Yogakarma

about Chimbai Rd, Bandra West, Mumbai

Just as you the corner from St. Andrews, just where the road - after a brief, tantalising view of the sea - reverts to narrow bylanes, is a small pastel and white slice that you could miss if the corner of your eye wasn't paying attention. This is Yoga House, technically not really a house at all, carved out from the side of what must once have been a pretty Bandra bungalow, now covered with utilitarian extensions and matchbox windows that sinks with ease into the unplanned mishmash of Chimbhai road.

Yoga House (next door to the late lamented Serpis) does much with its space. A white wooden porch, some coats of paint and a few flowers have persuaded this corner back into something resembling the Bandra of yore. Its focus, as the name suggests, is yoga but the few white chairs and pastel cushions on its porch signal its intention to be more than just a roomful of mats; it is also a very pleasant cafe. The slatted wood lets sunlight in strips and slices, the pastel green walls make rustic virtue of the rough plastering, cleansmelling airycotton women provide the cool chic of an upmarket yogi's life.

For all its yogic attachments, the menu does not insist on being healthy all the time. Plenty of options involve cheese - but organic is everywhere and meats nowhere. Healthy hints like toning, detoxifying or alkalizing buzz liberally about the pure vegetarian menu, built on soup, salad, sandwich, juice all worded eccentrically in first person moods; an aubergine sandwich is "I Am Daring" while the cheddar-loaded Somerset Tartine signals "I Am English".

I've been around the menu a couple of times, and most things are at the minimum pleasant, great ingredients minimally fussed about, tested combinations rather than haute stuff. Healthfad staples like quinoa and buckwheat abound, but the food tastes great even if you're not trying to save yourself from dying. There are a few standouts - the Mykonos Tartine soaked in liquid feta cheese, the Mediterranean salad with a wonderful sesame dressing and not a wilted lettuce, the khullar masala chais competing with the very best of roadside.

The nicest part of the Yoga House Cafe is the cool, languorous, encouraging cheeriness to come and while away time in a neighbourhood that - watched over by the very elegant St. Andrews Church - should have been quaint and picturesque but has over the years faded into chaotic and crowded. Sitting in Yoga House, sipping from a khullar and munching at those perfectly unwilted salad greens, it is easy to imagine Bandra as it should be.

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