The sly smile people get when they utter the word ‘Duke’s’ used to piss me off to high heaven. The name always seemed to be followed by a chorus of people muttering enthusiastic phrases like ‘the price!’ or ‘the taste!’, the echoing praise gradually making my blood simmer up to a steamy boil. It was like they had some secret that I didn’t know about, and I swear to all things beautiful in this world I could not stand it. That is to say, until I became one of them.
Funnily enough, no Sandra from Bandra turned me onto the Chapel Road joint. It was a procession of several misplaced Goans, who sought sanctuary in the walls of Duke’s. Over the years several coastal comrades of mine have wound up living in Bandra for a bit, only to discover that the price of a good meal in that pretty part of Bombay added up to a couple days of good eating in Goa. This terrified the poor buggers. However, just like a parched Peter O’Toole discovered the oasis in Lawrence of Arabia, these hungry and wayward Goans, accustomed to a good hot meal for a fair price, discovered Duke’s.
In particular, one bud of mine found herself in a Catholic ladies hostel overflowing with disgruntled nuns serving up a few sad crumbles of scramble eggs on a single piece of undersized toast. As she explained to me, “My breakfast was pretty much one bite of bread and egg every morning.” Just as my belly rumbled in despair at this terrible news, my friend brightened up, saying, “so I just hopped along the road to Duke’s and had breakfast and lunch in one go for under a 100.”
This is an important part of Duke’s. You can eat the motherload of all meals and receive a comfortingly small receipt with a number that eases the money-stressed shoulders of the young metropolitan crowd who do not have a trust fund in their name. Youngsters aside, Duke’s always has a bunch of uncles happily munching away with their guts somehow tucked into the restaurant’s slender booths. Maybe they’re just physically incapable of squeezing themselves out from the tiny tables, but my bet is that the quality of the food is what keeps them there.
This is, of course, is the reason Duke’s is a Bandra favourite. Anyone can serve up cheap food, but cheap food that’s tasty and doesn’t turn your bum into the bottom of rocket blasting off, or make you projectile like a sloshed teen, is something to be treasured.
If you’re drunk as a skunk the noodle dishes make sense for soaking up the alcohol, but I would say sticking to the Desi dishes would be the smart move. Mutton Sukha, Mutton Palak, Keema with Egg and Pao - these are the kind of dishes that hold the place down.
The only thing I don’t appreciate about Duke’s is the quality of the parathas. They are made a bit sloppy and are far from crisp, but use them to pinch up a morsel of mutton, and you feel a bit more forgiving. So, if you like good food and aren’t prissy about where you eat it, you should swing by Duke’s.
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