NAME: Manu Chandra
OCCUPATION: Executive chef at Olive Bar & Kitchen, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant
NEIGHBORHOOD: Bandra, Mumbai
I’m originally from New Delhi and only moved to Bombay [now officially named Mumbai] in 2005. I attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and then spent several years working as a cook at restaurants in Manhattan. When I got the offer to be the chef at Olive, what caught my attention right away was the energy in the Bandra neighborhood. It had the vibe I was craving. The residents tended to be young and work either in the arts or as entrepreneurs, and the pace of life was fast. Also, I’ve always loved the ocean, and I was drawn to Bandra’s setting on the Arabian Sea.
Besides being in the kitchen, my job involves lots of interaction with people: my team, suppliers, and the regulars who have come to Olive for years. The restaurant is a short walk from the sea, and when I need a breather, I escape to one of the benches along the shore and sit and daydream.
When I moved here, Bandra was still considered a suburb. It’s about an hour in traffic from Colaba, the heart of the city. The neighborhood was, and still is, a melting pot of people who come from all over the country to make it in the city. The residents moving here were looking for their big break.
Today, India is on the global map, and Bombay is the largest city, so the population continues to grow. This once affordable area has become phenomenally expensive. There are now lots of fancy high-rise buildings with rents higher than New York City’s and pricey boutiques and restaurants.
Despite this shift, Bandra has retained its charm. The Portuguese-influenced old Christian quarter, with narrow pathways and small bungalows and Jesus Christ statues, is virtually untouched, and there are still some apartments with reasonable rents. The new residents might not all have that striving, scrappy spirit, but they are a great mix of Bollywood stars and aspiring actors who are all at ease in their environment.
People from all walks of life—unknown actors, starlets, and young professionals starting their first office jobs—come to Olive to eat and party together. It doesn’t matter who you are; everyone is accepted.
Bandra is definitely one of the best walking neighborhoods in Bombay. It’s got proper sidewalks and massive walkways along the sea. I used to walk everywhere when I lived in New York, and I love that I can do it here.
My morning ritual is to stop at a great little coffee shop called Costa Coffee, order a large latte, and go for a walk along the sea before work. I usually work late, so everything is closed by the time I’m done. But if I do manage to get out early enough, I head to Bonobo, one of the local bars.
Overall, the combination of the ocean, the endless stream of new stores and restaurants, and the people make Bandra, in my mind, the only place to live in Bombay.
Photos by Chiara Gioia. This appeared in the May, 2013 issue. See all of Manu Chandra’s favorite places in the Bandra neighborhood of Mumbai.