Any Mumbai darshan is incomplete without a few hours in Bandra—and chances are, after the wining and dining, you’ll want to stay. Once a clutch of village hamlets owned largely by fishermen and farmers, Bandra has had a dizzying transformation over the last few decades. Today, the suburb has delights for every hankering: heritage homes and high-rises, dive-bar drinks and swanky restaurants, exclusive design stores and street carts selling junk jewellery to pani puri.
Bandra’s old residents often remember a time when the traffic wasn’t awful and you could see the sea from their bungalow window. Its cafes spill with models and hipsters, rents skyrocket, and celebrities jog daily by the seaside, but it’s the deep-rooted, homely sense of community and the liberal, laid-back vibe that continue to draw loyal subjects to the Queen of the Suburbs. This guide focuses on establishments and locations in Bandra West.
There’s no better way to explore the neighbourhood than on foot. Festivals like Celebrate Bandra offer free heritage walks, but even a casual stroll down its leafy lanes can be insightful.
Castella de Aguada, Portuguese for “Fort at the Waterpoint”, was named for the freshwater spring nearby. It was built by the Portuguese in 1540 as a watchtower over the southernmost tip of the mainland. In the early 18th century, the British destroyed large sections of the fort to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Marathas. Its stone walls now afford views of Mahim Bay, and the Bandra-Worli Sealink. Once fitted with cannons, the grounds are now the battleground of kids at play, and lovers canoodling over the Arabian Sea. Catch the sunset over the ruins of the fort, and check if a concert is on at the Lands End amphitheatre as you turn back towards Bandra Bandstand. Bandra Reclamation.
The Basilica of our Lady of the Mount is a Roman Catholic church situated on a hillock overlooking the Arabian Sea. A simple chapel built of mud in 1570 that was rebuilt several times, Mount Mary Church today has a gorgeous façade decked with Gothic arches and pillars of Malad stone dating to 1904. Its quiet sanctuary is popular with devotees from across faiths, and with tourists photographing the fibreglass murals of the life of Mary on its blue interiors.
At the main altar, gaze at the wooden statue of Mother Mary and Infant Jesus brought by Portugal’s Jesuits in the 16th century. In 1700, Arab pirates cut off an arm of the statue looking for treasure, and would have burned down the shrine if it wasn’t for an intervention by a swarm of bees, as the legend goes. A flight of steps leads from the back of the church to the foot of the hill. You can also cross the road flanking the church entrance to climb up the shrine opposite, where you can light a candle, or glimpse hawks circling over the sea. To continue exploring, descend the hill towards Mehboob Studios, a film studio since the early 1950s. Take the left before the chowk to catch the Bollywood Art Project poster murals of Amitabh Bachchan and Raj Kapoor, before being greeted by the salty tang of the seaside promenade at Bandra Bandstand. The area is a hub of celebrity homes including those of Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan. Bandra Reclamation.
It’s easy to tune into the Goa vibe at Soul Fry, surrounded as you are by coastal flavours, affordable alcohol and swinging karaoke on Monday nights. Tuck into the chicken cafreal (cooked in spices, vinegar, and sometimes rum), bombil fry (a local fish that also goes by the name Bombay duck), teesri sukha masala (clams in a coconutty gravy), and the fish curry-rice. Wash it all down with a kokum-pink tumbler of sol kadi, or a stiff gin and tonic. With the lights down low, and the bonhomie born of an easygoing, dressed-down crowd, it’s the closest to actually being in the sunshine state. Pali Naka. Call 022 2604 6892.
The busy thoroughfare leading off Hill Road and through Ranwar Village towards Lilavati Hospital, is a microcosm of the changes that have swept through Bandra. Old-style cottages jostle with flats rented by expats and creative types, a wave of graffiti enlivens peeling walls, old-school bakeries sell Goan pao alongside home cooks passing on puffs and marzipan from their living room. Crosses and shrines often dot corners, many built to ward off the terrible plague that broke out in 1895 in Mumbai. Ranwar has burgeoned since its past as a rice-producing village among the 24 pakhadis that once comprised Bandra. Bazaar Road that extends on the other side of Chapel Road hosts the meat and vegetable market, and also Jain and Hindu temples, a chapel, a mosque, and a gurudwara. On Mt. Carmel Road that runs parallel, look out for beautiful bungalows from the early nineteenth century, with art deco detailing, stained glass windows, and flowering gardens; continue to Perry Cross Road to see more of these old gorgeous homes. Bandra Reclamation.
Old cottages and two-storey buildings dot the narrow lanes of this quaint village flanking Carter Road. Locals bustle about the higgledy-piggledy shops, and read newspapers on the porch. Once chiefly home to fishermen and cultivators of mango orchards and vegetable plots, Chuim still rolls to a more laid-back beat. Bandra Reclamation.
