In July, Eater London reported that Dabbawala would open on the former Hibiscus site on Maddox Street in Mayfair. The operator, Samyukta Nair, has confirmed that the restaurant — with a Mumbai street food menu — will open this month. Today Eater learnt — via a new website set up by the company — that the restaurant has changed its name: it will now be called Bombay Bustle. The reason given was that another UK restaurant shares a similar name, presumably Dabbawal in Newcastle upon Tyne, which opened nine years ago.
Nair said in a statement this morning that the restaurant would reflect the vibrant metropolis of her hometown: “[It] is as much Mumbai as it is old world Bombay with the turn of every street corner.” Bombay Bustle will be an “ode to the home-cooked flavours of the city.”
Dabbawala is the name given to the Indian tiffin lunchbox (dabbas) delivery and return system that provides hot lunches from homes and restaurants to the workplace, particularly in Mumbai. Dabbawalas are the men who delivered those lunches via the rail network; the restaurant’s design will reference the first class carriages of Indian railway. Dabbas are transported to their recipient through a complex route of local trains, hand carts and bicycles — each is marked with a unique code. In London, they will be brought to the table and unpacked to reveal curries, breads and rice inside.
Rohit Ghai, formerly of Gymkhana and Jamavar’s executive chef, is in charge of the kitchen and will serve food from Mumbai and western Indian, using family recipes he’s inherited from his mother.
The menu will include: misal pav topped with potato salli, a lentil curry with crunchy toppings; a biryani-style sea bass and scallop tawa pulao (rice and vegetables); Kolhapuri-spiced whole spit-roasted chicken; a Kerala-style lamb ‘ishtew’ stew served with idiyappam (string hoppers) and toasted desiccated coconut. Ghai says the restaurant “will capture the essence of Mumbai, our love of home comforts alongside our rapid pace of life, both existing side by side...a place just as well suited to a leisurely dinner with friends as a quick lunch for one.”
Of the opening, Nair said: “Mumbai is a city built on traditions, filled by an endless influx of dreamers, working professionals, and those seeking their fame and fortune; a true melting pot. In one moment you can be in old-world Bombay and the turn of a street corner will thrust you into an urban amalgamation. In this complex, bustling metropolis, the Dabbawalas are a constant, bridging the distance between work and home, between different cultures and diverse regional cuisines, with their near-clockwork precision, and we hope to bring the same ethos to London.”