A1 Bakery has been around since the 1950s, and like many things from the 1950s there’s plenty about it that would be considered unacceptable in today’s PC, elitist, health and sanitation conscious world. The place around the stall is covered in flies, the one table they do have is covered in flies, I think I might have swallowed one or two flies just while I was placing my order, and it’s always wet no matter the season. But when you look past the discrepancies in cleanliness you’ll see what I see; one of the great bakeries of old Bombay; don’t get me wrong, as bad as it can be on the outside, they manage to keep the food insanely clean.
The food is amazing; it’s amazing enough to help this little stall hold its own for sixty years against a place like the American Express Bakery, which is so quaint it would have been overrun by hipsters if it wasn’t also so unimaginably boring. And while I don’t think A1’s pastries could ever stand up to American Express’s, when it comes to pav, rolls and patties, there’s absolutely no competition. It’s also unbelievably cheap, especially for a place in the heart of Bandra; a suburb so snobbishly rich they sell Lattes at McDonalds.
It might not be the fanciest bakery on the block, it certainly isn’t the best looking, it doesn’t have the most chairs and always seems to be crowded no matter what time of the day you show up, but nobody, not even a self loathing, single since 2013, cynic like myself could ever deny that they’re brilliant at what they do.
1) Mutton Patties
A1’s mutton patties are the stuff of legends. They’re crisp to the point of being brittle and for 18 bucks you get a quite a bit of mutton not just someone else’s leftover scraps like you deserve. The bread is perfect, as all the bread at A1 is, and just three are enough to fill up even the most determined foodie. You could conceivably have an entire meal at A1 for just Rs.54. That’s right; I’m a writer who knows maths. Call me, ladies.
2) Chicken Pan Roll
The chicken pan roll is arguably my favourite thing, in life. It’s the one thing that put A1 on the map, and if it isn’t it really should be. Everything at A1 is excellent, but the pan rolls are beyond just that, they’re something greater. The roll itself is thin and sweetish and stuffed with some of the finest chicken kheema I’ve ever tasted. It’s a bit on the spicy side, but even people who don’t like spicy food because they’re horrible human beings will find it scrumptious.
3) Chicken Nugget Stick
The chicken nugget stick looks a lot like a sheek kebab, but it’s a lot more akin to chicken satay, like most of the items at A1, it’s spicy, but barely. The flavour that really stands out is the lingering taste of peanut. An Indonesian street food would seem like a strange addition to a Bakery in Bandra, but I’m glad they did it anyway.
4) Mawa Cake
A1 has some really nice desserts, but we only had the blood sugar levels to try out one of them, and it looks like we made the right choice. A1’s Mawa Cakes taste like milk. I could take a hundred words more to describe it, but that’s exactly what it tastes like. And while Mawa Cake is generally more popular at Parsi and Irani cafes (its name is derived from a mix of the words “Milk” and “Bawa”) A1 has one of the best Mawa cakes I’ve had to date. It could have been a bit less oily, but when did a little oil ever hurt anyone?
If you’re not from Bandra, you might not be too familiar with A1, in which case you really need to go there. If you live in Bandra, or pretend to live in Bandra like I do, you’ve probably tried A1 already, in which case you should go there again. If it’s good enough for 81 year old Catholic ladies, you’re damn well sure it’s good enough for you.