When we go to Bombay, we always go to Bademiya. Maybe on the first night we arrive. I’m not sure why, but it helps take the edge off the jet-lag. Some may well argue that there are better grills in Amritsar and Lahore. A few others may point to Ayub’s or Baghdadi’s. But for sheer Bombay tastiness, fun and atmosphere, you can’t beat Bademiya.
It is located behind the sumptuous Taj Hotel and close to the Gateway of India on the tip of South Bombay. By day this road sleeps. However, from early evening, the atmosphere changes. Yellow streetlamps and shop-front neon illuminate the street and Bademiya Alley comes alive until the small hours.
Tables are crammed together on the uneven pavement, though there isn’t a spare seat to be seen. The delicious aroma from the sizzling grill floats over the crowd. BMWs and Toyotas jostle for space at either end of the street, people eating from the plates on their bonnets. Harried waiters rush around taking orders while delivering plates piled with searing hot sheekh kababs. Everyone knows Bademiya for its amazing grilled food.
The only time Bademiya has ever closed up, is for the forty-eight hours after posh Bombay was held hostage by terrorists at the Taj hotel in 2008. But it was quickly back to business as usual. Regulars have included the actor Amitabh Bachchan, the famous artist MF Husain plus almost all of the kitchen staff at the nearby Taj hotel (some of whom will be in the Dishoom kitchen). Hilary Clinton allegedly wanted to visit Bademiya but her security detail didn’t let her.
The kitchen is no more than a stall on the pavement around the flaming grill. However, it is world-famous for its succulent sheekh kababs, feisty lamb chops and juicy paneer, all served straight off the grill with amazing speed. To the side, a tireless man wearing a chef’s hat stands beside a hot round dome. He tosses dough into the air, catches it, stretches it over the dome, and pulls a light and delicious roomali roti off the dome onto a serving plate. His hands are a blur as they move, making these ‘handkerchief’ breads.
Bademiya opened for business in 1940 (when Gandhiji was still busy persuading the British to leave India) by a 17 year old immigrant to Bombay, Mohammed Yaseen, with 20 rupees in his pocket. People say that when he grew a beard, regulars started calling him Bademiya, which means ‘old man’ or ‘elder’. Over the years his much-loved grill has become a Bombay institution. And a Dishoom inspiration.
The Bacon Naan Roll has something of a cult following; it must surely be our signature breakfast dish. The freshly cooked naan is graced with a little cream cheese, tomato-chilli jam and fresh coriander, and wrapped around a few rashers of smoked streaked bacon from top supplier Ramsay of Carluke.
There are many varieties of Chai. The kind we make at Dishoom is the sort of spicy, sweet chai you will find at Bombay's innumerable tapris (street stalls), normally poured with great dexterity and skill from arm's length into a small, stout glass. The powerful concoction of milk, sugar and caffeine is what keeps the city running.
We began working with the Akshaya Patra Foundation in 2015, supporting them in their goal of ending hunger as a barrier to education in India. Over the years, we’ve developed lasting friendships with the incredible team and had the sincere privilege of visiting many of the schools and communities they serve in India. Last month, we celebrated reaching the milestone of donating 10 million meals to hungry children with Magic Breakfast and Akshaya Patra through our meal for a meal partnership. Akshaya Patra’s CEO and Trustee, Bhawani Singh Shekhawat, kindly took the time to reflect on the impact of the foundation’s life-changing work.
We began working with Magic Breakfast in 2015, supporting them in their goal of ending hunger as a barrier to education in the UK. Over the years, we’ve developed lasting and loyal friendships with the incredible team and their partner schools. This month, we celebrate reaching the milestone of donating 10 million meals to hungry children in partnership with Magic Breakfast and Akshaya Patra. Magic Breakfast’s Head of Schools, Rachael Anderson, has kindly taken the time to reflect on the last six years of our work together, as well as sharing her thoughts on the profound impact the past twelve months have had.