you’ll find everything from block-printed kurtas to paisley print summer blankets, crinkled skirts to sunglasses covers.

Ground Floor, Govind Dham 210, Next To ICICI Bank, Waterfield Road, Bandra (W); tel. +91 (0) 22 2640 8261;

3. Pali Market

Fresh asparagus and mushrooms? Check. Gooseberries and grapefruit? Check. Slightly under ripe avocados? Check. Fresh-off-the-boat pomfret and prawns? Check. The stalls that march down Pali Market Road stock the best, most diverse collection of fresh produce in the suburbs. Remember to take your bargaining skills along, though. At Pali market you have to haggle for your supper. (Check out our bargaining guide)

Pali Mala Road, Bandra (W)

4. Mela

Free spirited sprites and bohemian waifs would love the clothes stocked at Mela, including wide Afghan pants cut from rich bolts of brocade and breezy dresses made out of sari cuttings. The store is an offshoot of Saya, a hippie destination which owner Dilip Mehra opened in Los Angeles a few years ago. Perfect for resort (read: beach) wear as well as casual funky outfits you can sport in the city.

2 Siffin Apts, Ambedkar Road, Bandra (W); tel. +91 (0) 22 2649 7562

5. Gear: The Bike Shop

Trading in your car for a bicycle is a great way to go green, and with its winding lanes and many slopes, Bandra is one of the most fun neighborhoods to bike in (even if the traffic has become a little intense of late). Best of all, you can reward your eco-conscious decision with a tricked out unit from Gear, a specialty bike shop that has just landed a shipment of awesome 2010 Cannondale mountain bikes. Dedicated to all things bicycle and run by cycling enthusiast Rahul Mulani, the store stocks everything from handles to horns, and is home to a manager who can repair even the most hopeless two-wheelers.

Ground floor, Fatima Villa, 29th road, next to Da Vinci, Pali Naka, Bandra (W); tel. +91 (0) 22 2640 9139. Call ahead to make sure the store is open.

(Check out our interview with Amit Bhowmik, Mumbai's most determined cyclist for more on cycling in Mumbai

6. OMO

Arti Shantakumar, owner of this jumbled, inexpensive treasure trove insists that OnMyOwn is the only store in the city that gets new stock every day. Shopping here is a rite of passage for every girl in Bandra between the age of 15 and 50 years -- a college kid looking for a bohemian headband, a woman in need of elegant silver earrings, or a middle-age matron scoping out a new kurta for bridge class.

204, Sagar Fortune, 2nd floor, Waterfield Road, above Zenzi, Bandra; tel. +91 (0) 22 6698 1804

7. Paws N Furs

Mumbai is beginning to catch up with the pampered-pets trend that’s sweeping the globe by storm, with specialty pet stores, spas and day care spots opening in and around the city. Tucked along with the designer shops on Waterfield Road is Paws N Furs, one such store that stocks everything from fancy grooming brushes to gourmet pet food (which has a definite aroma that pervades the shop all day).

Shop No. 3, Kailash, #156, Waterfield Road, Bandra; tel. +91 (0) 22 6699 0858;

8. Maharashtra Stationary and Xerox

Groaning under the weight of countless volumes, this little kiosk has an astonishing range of magazines and books, from “Vanity Fair” and “Florida Home and Design” to “The Joy of Sex.” Perched on that exact spot for almost two decades, it’s a neighborhood landmark, where Bandra fulfills its varied reading needs whether they be fashion, film, photography or anything else. They also deliver all over the city, including South Mumbai, and can order in what you need.

No.1, Pali Village, Pali Naka, opposite Punjab & Maharashtra Banks, Bandra; tel +91 (0) 22 2600 5642

9. Oleander

Bandra resident Swarna Gupta’s designs have graced the racks of stores all over the world, including Top Shop outlets, Sauce Dubai and Chamomile, Mumbai’s new favorite fashion destination. Stop by her apartment and browse through the stylish collection of slinky jumpsuits, raw silk dresses and crepe sheaths, sans big store mark-ups. Gupta (pictured) designs bespoke outfits as well.

41, Chez Nous, St Cyril’s Road, Bandra (W); tel. +91 (0) 98 7022 0035

10. Curbside Florist

Brighten your day with happy heliconias, bright faced gerberas and exotic anthuriums hawked by Bandra’s flower carts. Our favorite is the phool wallah (flower seller) who sets up shop on St Andrews Road every morning. Along with adding color to the street, he’s also significantly less expensive than Khoja, the comparatively swanky florist down the block.

