Byculla Zoo is home to seven Humboldt penguins, of which six have paired up, leaving behind a lone ranger, Bubble. A short distance away, another lone penguin vies for attention. This one, however, sports a jaunty hat and is made of chocolate, honey and milk. The Boarding School Shake is a popsicle with flavours familiar to those who drank tall glasses of chocolate milk for breakfast before school. It is also exactly what the Bombay Sweet Shop (BSS) aims to be: a tribute to the past, but reinterpreted.
The new venture from Hunger Inc Hospitality’s co-founders Yash Bhanage and Sameer Seth, and chef Floyd Cardoz — who reimagined Indian food at The Bombay Canteen (TBC) and Goan food at O Pedro — aims to recreate the magic of Indian mithai in a way that’s familiar, accessible and fun. “The idea was born in October 2016, when Yash was travelling to the US, wondering what gifts he could carry that were quintessentially Indian. His ‘aha’ moment happened at Istanbul airport when he saw the Turkish Delight shops and the experience they create around sweets. It triggered a conversation about looking at Indian sweets with that same lens,” says Seth. Thus began two years of research into creating an ‘experience’ around Indian mithai.
Getting chikki with it
The shop is no ordinary mithai place. It is a mithai factory, divided into a Mithai Bar, with a gifting counter, and a café serving street snacks and Indian drinks (the liquor license is yet to come). There are different stations for hot and cold sweets, an open kitchen, and a storage room.
You can watch the sweets being prepared in the kitchen, beyond a glass window proclaiming ‘Hello from the Halwai side’. At the chikki counter, you can customise your own and get it in eight minutes. If you’ve had a surfeit of sweet, counter it with a fizzy banta soda. Or take some time out to click photos at the statement wall, with its laddoo-stealing monkeys gathered around a mithaiwala making jalebis; the sweet isn’t on the menu yet.
Touch of spice
- The café is a tribute to all things street. There is a Burmese Bell (₹225) with noodles tossed in a chilli chutney, an Avocado Papeda Chat (₹295) with millets, and for refreshments, a Clarified Masala Iced Tea (₹160).
Months of research and trials have gone into each sweet — visiting halwais across the country, learning to recreate recipes (often made without any measurements) and discovering lost ones. And much like their offerings at The Bombay Canteen and O Pedro, the food is experimental and delicious; it is also vegetarian. “If you decide on mithai as an experience, it starts with the products. We have a little bit of the traditional, with a twist, and we also have things that are completely new,” says Seth.
Some could polarise people’s opinions. For purists, they have favourites like motichoor laddoo, pedas and kaju katli (served as halves or ‘cutting katlis’). Elsewhere, kaju katli becomes Kaju Bon Bons, coated in chocolate and filled with salted caramel; motichoor laddoo gets spiked with rum and dark chocolate; and patissa turns into delicate Coconut Caramel Patissa Fingers with layers of peppery caramel and coconut. Everyone’s favourite gola is a popsicle with flavours like Anglo Indian (caramel custard, rum and vanilla). Even crispy ghevar becomes a tart in Mamma Mukherjee’s Tiramisu Ghevar Tart, layered with rasgulla and topped with mascarpone.
Boxes and honeycombs
“We’ve stayed true to the way mithai is traditionally made, but presented it in a different light. When you close your eyes and eat it, you know what it is, but when you look at it, it is different,” says Cardoz.
BSS’ sweet treats will be available online and at the partner restaurants. But the full magic is on offer at Byculla, where, with architect Shonna Puree Trepan, they’ve created a space that focusses on the nostalgia associated with sweets. The décor includes bumblebees on the floor, weights moulded into tables, rose and pista colours, geometry displayed through honeycombs and diamonds, and concession stalls inspired by those found in single-screen theatres. They also have a Rani Baugh collection inspired by the zoo.
It has taken the team two years to put together this ‘labour of love’. “It’s like an elephant… been in labour for that long,” concludes Cardoz.
The Bombay Sweet Shop in Byculla East is open all week, 11 am to 9 pm. Details: bombaysweetshop.com/022 49696677