Bandra is the epicentre of all Christmas activities in the city, and anybody who’s lived here long enough knows it. A walk through the neighbourhood in itself is like walking along a timeline of the rise of Christianity in the region, what with crosses dating back to the 18th Century and Churches finding ground from the early 16th Century. Bandra’s large catholic population dates back to the time when the Portuguese were in India. Originally a collection of 24 villages, the Portuguese got these people to convert to Catholicism around the 16th and 17th Century, and the British then took over. The rest, as we know, is history.
While colonialism found it’s way out of the nation, the deep rooted traditions have made their homes in the tiniest of corners. From stars lighting up tiny by lanes, Christmas trees speckled with cotton peaking out of balconies, and aunties shouting about the rise in pork prices every year - what men - it’s Christmas in Bandra, that’s for sure. This year, we’re letting you in on the festivities in our hood, and this HG Quintessential Guide to Christmas in Bandra is the best present you’re getting this season.
The way to the Homegrown heart is through the stomach - ask anyone who knows us. Make sure to have your stretchy sweatpants at the ready, you’re going to need them.
If you haven’t figured out dessert for Christmas day, The Baker’s Dozen has got you sorted. They’ve gone overboard this year with all their festive goodies, and coming in highly recommended are the Christmas tree shaped plum cakes, Lemon loaf with Honey and their Carrot Walnut cake.
II. Mav’s Cakes and Bakes
Where: 89, Waroda Rd, Ranwar, Bandra West
This quaint little bakery has one of the most extensive Christmas menus we’ve seen. They’ve got Gingerbread houses (the ones dreams are made of), fruit mince pies, sticky toffee pudding, mulled wine jelly sweets (this is real), and salted caramel fudge. Usual suspects are ever present, such as the plum cakes, Christmas cookies, marzipan, and rum balls. For those looking for a savoury feast, Mav’s has got stuffed turkey with cranberry sauce and potatoes, sausages and apple stuffed pork roast, sticky pork ribs and smoked leg of ham with a fig and orange glaze. This is what Christmas tastes like. For more information, check out their Facebook page here.
Where: Plot No 87, Villa Sushma, Hill Road, Bandra West
This iconic bakery is the only one in the neighbourhood to have a Chocolate Hazelnut Babka (a sweet polish dessert bread), and Stollen bread (a German-style holiday bread with a rope of homemade marzipan running through the loaf dotted with raisins, candied orange and an adequate splash of rum). With a whole new decor just in time for Christmas, the bakery also has a classic steak-and-kidney pie, mince pies and Guava cheese (the most confusing thing we’ve ever tried. NOTE: This is not the cheese you have been born to know and love - but try it if you’re adventurous).
IV. A Saluti
Where: Shop No 1, Shahina Apartment, Pali Mala Road, Bandra West
For all those braving the feat of cooking the traditional Christmas dinner, this gourmet store in Bandra can get you the perfect suckling pig on order. Depending on the size, it should cost anywhere between INR 1700-1800 per kg. In store, they have plenty turkey, duck, pork ribs and ham as alternatives for the glorious meal. They’ve even got a wide selection of cheese that could be paired with the meal.
V. It Happened In New York
Where: Building 68, Chapel Road, Behind Lilavati Hospital, Reclamation, Bandra West
These guys have taken Christmas grub to a whole new level with two special menus, one for Christmas Eve and the other for Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, they’ve got Winter Pea Veloute with Chilli Oil and Basil Pesto Croute, Spiced Pumpkin and Ricotta Ravioli and Roasted Turkey Roulade with asparagus, mushroom-potato torte and cranberry chutney. On Christmas Day, be prepared for a feast of Maple-roasted butternut squash soup with herbed cream cheese, Winter pea and mint tortellini, Winter vegetables with shaved fennel salad, Steak & Stout Pie and Roasted Turkey Roulade. On both days, you’ll have Christmas Pudding and Mulled Wine by the gallon - this is what we’re talking about!
VI. One Street Over
Where: 809, 35th Road, Khar West
We know this isn’t technically Bandra, but you’ll know why we’ve put this on the list. If alcohol is what you wanted for Christmas, One Street Over is Santa’s present to you. They’ve got Apple ginger toddy, Holiday Sangria, Chocolate Eggnog, and Holiday Bubbles to name a few - and we’re not recommending just one. Drink them all - It’s Christmas!