Regal Plus is Pali Naka’s go-to grocery store for every occasion and budget. It has all its customers’ needs in mind: yoghurt-chive dips and corn tortillas for the young crowd, snacks like khakra and bhakarwadi for the uncles, organic teas for the aunties, Ferrero Rocher for the kids. Regulars know the real draw of Regal Plus: seasonal Gujarati delights like aam ras (mango pulp) in the summer, and undhiyu, the Surat speciality cooked from fresh winter vegetables. It’s a great place to stock up on snacks and sweets to take back home. Don’t miss their poha chiwda!
Pali Naka. See the Facebook page.
Janata Lunch Home Restaurant and Bar is popular with dive bar regulars and expats and travellers wanting a touch of the city’s grittiness. It’s loud, and nearly impossible to get a table, but the alcohol is cheap, the chicken lollipops and paneer tikkas are comforting, and you’re sure to spot a friend you haven’t met in years. Continue the cheap and cheery beer trail at Toto’s Garage Pub down the road, which has retro fittings, explosive rock music, and moustachioed waiters dressed in orange jumpers. Pali Naka. Call 022 33126842.
Cafe Andora opens early and stays up late, and the counter is always busy until stock runs out. There is a no-frills seating area, but most customers place orders to-go. Sausage rolls, chicken cutlets, rum balls, and cheese croquettes beckon alongside community staples like the East Indian fugia (deep-fried bread) and Goan pork sorpotel, and of course the quintessential Chindian fare, like fried rice and gobi Manchurian. It’s cheap and cheery fare that has all the comfort of home, perfect for a large party or when you get the munchies. Hearsch Bakery, American Express, and A-1—all on Hill Road—offer variations on the same theme. St Dominic Road. See the Facebook page.
The Bombay Art Society’s Bandra home may be new, but the society has been around since 1888, and has fostered greats like M.F. Husain. The squat but surreal-looking building holds galleries, a library and amphitheatre. Since the building opened this year, it has hosted shows on paintings and sculptures, as well as exhibitions of virtual-reality films. Best followed up by drinks at the neighbouring Rangsharda Hotel, which has a terrace bar and expansive ocean views. Bandra Reclamation. See the Facebook page.
Elco Market on Hill Road is Bandra’s most famous chaat counter, but Punjab Sweethouse gets our vote for Punjabi food. Pani puri, dahi chaat, chole bature, malai kulfi—Punjab Sweethouse knows its north Indian food, and has a steadfast clientele to prove it. The establishment is constantly abuzz, whirring with employees packing sweetboxes, customers downing golguppas at the streetside counter, and families lurching up and down the stairs to the tiny restaurant. Wander into the mithai section to sample—or just stare at—a vast array of Indian sweets; there’s even more variety at festive times like Diwali. Punjab Sweethouse is particularly handy when NRIs and international travellers come visiting; the grub is easy on the stomach. Pali Naka. See the website.
Bandra Base has all the intimacy and tininess of a well-kept secret. The dimly lit space, backed by film school Whistling Woods International, showcases music gigs, dance and theatre shows, and workshops. The culture club is only a few years old, and draws a small crowd that prefers to turn down the conversation to pay attention to the music. Turn up for the jazz gigs: put down the token entry, slip off your sandals outside, and grab a cushion or a mat on the floor for some quiet listening. Off Waterfield Road. See the Facebook page.
For the real experience of watching a Bollywood film on its home ground, buy a ticket at Mumbai’s first multi-screen theatre G-7 Multiplex. Vociferous audiences are quick to hoot and shimmy in the aisles during a Bollywood film. Even better if you book the first day, first show of a movie starring Bandra local Salman Khan. G7 is full of kinks: Fairy lights decorate the cinema theatre, the wooden chairs are hard to sit on, and the movie might be interrupted by a temporary power cut, but it’s all part of the fun. Near Bandra Railway Station, Off S.V. Road, Book tickets here.
One of Bandra’s biggest joys is people-watching. Aunties in floral dresses and heels on their way to church. Scriptwriters scribbling in cafes, despite the din of models and freelancer writers and photographers working deals on their phones. Passing a streetside prayer service on Chapel Road after work. For the full experience, pick Carter Road, where power-walking fitness freaks fast-forward by canoodling lovers, biker buddies, and families and college kids out for a bite on the adjoining strip of eateries. You might even spot a celebrity out on their daily jog. Fuel up at a coconut water cart before spending a few minutes at Jogger’s Park nearby, where yogis, runners, lolling families and laughter clubs shoot the breeze. Carter Road.
