After their evening prayers, a pious lot gravitated towards the aromas of kheema pao and spiced chicken barbeque. The sunny beats of beach music and cheerful banter could be heard from the foot of St Anne’s Church in Bandra.
A food festival was under way in the shadow of the steeple of this beautiful church tucked away in a Bandra bylane. The ‘Neighbourhood Festival’ has been a tradition of the Celebrate Bandra fest, being held in partnership with the Hindustan Times.
The premise of the event was as simple as the intention of the clusters across the stalls — food fosters community spirit. “When the festival started in 2003, they had a competition on the cleanest Bandra street. In scrambling for the grand prize, the togetherness was lost. I recommended we forsake the competition element and start a food fest; it’s a great leveller,” said Maria D’Souza.
Home-cooked food is the festival’s sole decree. “It’s like a cookout [like they have overseas]. No one in India has explored such a concept. Home-cooked food lends it all the charm,” said Aloysius D’Silva (32), a professional chef.
Sporting a multicoloured Mohawk, D’Silva toiled over a steaming spit, cooking southern style chicken barbeque and succulent pork sausages. He had brought along friends and neighbours to assist with the serving, correctly pre-empting the crazy rush at his stall.
“It’s a brilliant concept... The range of food items, from the traditional to the experimental, is very satisfying,” said Gauri Rajadhyaksha (27), a resident of Prabhadevi.
The treats included delicacies belonging to a mix of communities, of which the East Indian fare outnumbered the others. Vindaloo, fugia, pork chops, potato chops, banana cakes, cupcakes, biryani, undhyo (a Gujarati delicacy) Kolhapuri chicken, beef pan rolls and other vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare competed for attention. The price range was just as accessible (Rs 10 to Rs 70).
The festival drew eager crowds from Andheri and Colaba, making the two participating advanced locality managements — Shirley Rajan and Malla Village — rather proud. “Home-cooked food makes all the difference. Some of the recipes that get displayed are real treasures,” D’Souza said.