Where: 59, Eureka’s, Opposite St Joseph Convent, Hill Road, Bandra West
This tiny spot on Hill Road has star shaped plum cakes, rich plum cakes, classic Marzipan and chocolate fudge. The star of this show, however, are the Jujups. They come in every shape, size and colour you could possibly imagine and are an instant ticket to reliving your childhood. They’ve even got marshmallows - toast them a little, imagine that it’s cold outside and you have yourself a christmas from the movies.
VIII. Poetry by Love and Cheesecake
Where: Pali Darshan, 33rd road, Opp Mini Punjab, Bandra West
These guys have the perfect blend between tradition, and novelty. First up, their BÛCHE De NOËL - a log-shaped beauty made with alternating Belgian Chocolate Mousse, cake, and a hint of cherry. We’re also loving their Santa’s Sock Cake, which is a chocolate cake layered with truffle and nougatine. If you’re looking to gift, their family hamper looks amazing - it’s filed with nutty mendiant chocolates, macarons, marzipan candies, french biscuit clusters, Christmas plum cake, and Belgian chocolate dipped breadsticks.
Where: 199, 4th Floor, VN Sphere Mall, Linking Road, Bandra West
We’ve already established that Christmas is the time to drink, and almost nobody does Christmas cocktails like Escobar. There are three drinks on this special menu that have bowled us over. The ‘Snowball’ is a frozen wonder filled with tequila, cinnamon syrup and whipped cream and served in a Margarita glass. If this is too sweet for your taste, the ‘Red Hot Santa Tini’ - is a red drink made with Vodka, guava juice, Worcestershire sauce and red chilli. Finally, top it all off with the ‘Santa Shot’ - Bacardi, vodka, peach schnapps and grenadine syrup - a Christmas delight unlike no other.
We want to say we scoured the length and breadth of the neighbourhood - but we didn’t have to because Hill Road is, and always has been, the one stop destination for all things Christmas. We did our rounds, and we have a breakdown of what to get from where.
Starting from the very end of Hill Road, 7 & Seven has glorious Santa Suits in all sizes, wreaths for decoration, and a very large selection of stockings to choose from. But what grabbed our attention was a bright and shiny life sized Snowman that really is enough to light up anyone’s life. He comes in at a whooping INR 14,000. We backed away from the Snowman.
7 Star (What’s this obsession with Stars and shop names?) we found Reindeer horns that make for the perfect stocking stuffing, decorations of every kind you could ever imagine (gingerbread men and women, angels in all their glory, and elements for your very own nativity scene). The best part of this store however, are the miniature Santa Claus’s that serenade you as you walk by with pre recorded carols. We simply had to have one!
Hill Corner is on this list because it has more stars than the night’s sky. From every cascading colour to every size - Stars were coming at us from every angle. If you still need a star, there is no place better than here. The other stand out at this store for us were their “Mrs Claus” costumes for the ladies - young and old. We didnt see many stores with these in particular, so all the Santini’s out there - this is the store. For all those gifts that still need wrapping, Mota’s Party Kingdom had over 23 types of Christmas wrapping paper for you to choose from, and it really is the small things that make it all come together.
Raave is a christmas pop up store that comes alive a month before Christmas on Hill road. The store is known for their Christmas Trees as they have over 10 varieties starting at 4 ft going all the way up to 15 ft. The cost of these trees starts at INR 2,800 depending on the height and variety you pick. They also have more than 400 decorations - all imported and the kind that last until next Christmas. You can check out all their product on their website here.
Stepping away from Hill Road, make your way to to Mount Mary for a tiny Christmas market that is especially known for their candles. You’ll find candles in every colour of the rainbow for INR 5 and INR 10 depending on the size. Stock up!
Things To Do
Christmas Eve culminates with one of the most special traditions of the Catholic faith, and that is the Midnight mass. While it’s not technically a “midnight” one in most churches, the tradition still holds good. For most, Christmas is shared with the family and friends, but Mass is a tradition that draws the whole community together and is most definitely the best way to ring Christmas in.
