‘Hello from the Halwai Side!’
A sunny typographic sign demarcates a glass-walled kitchen; inside, staff sporting bright coloured T-shirts with cheeky slogans—‘Rolling in the Til’, ‘Lean on Laddoo’, ‘Don’t Stop Believing in Burfi’—is busy piping, patting and plating sweet somethings. With the newly minted Bombay Sweet Shop in Byculla, an experimental dessert-café in Byculla, the Hunger Inc team is on a mission: To make mithai sexy again.
Bombay Sweet Shop, led by pastry chef Girish Nayak, is the third brand out of the Hunger Inc stable, after The Bombay Canteen (regional Indian fare, with a twist) and O Pedro (modern Goan)—both consistently popular in Mumbai, and critically acclaimed for reimagining unexplored local cuisine. To extend that ethos into India’s enormous sweet repertoire, the Bombay Sweet Shop is positioned as a ‘Willy Wonka meets mithai’ space, with premium gifting and delivery options too.
“We’re always wondering what we can gift visitors that is intrinsically Indian,” says Yash Bhanage, founder and COO at Hunger Inc
. “We end up giving masala chai or packets of spices, and foreigners will rarely know how to cook with them. Or we gift people bottles of wine, or ‘trendy’ Western desserts in jars. It really annoys me to receive Diwali hampers with green olives in them, for instance.”
The genesis of the idea, he adds, came to him when transiting through Istanbul airport. “You see hordes of tourists lining up to take back baklava or Turkish Delight, and looking really happy with their purchases,” Bhanage says. “That’s what we want to do. As a company, we have always celebrated India, and sweets are a huge part of our culture, forgotten over time.”
So the rose-hued, sunlit Bombay Sweet Shop marries nostalgia with 2020 preferences: Think popsicles inspired by caramel custard (in shapes that pay tribute to the neighbouring Ranibagh zoo, like a penguin); a DIY chikki counter to customise live or buy in flavours including ‘funfair’, with popcorn; chewy ‘gummies’ made with smacks of saffron, orange zest and dried rose petals; or flavoured kulfi softies, freshly churned and served in waffle cones.
“We found that the important thing is that we all like sweets, but we’re no longer eating them,” says Floyd Cardoz, celebrity chef and co-founder of Hunger Inc
. “The younger generation doesn’t have the same connection with the sweets because they’re ‘too sweet’ or often, ‘too big’, as in a laddoo. They want to eat things that are playful, more modern. So we wanted to take the basic and see how we could make it look and feel different, but keep its soul intact.”
So you could bite into a refined layered dessert, but together, it would recreate the nostalgia of simple ‘malai toast’, a popular before-school snack. Or tear apart a dark chocolate-rum-coconut laddoo, created down to each individual motichoor beads to hark back to the original. The ladoos are half the regular size—since people usually only break off just a piece to eat—and the chefs have worked to balance the flavours such that the mithai menu isn’t cloying.
It isn’t all sweet either; you can offset your dessert indulgence with an avocado papdi chaat or green pea matri taco from a chaat and salad menu, and wash it down with beer or wine when the café gets its alcohol license.
“Every cuisine has to evolve,” says Cardoz. “Our environment is changing and our bodies are changing, so we can’t be stagnant. We hope the traditional mithai stores stay, because they are an important part of our fabric. But at the same time, we want to take something that’s so intrinsically good and try to contribute to making it better, place it in a fun environment, and really make it feel like a trip to the candy store. It’s the memory of that candy store visit we want you to walk away with.”
Bombay Sweet Shop is at JAK Compound, Dadoji Konddeo Cross Ln, Byculla East, or available online on www.bombaysweetshop.com, and opens doors on March 5. Prices start at Rs 50 for a single piece, or Rs 200 for a gift box; an average box of nine ladoos costs Rs 340