Salt Water’s sangria weekend deals are the best (happy hours last eight hours!), but the classy, laid-back European café is a fine way to kick-start the morning. The eggs are exceptional—order the choriz eggs, or the salmon hollandaise—but they also have a selection of healthy bowls, indulgent pancakes, and fruit-veggie juices. Tuck in, and then linger over a French press of single-origin coffee; the café is particularly great for people-watching, with its loyal clutch of models, TV and film stars, and well-dressed yuppies. Bandra Reclamation. See the website.
Antisocial may be in the neighbouring suburb of Khar, but it’s the biggest nightlife lure for miles. The underground venue programmes live music gigs of everything from metal to hip hop, but to really get in the swing, turn up for groovy EDM gigs and Grime Riot Disco night, which fuels sweaty dance marathons with disco and reggae music, and cheap alcohol. Wander into its large basement to lose yourself in a swaying, nattily dressed crowd. 5th Road. See the Facebook page.
Located in a pretty bungalow on Chimbai Road, On My Own (OMO) is a funky ethnic wear store that has been a steady fixture in Bandra for two decades. Stop by for colourful skirts, kurtas, saris, and pants in Indian prints and fun cuts. Bright kidswear, knick knacks and bed linen are also stocked. See the Facebook page here. Chimbai Road.
The Mumbai outpost of this decades-old Delhi store has lust-worthy boho chic that fits right into contemporary Bandra. Dreamy floral prints and loose, flowing cuts rack the women’s section. There’s a strong ethnic vibe to its stock that is visible even in the essential oils and the wooden hair pins. The Shop also stocks pretty kidswear, and gorgeous if expensive crockery, home linen and jewellery. Good for souvenir shopping. Pali Naka. See the website here.
This export surplus store has long been a haven for Bandra boys. Funky printed tees, trousers and groovy flip flops for cheap. For a wider selection at slighter steeper prices, check out H20 (inside Dark Waters) down the road. Pali Naka. See the Facebook page here.
Cherry Fig may look like any one of Bandra’s army of export surplus stores, and it may be a tad costlier than usual, but the selection here is one of the best (for plus sizes, Mesh is a better option). Browse the hearty collection of pretty skirts, blouses, jackets, pants, and shorts for women. Pali Naka. Call 9987748313.
Launching in 2012 as an online bespoke tailoring company for men’s shirts, the Bombay Shirt Company now operates from a chic Bandra store. They make handsome shirts for men and women, both dressy and casual. The best part? Customise everything from the collar to the buttons. Opposite St Theresa’s High School, 24th Road. See the website.
Who said cooking had to be boring? Freedom Tree stocks crockery so pretty you can serve them straight from the oven. Soup bowls, kebab trays, supersized cups are in summery colours, decorated with Indian motifs and nature themes. The store also stocks beautiful home accessories and home linen from ikkat-printed curtains to pom-pom-edged cushions. Look out for the sale rack. 28th Road, Off Turner Road, Behind Tavaa Restaurant. See the website.
It may be inside a mall, but there’s nothing generic about the Japanese dishes served at Kofuku. Begin with jasmine tea and settle in for the sushi and sashimi platter, the cherry blossom, the prawn tempura. Lovers of pork should not miss the buta-no-shogayaki and the kakuni, melt-in-the-mouth pork belly cooked in a rich soy-ginger sauce. Wind down over green tea ice cream. For more of the Far East, hop over to Korean restaurant Heng Bok run by the same owners. Linking Road. See the Facebook page.
It’s cool to eat salads on a date in Bandra, particularly if you’re parked at the Bombay Salad Company. The popular eatery serves up bountiful salads that are both delicious and kind to your gut, plus there are creamy shakes and delicious desserts in case you feel like a cheat. If you can’t snag a table, take it as a sign to drop in at the salad bar’s sinful doppelganger opposite—the Bombay Waffle Co. 16th Road. See the Facebook page.
The Mumbai outpost of this Bengaluru pub is that rare eatery that serves bar nosh as good as the cocktails. Gather a bunch of friends, order all the small plates, and tank up. The music’s easy in the afternoon, and groovy retro in the evening. It’s a sure recipe for a great time. Off Linking Road. See the Facebook page.
Fancy date nights and celebrity-spotting go hand in hand at this posh and pretty eatery. Settle in an intimate corner, call for the melon sangria and the watermelon and feta salad, and linger over a thoroughly charming meal. Pali Naka. See the Facebook page.
Casual date night, low-key birthday drinks, mid-week gig, St. Patrick’s Day—Bonobo is always alive with its schmoozing crowds, foot-tapping music and lovely cocktails. Knock back their whisky cocktails. Off Linking Road. See the Facebook page.
Saumya Ancheri is the former Assistant Editor of NGT India's web team. She loves places by the sea, and travels to shift her own boundaries. She tweets as @Saumya_Ancheri.
Supriya Kantak poses as a photographer so she can travel. She is happiest at altitudes of 1,000 metres above sea level. She posts on Instagram as @routes_and_shoots.