Mount Mary Basilica
In 1570 a simple oratory made of mud with a wooden statue of Mother Mary was placed at this location, making it one of the oldest churches in Mumbai. Mount Mary’s Midnight mass is actually held at Midnight as it is indoors - this is the only one in Bandra to still have a true midnight mass. Carols begin an hour earlier, and there are about 1500 to 2000 people who are expected to show up every year for mass. If you can make it for this one, you are in for an experience!
Mt. Carmel Church
Christmas Carols begin at 9 pm at this church, followed by Mass at 10 pm. We spoke to a parishioner, and she told us that the best part is right after mass where the whole community shares coffee and cake, and spend time together. “When everything is finished, everyone leaves at the same time and it’s amazing to watch the whole community - it’s like a full procession of people leading out, each going to their own homes - this is my most favourite part.” When we asked her if everyone was welcome to mass, she gently remined us that Jesus keeps his arms open for a reason. For people who’ve been coming here for the last 40-50 years, this is the epitome of Christmas spirit.
St. Peter’s Church
Mass here is held outdoors, and therefore commences at 10:30 pm. Carols start an hour earlier, and by the time all of it wraps up it is around midnight anyway. This Church is known for it’s Nativity scene which should be in full form by the 23rd - stop by to look at this if nothing else!
Besides being adorned by lights and stars, the streets of Bandra are home to many cribs that hold the miracle of Baby Jesus and celebrate the spirit of Christmas. We recommend you go on an evening walk on the 23rd of December and cross as many of these as you can. Damian, a furniture store in Bandra, has been known to have the most extravagant window nativity scene in the neighbourhood - one that warrants visitors from every corner of the city. Damian changes the theme of their nativity scene every year, often retelling stories from our childhood. Last year, they depicted Alice in Wonderland and Gulliver’s Travels. This year, with the passing of their mother, the window display is not as extravagant as it is known to be, but most definitely the topper on our list. Read out story behind Damian’s legendary displays here.
The garden across from the Mount Mary School holds a spectacular nativity scene in the making, looking to complete with last year’s Noah’s Arc Nativity scene held in the same place. You will also find cribs at each of the churches we mentioned for mass, as well as at the base of the Mount Mary Hill and on Shirley Rajan Road (towards Rizvi College).
Roads to Walk Down When You Want To Feel The Christmas Cheer
In order to gather enough material to write this guide, there was a lot of walking involved. This is one of the few times you won’t hear us complain about it though, because the streets are really what makes it all truly feel like Christmas. We saw a 9 and a half foot star being lauded up onto a tree near Villa Vandre, complete with lights and all. It was a community effort where everyone pitched in for the star, and there was a rumble of applause when the lights went on for the first time.
The iconic ‘Peace Haven’ or ‘blue colour house near Carter road’ is magnificently decadent - lights adorn every tree and the whole house is lit up. As you walk down St. Paul road that is gleaming in it’s own reflection every 2 feet, you come by Francis Road, and this is our most favourite spot. It was a completely secluded street with lights hanging from one end to another - a true winter wonderland.
A walk down chapel road as you go toward Mt. Carmel church is a must, the whole street is lit up and this road has a number of crosses each with their own story and history. The crosses are all done up, each in a distinct style. Lastly, you cannot miss Veronica Street - this road has stars hanging all the way through and makes for the perfect walk on Christmas eve with headphones and carols - how often do you get to do this?
On the night of the 25th, head to the Bandra gym if you feel like waltzing and jiving. Their strict on the dress code (Men in Evening Suits with Cravats or Ties, and Women in formal attire), but meaner on the dance floor so make sure you’ve got your moves on fleek. Make sure to get your tickets in advance!
If you’re in the mood to party Christmas Night, these guys have quite the party going on. INR 5000 for two, and you get yourself unlimited starters, a buffet to feast from and unlimited alcohol - yep, you heard right! Make sure you call and book a spot as soon as you can. Oh and they’ve got a live band kicking things of!
We’re good but not perfect. If we’ve forgotten to mention something that needs to be on this guide, comment and let us know!
Feature Image Courtesy Karan Khosla
Research and Words: Tansha Vohra
Thank you Sabrina Young and Rhea Almeida - True Christmas Elves!