Outside Holy Family Hospital, St Andrews Road, Bandra (W)

11. Gloria Jeans Coffee

After Gloria Jeans Coffee took over the space once occupied by Lemon Grass, Bandra’s favourite lunch place, the suburb took its time to warm up to the international coffee chain. Now, everyone from college kids to corporate folk get their caffeine fix here. Sip on the crème brulée-flavored coffee.

Carlton Court, Turner Road, Bandra (W); +91 (0) 22 2642 6053

12. Gostana

Who would have thought that you could find such big taste in a pint-sized restaurant? With barely enough room for a dozen people, Gostana is Bandra’s favorite burger joint, serving up superior fries, incongruously expensive drinks and their USP -- healthy patties on whole wheat or multigrain buns. The spinach, cottage cheese and chicken steak burgers are particularly good.

Shop 1, Sefa House, New Kanthwadi Road, off Pali Mala Road, Bandra (W); +91 (0) 22 6453 3359

13. Bagel Shop

A few years ago, a little cafe on the hill turned the improbable dream of fresh bagels into a reality, transforming the breakfast habits of countless Bandra-ites overnight. Here, freshly baked bagels are sold plain, or come slathered with cream cheese and salmon, peanut butter or Nutella. Add in free Wi-Fi and great coffee, and you’ll know why Bagel Shop - Bread for your Head is the best thing since, well, sliced bread.

Anand Villa, 13 Pali Mala Road, below below Savio Jon hair salon, Bandra (W); tel. +91 (0) 22 2605 0178

14. Santé

Copycat delis have been mushrooming all over the neighborhood (one wine shop adopted the same name, even), but Santé is undoubtedly the original home of artisan cheeses, imported meats and breads and a pioneer of Bandra’s growing gourmet food culture. They also offer a varied selection of baked goods (cupcakes are the latest addition to the shelf but NOTHING beats their cheesecake) and a great line-up of made-to-order sandwiches. Just pick your cheese, meat, bread and toppings, and voila! Le sandwich Parisien in Mumbai. Bon appétit.

1, Shahina Apartments, opposite Soul Fry, Pali Mala Road, Bandra(W); tel.+91 (0) 22 6452 2544

15. Candies

Sprawled over numerous floors and encompassing canteen-like mass eating areas and dainty al fresco dining nooks, Candies is one of the oldest and most schizophrenic eateries in Bandra. Here, Indian-style pizzas are served up alongside budget sushi, and Italian dessert shares menu space with tikka rolls. It’s got something for everyone, which explains why all three outposts in Bandra (Union Park, Reclamation and Pali Hill) are perpetually packed. If you visit the newest branch at the foot of Pali Hill and it happens to be a Sunday, think about bringing protective gear. The restaurant is self-service, and the mob can get pushy at the ordering station. Few places feel more 'Bandra' than Candies.

Mac Ronells, 5AA Pali Hill, St. Andrews Road, near Learners Academy, Pali Hill, Bandra (W), tel. +91 (0) 22 642 3512; [Also at Ashok Apartment, Union Park, opposite Petit Girls High School, Bandra (W), tel. +91 (0) 22 2648 1686; ONGC Complex, ground floor, Bandra Reclamation, tel. +91 (0) 93222 21937]

16. Ashmick’s Snack Shack

If you have a hankering for meaty, aromatic Parsi cuisine, Ashmick's Snack Shack is the place to know. Bandra-ites swear by the authentic Sali Boti (lamb or chicken) and fish cutlets. The place really is a shack, though, so prepare to rough it out or take your meal to go.

Lourdes Haven, shop no. 2, Pali Junction, next to Jude Wines, Bandra (W); tel. +91 (0) 22 2600 5010

17. Café Basilico

The bright purple wall that separates this little café from a noisy street sets the mood: Café Basilico is a happy restaurant that serves up comfort food with flair. Here, you’ll find hearty sandwiches, mezze platters, pastas and food with unexpected twists. Upma, a traditional South Indian dish, for instance is given a distinctly Mediterranean flavor with the addition of couscous. Desserts are consistently awesome, including an unbelievably luscious blueberry cheesecake. The only damper on the meal is that the restaurant serves no alcohol -- just food good enough to get you high.

