Anand hi anand
How do three independent restaurants with identical names on one stretch of road negotiate competition? The Gaud Saraswat Brahmin owners of Mint Road's Anand Bhuvans have the answer
An investor or chef today, looking to open a restaurant, spends considerable funds on a brand marketing team to craft publicity around its unique selling proposition. Including its name. It's a practice the proprietor of New Special Anand Bhuvan on Mint Road, Fort, will balk at. Located opposite the GPO, the eatery is flanked by two establishments, both named Special Anand Bhuvan. The three have wordlessly negotiated this amusing name-game for over 30 years. Interestingly, they have nothing in common except their signboards. What binds them though, is that all three owners belong to the Konkani-speaking Gaud Saraswat Brahmin (GSB) community. Hailing from the coast of Karnataka, the GSBs are known for their delicious fish preparations, although these three establishments serve pure vegetarian fare.
Bun puri is a delectable fried snack of flour and banana
Shridhar Shenoy of New Special Anand Bhuvan, is dismissive when we quiz him about the name. It has never occurred as odd to him, neither has it eaten into his business. This, despite a Google search throwing up a common number for New Special Anand Bhuvan and Special Anand Bhuvan on 26, Mint Road. "Yes, I do receive calls for orders that are meant for my neighbour," he admits. "I make it a point to direct the caller to the right number." Like us, curious guests ask Shenoy about the similarity, and his narration now runs on autopilot.
Shridhar Shenoy of New Special Anand Bhuvan says his grandfather moved to Mumbai from Mangaluru, and began his career by clearing tables. His first job was at the erstwhile Kelkar Hotel at CSMT. Pics/Atul Kamble
"We may not be friends, but we share a cordial relationship," says Shenoy about the other owners. Anant Hegdekar, owner of Special Anand Bhuvan, agrees. "We don't compete. In fact, Vishal Shenoy, who runs the other Special Anand Bhuvan on 13, Mint Road, makes it a point to greet me every morning on his way to the restaurant." Our attempt to chat with Vishal is unsuccessful. "We like to remain low profile," is all he says.
Anand Hegdekar, owner, Special Anand Bhuvan on 26, Mint Road, says the owners don't compete, are cordial to each other, and respectful of the other's business
Back at Shenoy's restaurant, the conversation veers to how the restaurant got its name. It is part of family folklore, he says. "While the British ruled India, Indians were barred from accessing certain public spaces. My grandfather, Madhav Shenoy, came from a family of freedom fighters, and wanted to create a safe sanctuary for the locals in Mumbai. Hence, the name Anand Bhuvan, place of happiness," explains Shenoy, who joined the business in 1983. His grandfather moved to Mumbai from Mangaluru, and like so many hospitality entrepreneurs from the coastal city, began his career by clearing tables. His first job was at the erstwhile Kelkar Hotel at CSMT. New Special Anand Bhuvan, established in 1942, was one of the first restaurants he set up. Its success inspired Sr Shenoy to launch 11 more, from Reay Road all the way to Palghar.
Since his induction, Shenoy has tried to introduce changes to the menu to keep up with changing times. Along with staple breakfast dishes such as idli, dosa, uttapam and sheera, he also offers Chinese and Punjabi eats and fast food. The place is popular for its thalis, which are priced reasonably. The South Indian thali includes a portion of rice, rasam, potato bhaji, patal (gravy) bhaji, suka (dry) bhaji, dal, dahi and four puris (R75).
Special Anand Bhuvan owned by Vishal Shenoy on 13, Mint Road
In its heydays, Shenoy's hub would see patrons bond over cups of tea and bun puri, their sweet, fluffy snack made with all purpose flour and banana. It continues to be a "fast-moving item". At both restaurants, it's the traditional Mangalorean snacks that do well. Goli baje or deep-fried maida balls that are soft and spongy from the inside while crisp outside, are a hit. "These are prepared using flour, curd and a few spices of choice. All ingredients are mixed together, fermented for a few hours and deep fried in oil," says Shenoy.
According to Hegde, long before the Bunt community of coastal Karnataka monopolised the mid-level Udipis in Mumbai, it was the GSB hoteliers who ruled Mumbai hospitality. "This space was purchased by my father in 1936. At the time, there were five restaurants with the same name, owned by a certain Mr Kamat." A lot has changed since. Hegdekar's restaurant is fairly empty on the Friday evening we drop in. The scene is no different at Shenoy's. We attribute the down day to the public holiday, but Hegdekar says the restaurant doesn't see crowds on a working day either. "We used to see great business, but after Mumbai Port Trust (MPT) moved to Nhava Sheva, we lost a chunk of our patrons. These days, Mint Road is unsettlingly silent throughout the day. We are in the soup," he admits.
Amid the grimness, there's a ray of hope. The eateries are often frequented by foreign tourists and those who sign up for Mumbai darshan tours. Shenoy recalls a Romanian guest who made the restaurant her pit-stop during a week-long visit to Mumbai. "Her daughter started having tummy trouble during their visit. So, I introduced them to idli, and they fell in love with it. That's all they ate every day for the rest of their trip here," he laughs.
What to try
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