Gourmet grub from a bygone era
Not many restaurants can boast of recipes that date back to the 19th century. The Royal Bombay Yacht Club serves Anglo-Indian and British dishes, which have been on their menu, since the club opened in 1842
Royal Bombay Yacht Club
When I was invited to visit the Royal Bombay Yacht Club (RBYC), it was an offer hard to resist. Last week, on a hot and humid Tuesday, I walked into the 168-year-old club, which follows a naval tradition and was once meant for senior British civil servants and British armed forces officers.
A Cook brushes egg yolk on steak and kidney pie so that it gets a golden brown crust after baking. Pics/Bipin Kokate
Rumour has it, that Mr Lipton, of Lipton Tea Company was refused membership because of his trader status. This all-whites club saw its first Indian members in mid 50s. The British built such clubs as a stopover after work and for a few hours of bonhomie with their male friends before they went home to their wives and children.
A table set with silverware in British style at Royal Bombay Yacht Club
The menu was created to cater to the British, who found it hard to adapt to the Indian cuisine. “This gave rise to British-Indian cuisine, a blend of Indian and British food. For example, the Mulligatawny soup has rice and lentils, or the mutton ball curry, are all inspired from the two cuisines,” Ardhendu Bose, the President of the RBYC explained.
The recipes, too, are 100 years old, handed down to the present cooks through word of mouth. “The wives of the members taught the dishes to the cooks. ‘Kedgerie’ was an adaptation of the Khichdi, Bose added. Interestingly, caramel custard is often referred to a ‘dak bungalow’ pudding — mainly because the khansamas at the old Dak Bungalows during the Raj days made it to perfection — again taught to them by the British Memsahibs.
The set menu
From the set menu, I chose the Almond Soup, Mushroom Casserole and Mix Veg Pie for mains and the Hot Ginger Pudding with Custard Sauce for dessert. “Time doesn’t matter here. You cannot hurry the order, as everything is prepared fresh,” Neel Dalal, the vice president of RBYC said, as he showed me around the bar, which is made with knick knacks of ship parts. While there are barrels to sit on, the steering wheel make for tables.
While the food was being prepared, we dug into Sesame Toast, Angels on Horse Back (prawns covered in bacon), and deviled eggs, which are topped with a melt-in-the-mouth cheesy mousse. Sitting in the armchair, which is probably a century old, I was careful not to leave a scratch as I placed my hand on its arm rest carefully. We moved to one of the dining tables as the serve informed us that our food was ready.
The Almond Soup was creamy, nutty and had the right amount of butter to enliven the palate. The mushrooms were sautéed in a tangy sauce and this combination with rice was flavourful. The pie had a crumbly cover, and vegetables cooked in an excellent pepper sauce. A fellow non-vegetarian-turned-vegetarian announced that it was as good as the mutton version.
While I was bursting at the seams, the Hot Ginger Cake with Custard Sauce made the thought of going back to work unbearable. I was tempted to take a nap at the Siesta Room filled with Easy Chairs to put your feet up and nap. This time travel had left me with a beautiful glimpse of an older Bombay, much slower in pace.
Steak and Kidney Pie
>> 2 kidneys
>> 100 gm beef undercuts
>> 1 inch of leek
>> 4 gm mustard
>> 250 g flour
>> 1 tbsp demiglaze powder
>> 1 glass of red wine
>> 55 gm butter
>> 1 stick celery
>> 20 gm margerine
>> Black pepper and salt to taste
>> 1 chicken breast
>> 25 g boneless chicken
>> 250 g mushroom, cubed
>> 250 g leek, cubed
>> 2 egg yolks
>> Brown sauce as mentioned in steak and kidney pie recipe
>> 4 g mustard
>> 50 g butter
>> Salt, pepper to taste
>> Beat the chicken breast and flatten it out. Keep aside
>> In a pan, add butter, salt, pepper, mustard and sauté the leek, mushroom and boneless chicken till the consistency is dry. Keep aside
>> Spread the above mixture on the flattened chicken breast and roll it up
>> Glaze with a layer of egg yolk and make at 185 °C
>> Serve with brown sauce
Dhansak Wednesdays at Ripon Club
Beads of sweat dotted my brow as I dodged groups of working professionals, tourists and revellers on MG Road at Fountain. I stopped at NM Wadia Building, under an old board that reads ‘Ripon Club, 3rd and 4th floor’. The lift, ancient-looking and rickety, stopped on the third floor, and for the next hour, time came to a halt. In the long hall were easy chairs and sofas covered in brown leather with dark, polished legs, walls decorated with book shelves and tables and chairs set for lunch. “This place has been like this since I first became a member, 50 years ago,” my host told me.
(Left) Shernaz and Tehmtan Dumasia of K Caterers. (Right) Lunch hour at Ripon Club
The Ripon Club was founded by Sir Phirozeshah Mervanji Mehta, along with Jamshedji Tata and Sir Dinshaw Manackjee Petit, after he was not allowed to use the main entrance of the Byculla Club, during the British rule. “Thus, he decided to open Ripon Club for the Parsis. The club was named after his close acquaintance, Lord Ripon, British Governor General, who was allowed to visit he club only as a guest,” said Chairman of Ripon Club, Xerxes Dastur.
Mutton Dhansak buffet. Pics/Phorum Dalal
While they serve a set menu for its members every day, Wednesday is Dhansak Day at this 130-year-old club that has never had a non-Parsi member. For the past eight years, Tehmtan Dumasia and his wife Shernaz of K Caterers run the kitchen here, and their Dhansak has earned the title of the ‘best dhansak in Mumbai’. The Mutton meatballs, the daal and saak is placed in big serving pans, and is served unlimited. Vegetarian was provided on request, which is a rare order, I was told. Dumasia shares the recipe of his famous Dhansak:
Dumasia also takes party orders.
>> 500 gm tur daal
>> 1 cup fried pumpkin
>> 2 onions, chopped
>> 1 cup methi leaves
>> 2 tbsp tamarind concentrate
>> 2 tbsp coriander leaves
>> 2 tbsp chopped mint
One can add chicken or mutton to the dhansak as per preference
For wet masala
>> 2 inch cinnamon stick
>> 4 cardamom pods
>> 5 cloves
>> 2 tsp cumin seeds
>> 10 black peppercorns
>> 1 tbsp coriander seeds
>> 8 dried red chillies
>> 1 tbsp chopped ginger
>> 8 cloves garlic
>> 1 cup fresh coriander leaves
For dry masala
>> 3 cardamom pods
>> 3 cloves
>> 1 tbsp cumin seeds
>> 2 red chillies
>> 2 tbsp methi leaves
>> 1 tsp tumeric powder
>> Black pepper powdered to taste
>> 1 tsp Pudina
>> 2 tsp dhansak masala
>> 1 Dhana jeeru powder
For the rice
>> 500 gm boiled rice
>> 1 tsp Sugar
>> Salt to taste
>> 2 tej patta
>> ½ tsp jeera
>> ½ tsp pepper corn
>> Wash the dal, mix all the ingredients for the dal and the dry ingredients
>> Add two cups of water and boil for 30 minutes
>> Cool for 10 minutes and puree in a blender
>> Prepare the wet masala by roasting the ingredients except the pepper corn in a pan for three to four minutes (stir constantly so it does not burn)
>> Remove and grind in mixer and some water to the paste, add to the dal
>> To make the brown rice, caramalise the sugar with onions and jeera
>> Add washed rice with tej patta and pepper corns and salt to taste. Stir for five minutes, along with a cup of water and cook. Serve with fried onions sprinkled on the brown rice