Gasper Enclave, Pali Naka, next to HDFC Bank, Bandra (W); tel. +9122 6703 9999;

18. Just Around the Corner

Best. Brownies. Ever. The sandwiches at this shorts-and-chappals casual diner that scores of Bandra freelancers have turned into an office, are pretty great as well. We don't need to say anything more.

1/10, Cyrus House, ground floor, junction of 24th and 30th Road, Bandra (W); tel. +91 (0) 22 2600 2665;

19. Nature’s Basket

Sandwiched between two stunning churches, Nature’s Basket is where Bandra’s foodies, locals, expats, movie stars and mere mortals come to prey. This supermarket and deli stocks exotic cheeses, meats, wine and other treats sourced from around the world, along with carefully picked fruit and vegetables. Nature’s Basket is also the only place to stock Cupcake & Co’s moist, chocolate frosted goodies. Hallelujah!

133, Hill Road, next to C’est la Vie, Bandra (W); tel. +91 (0) 22 2642 5050

20. American Express Bakery

“Milk and malt make all the difference” proclaims a yellowing newspaper clipping on one wall of the 85-year-old American Express Bakery. “An ad we put out in 1933, back when Hill Road was inhabited mostly by Jews and Anglo Indians, and we didn’t have any coffee chains in our midst,” reminisces owner Ross Carvalho. A lot has changed since, but not the flavorful family plum cake and the super fresh bread. They also have specials according to the day of the week; we love Honey Wheat and Multi Grain Thursdays. You could also visit A-1 Stores & Bakery down the street for a comprehensive taste of Bandra's baked goods.

American Express Bakery, Villa Sushma, Hill Road, opposite Mocha Mojo, Bandra (W); tel. +91 (0) 22 2642 2857; A-1 Stores & Bakery, 89B, Ramdas Naik, Hill Road, Bandra (W); tel. +91 (0) 22 26426211

21. Yellow Tree Cafe

Serving up breezy citrus sangrias and airy crème brûlée, Yellow Tree Cafe is Bandra’s sunny spot. Avoid the staid seating on the first floor, and bask instead in rainbow hues of the ground level. A mix of European and Lebanese treats (try the asparagus crepe with caramelised onions) free Wi-Fi and a great coffee selection makes this all-day café one of the best options on the block. We only wish that the service would be a little snappier.

33, Clove Bar, Dr Ambedkar Road junction, Bandra (W); tel. +91 (0) 22 6528 7800

22. Soul Fry

Languorous wails from a saxophone, staccato conversations, clicking heels, sizzling fish fry -- tune in to the sounds of Soul Fry, the closest thing to Goa in Bandra. The shadowy restaurant features live music, fiery coastal food, ceiling menus that you pull down by a rope and Monday night karaoke. Don’t leave without ordering the delicious Chicken Cafreal.

Silver Craft, Pali Mala Road, opposite Sante, Bandra (W); tel. +91 (0) 22 2604 6892

23. Janata Lunch Home Restaurant & Bar

Neighborhood bootlegger, post-partying snack shop, cheap lunch place: this hole-in-the-wall dive is many things to many people. They’ll even send over a greasy box of butter chicken and a bottle of rum to your home at three in the morning! Definitely, the suburb’s best deliverable.

78, Pali Naka, Bandra (W); tel. +91 (0) 22 2600 4049

24. Toto’s Garage Pub

In this 'garage,' the DJ sits in an actual car jutting out from a wall plastered with license plates, overlooking rock music fans head banging to Iron Maiden. At the bar, media folk hatch elaborate plans while swilling on neat whisky, and a mini party moves to the pavement outside to grab a smoke. A few streets away, there’s a Bandra-ite wondering whether the Chicken Chilli (Dry) and Collective Soul track will be worth braving the crowd in this fast-filling pub.

30 Lourdes Haven, Pali Junction next to Steak House, Bandra (W); tel.+91 (0) 22 2600 5494

25. Zenzi

When Zenzi first set up shop here, the owners insisted that its moniker didn’t mean anything. Just a random sound, they’d said. Now, about six years later, every Bandra-ite -- including expats, creative professionals, Bollywood execs -- has his/her own translation for Zenzi and his or her favorite corner to sit. Hip hangout, comfort zone, culture hub, home ... apart from convenient China boxes you can dig into at the bar and the city’s best DJs, Zenzi also hosts evening dance classes, poetry slams, open mike nights and art exhibits.

