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Review: Villa Vandre, Mumbai

Villa Vandre scores big for its quiet location off Perry Road

Home-made ravioli served with nutty sage butter at Villa Vandre.<br />
Home-made ravioli served with nutty sage butter at Villa Vandre.

Villa Vandre is the latest in the “tiny café" category of eateries in Bandra. It scores big for its quiet location off Perry Road and its baby-blue walls and Parisian-style décor. With seating for just 16 and no takeaway yet, it is best experienced at breakfast (from 8am-noon) or supper on a cool evening.

The good stuff

The café brings together the dishes we love and adore from different establishments in the neighbourhood—there are salads, smoothies, breakfast plates and fresh fruit juices for the health conscious who frequent Suzette and Bombay Salad Co., there are Goan specialities for fans of Soul Fry, a bit of Mexican from the chef’s stint on cruises in Mexico and tenure at casual chain Sancho’s, Parsi home-style classics, and over a dozen sandwiches and snacks for the fussiest of diners.

If you show up at rush hour, like we did for dinner on a Sunday at 8.30pm, there is no time for small talk over nibbles. Our party of four went straight to the mains listed on the menu.

The vegetarian in our group loved the Maria Cote ( 295), wheat-flour crepés stuffed with beetroot, sweet potato and parsnips, but wished the white sauce it was served with had a stronger flavour of the truffles and ricotta cheese used. She also noted that the dish was too sweet and could pass off as baby food for its mushy consistency. The Coronation Chicken Sandwich ( 225) was a table favourite, with chunky bits of well-cooked and perfectly spiced chicken cubes with a generous splodge of made-from-scratch mustard and curry leaf mayonnaise. The filling was nestled on a bed of garden greens with toasted nuts over an apple chutney spread on a house-made multigrain roll.

The Prawn Curry ( 395), served with steamed rice and kachumber, fared slightly better than the Sunday Chicken Curry ( 295), served with Parsi-style brown-rice pulao (brown from the use of caramelized onions) and pao, though both home-style gravies tasted suspiciously similar. We felt the portions, served in compartmentalized steel dishes, were just about enough for one person.

With plenty of room for dessert, we decided to celebrate Easter Sunday with a Strawberry Panna Cotta ( 160) and the Baked Cheese Cake ( 210) with blackcurrant compote. We were served complimentary chocolate cupcakes with marzipan Easter eggs too.

All the sweet treats had a comforting, homey feel. The vanilla custard in both desserts was not too sweet and was delicately offset by the berry jams. We especially loved the moist chocolate sponge of the supersized cupcake because it had the taste and smell we love in home-made cakes.

The not-so-good

As cute as the matchbox-sized place looks from the outside, it can get uncomfortably cramped inside. There is little room for the owners and staff to navigate with hot steel plates of food; the chairs and benches may be too narrow for so many adult diners; the bleached wood tables can barely hold your entire order; and you’ll be very lucky to get a seat during the breakfast, lunch and dinner rush.

While we can appreciate the thought put into designing the menu, charting chef Aloysius Dsilva’s globetrotting career, it feels like a hipsterish upgrade to Bandra’s favourite self-serve café, Candies, and its please-all spread. No doubt, the ingredients used here are far superior and everything is made fresh, but do you really want to shell out 225 for a Coronation Chicken Sandwich when you can relish several triangles of the chicken mayo sandwich at Candies for just 30 each?

Talk plastic

Expect to pay an average of 800 per head for one small side or salad, one main course, one dessert and one cool drink each. Breakfast starts at 145 for Baked Beans with Toast to 295 for a spread with two eggs (with ham, sausage or bacon), hash browns, grilled tomatoes, baked beans, toast, tea or coffee and fresh juice. Sandwiches and meals for one are priced from 175 for a Mozzarella and tomato on milk bread to 395 for seafood mains. Cool drinks range from 70 for ginger ale or raspberry soda to 129 for a fresh fruit smoothie.

Villa Vandre, Mayflower Building, Ground floor, near Peace Haven bungalow, New Kantwadi Road, Bandra-West (65279009). Open from Tuesday-Sunday, 8.30am-11.30pm. For details, visit www.facebook.com/cafevillavandre

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