While most people in Mumbai lament about the space crunch, others go on to develop a modest restaurant in an area so small, it may not even count for a single room in most houses. Tucked into one of Bandra’s little by-lanes, this blink-and-you-miss-it eatery is a favourite haunt for the folks in Bandra, judging from the perpetual line of people waiting outside.
Villa Vandre (translated to Villa Bandra) is owned by Chef Aloysius D’silva and serves up food inspired by his travels spanning Europe, Mexico and Indian. I visited this quaint restaurant twice – because I couldn’t try everything I wanted to in one go. I couldn’t even do it in two!
The first time was during their Parsi Food Festival a few months ago, and the other was quite recently. I have to admit though, I found the limited-edition, single paged Parsi menu much more exciting than the usual menu!
Alas… it’s no more!
Baby blue walls, lace curtains and French doors give it a charming doll-house-like appearance. Simple, yet tastefully decorated, the restaurant is designed to evoke the nostalgic feeling of being in a villa decades ago.
While the interiors are charming, it can be uncomfortably cramped, making you feel like Gulliver eating in the Lilliput restaurant. There are around 6 tables that can seat around 15-18 people at a time, with very little space between tables and people.
I don’t exaggerate when I say that you can’t push your chair back without banging it into the chair behind you.
Given the space constraint, there is also little room for the waiters and management to move without bumping into each other and hardly any room on the table to contain your entire meal. If you’re going there to catch up with a long lost friend, expect to be shouting to each other the whole time. Being a popular spot, it is always full of people, loud conversation and laughter.
Still, there’s something very homely about Villa Vandre. It’s almost like sitting in a Parsi Aunty’s kitchen, wearing a summer dress and flip flops, taking in the delicious aromas of her cooking.
You’re almost always greeted by Chef Aloysius’s wife sitting outside, who shows guests to their seats and inspects every corner of the table for crumbs after they leave. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable and always busy, given the constant flow of people in and out of the place. They highly recommend Mutton Dhansak every chance they get – it’s apparently one of the establishment’s popular items.
You can’t help but notice the open kitchen with two chefs working at full speed behind the counter. Three would definitely be a crowd back there.
Like I said earlier, the limited edition Parsi menu was a definite win in my books! The regular one was a tad bit confusing – with a jumble of dishes on every page.
The menu brings together dishes from around the neighborhood and the world. Salads and smoothies for the health conscious, coastal specialties (for peeps like me), some Mexican food and Parsi classics feature, with sandwiches thrown in for good measure.
Being a medley of sorts, it would be interesting to know the back story behind some of the dishes, Don’t you think items like Koli-inspired prawn curry, Sri Lankan tea-infused curry, and Maria Cote would have a cool history?
It is said that the best time to visit is for breakfast. Not only is it less crowded, but the dishes are all-time favourites too – French toast, baked beans, eggs to order, pancakes and bagels are some of the items on offer. Unadventurous eaters can pick from the salads, sandwiches and pastas that didn’t really stand out.
While the Parsi and Breakfast offerings are worth the money, I found some things to be overpriced, given that there are dozens of joints in Bandra serving practically the same thing! For example, the coronation sandwich (Rs. 265) and Mexican Salad (Rs. 245) can be eaten anywhere else for at least half the cost.
Here are the dishes that I sampled:
Raspberry Lemon Soda – Refreshing! And it tasted a lot like those Poppins sweets we used to get a long time ago, but much better!
Russian Cutlets – I like finding the “comfort food” in every restaurant and in Villa Vandre, this was it! Ground chicken and vegetables mixed together, coated with potato and fried! So simple and so good! They were a delightfully delicate and melt-in-your-mouth! While it was a part of the Parsi Festival menu, it would be FABULOUS if they brought it back for good. Villa Vandre… are you listening? 🙂
Mutton Dhansak and Rice – Like most mains, this one came in a little square thali. It was my first time eating Dhansak (I know right!), and I loved it; although many who had relished Dhansak before said that this one missed the mark!) This quintessential Parsi dish had succulent mutton chunks in an aromatic, lip smacking gravy. Accompanied with brown rice and crispy wafers, it left me feeling satiated.
Lagaan Nu Stew – Again part of the Parsi Food Festival Menu, this was one tantalizing meal! An assortment of vegetables in a sweet-tangy tomato based sauce, it was a rich melange of flavours! Trust me, it tasted as good as it looks!
Grandma’s Choux Flour and Cheese Au Gratin – Strangely, this wasn’t like the other cauliflower gratins I’ve had before. The dish usually comprises of cauliflower florets baked with a cheesy sauce till golden and crispy on top and firm inside. This one had the consistency of a thick soup, sort of like baby food. In the middle were two enormous pieces of boiled cauliflower. Hmm….
Blushing Apple – There is no dessert menu. Instead, a little board on the wall indicates the desserts for the day. From flan to brownies and caramel custard to panna cotta, this is one area of the menu that was interesting. One of the desserts I found intriguing was the’Blushing Apple.’ Juicy, grated apple coated firm custard and was served chilled. I enjoyed this one – especially since it was not overly sweet!
Lagan Nu Custard – No Parsi wedding is complete without Lagan Nu Custard (or Wedding Custard)! It’s completely different in taste and texture from the Goan one! Served in a ramekin, this custard was delectable! It was super creamy, beautifully caramelized on top and garnished with nuts! Would definitely recommend it!
Overall, the experience at Villa Vandre was so-so. The place is worth a visit, at least once. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait either time for a table, but it’s a safer bet to go early and grab a seat since they don’t take reservations. You may also want to know that they don’t serve alcohol.
By the way, have a look at the vintage looking knick knacks, mis-matched jars and tea cups on the walls. Don’t take too long, though… there will be people waiting.
Price for two – Rs. 1500/- for a starter, main, dessert and cold drink each.
If you’ve visited Villa Vandre yet, I’d love to know what you think (especially if you’ve had the East Indian Sausage Chilly Fry!) AND if you’re Parsi, invite me over for Mutton Dhansak, won’t you?
Cya next time!