183, Waterfield Road, Bandra (W); +91 (0) 22 6643 0670;

This part of Mumbai isn't home to a plethora of museums, swimming pools, art galleries and the like. But it houses some outstanding spas, places of pampering and other services. Here's our selection:

26. Bamboo Tree

Turn your feet into food for a shoal of Garra Rufa flown in from Turkey. These fish feast on your dead skin, making your peds shiny and new. If you’re looking for a different angle at this ‘bait shop,' skip the Doctor Fish pedicure and opt for the Exotic Candle, Holistic Bamboo or Power Yoga massage. Also on offer are a range of more conventional hair, skin and nail treatments.

752 Merchant House, in the lane opposite Bagel Shop, New Kantwadi Road, Bandra (W); +91 (0) 22 3222 1861 / +91 (0) 99 3014 2067

27. Aura Thai Spa

Bandra’s overworked yuppies relax in the matchbox booths of this small but fancy spa, where pain is coaxed out of every body part with deft precision. Stick to the basics, and you’ll be satisfied: the done-to-death chocolate wrap might sound seductive, but is not worth its price. Open until 10 pm. You can also check out the Aroma Thai Foot Spa next door. Replenished from a bout of R&R, we suggest you stroll down Pali Hill on the Sunday.

Shop no 1, Chetak Society, next to Juice hair salon, Pali Hill, Bandra (W); tel. +91 (0) 22 6522 0000

28. Glory

This is where Bollywood’s hottest stars get nailed. Everyone from Kareena Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra to Malaika Arora Khan and Sushmita Sen get their French manicures (Rs 2,000) and false nails (Rs 1,800) at Glory, a seventeen-year-old beauty salon in Bandra. You will also be blown away by what they can do with a hair dryer.

117 Muzafar Manor, Waterfield Road, Bandra (W); tel. +91 (0) 22 2655 1808;

29. Reboot Shoe and Bag Laundry

This is where Bandra offloads its baggage. Reboot, most likely the only shoe and bag laundry in the city, soaks tired footwear in fancy tubs and packs off grimy luggage for cleanse-and-repair nourishment packs. You’d only know about this neat service if you live around here.

G3, Siffin Apartments, Dr Ambedkar Road, next To Vijaya Bank, Bandra (W); tel. +91 (0) 98 6743 5528

30. Twinkle Gents Hairdressers

It feels like time has stopped at this retro “gents only, fully air conditioned” salon, where barber chairs are raised and lowered manually and a menu board still lists Godrej hair dye and Jolen bleach treatments, along with other seriously old-school services. Twinkle has been serving loyal customers for 30 years, and at Rs 100 a haircut, they continue to hold strong against the uber-cool hairstylists invasion of Bandra. Regulars swear by the head massage here.

Ground floor, Kenwood Building, Dr Ambedkar Road, next to Si Branche, Bandra (W); tel. +91 (0) 22 2648 3273

31. Mad O Wot?

Don’t be fooled by the quirky heads that work Mad O Wot. “We’re capable of giving perfectly regular haircuts too,” says a stylist at the trend-setting salon, whose clients range from the civic commissioner of Mumbai to hot cricketers and Bollywood superstars. Besides cutting-edge hairdos, you’ll also see a whole lot of cool bobbleheads and quirky candy dispensers adorning the shelves. A nod for the mod.

Hemkund Society, ground floor, plot no 450, 14th Road, next to Bombay Blue, Bandra (W); tel. +91 (0) 22 6529 0288;

32. Al’s Tattoo Studio

If inker Al Alva could represent Bandra in a tattoo, he’d need more than an arm and a leg. “A full back. On it, a free hand sketch of a guitar painted in with Bandra motifs -- Mount Mary Church, auto rickshaws, couples on Bandstand... I’d go crazy!” says Al, who also runs a studio in Thailand. If you do decide to get your tattoo here, you’ll also get a special cappuccino whipped up by Al, and a tour of Bollywood skin in pictures -- they’ve worked with a bevy of movie stars including Sushmita Sen and Kunal Kapoor.

1 Natraj 68, Hill Road, Opposite St. Peter Church, Bandra (W); tel. + 91 (0) 22 2605 6120 / + 91 (0) 98 1914 9830;

Kanika and Mansi are the co-founders of Brown Paper Bag, a Mumbai lifestyle website.

Read more about Kanika Parab and Mansi Poddar