There’s an incomparable aroma of fresh bakes in the air. And among the festoons and thronging crowds that define Mumbai’s largely Catholic suburb of Bandra on Christmas eve, Mint went on a bakery trail.
Bakeries such as J Hearsch and Co., tucked in a corner of Hill Road in Mumbai’s Bandra area, are almost a century old. It evokes “the sweet smell of childhood, says a 90-year-old patron who did not want to be named and who has been visiting the bakery since she was a child.
Click here to view photographs of some famous bakeries in Bandra
Darryl D’monte, 66, convenor of the annual Celebrate Bandra festival, has lived in the neighbourhood all his life. He says these old bakeries are a way of life; an intrinsic part of the neighbourhood culture.
While it’s worth rejoicing that these old enterprises have stood their ground over the years, there are some that are sorely missed. “We used to turn to MacRonnell’s bakery in Hill Road for every occasion, be it a wedding, communion or Christmas,” he says of the bakery that shut shop around 25 years ago.
With some lament, D’monte says that the new cake shops have pushed some of the older ones off the margin. “Even though the newer ones have a lesser turnover than the old bakeries, they work because of the high profit margins. They cater to upmarket clients and have made a trip to the bakery a privileged amenity,” he says, while “earlier, bakeries were for everyone”.
So although D’monte does frequent some new cake shops such as Birdy’s and Croissants, he prefers the charm of the old. “I still like going to A-1 bakery and choosing between the ‘kadak pav’ and ‘naram pav’ (two kinds of breads) ,” he says. “It’s always a tough call.”
Photographs by Debasis Mandal / Mint