The banyan tree in India bears witness to practically everything that goes on. Often the place where the village meeting happens, the old, ancient and majestic tree holds a special place in our history. And while rampant urbanisation has meant we find a few of them, this new place ensures that not all is lost. There’s a spot in Mumbai that allows you to peacefully savour tasty and healthy food, under a banyan tree, nestled in its shade. You can find it in Ballard Estate’s new addition, Banyan Tree Cafe nestled within IF.BE.
When our cab dropped us right outside, the space looked quite basic. But as the popular phrase says, “Never judge a book by its cover.” It’s only when you set foot inside that you realise the gorgeous space this is, like a moment removed from time. Open the door and you are greeted by a beautiful 150-year-old Banyan Tree, standing all mighty and tall in this vast 144-year-old ex-ice factory.
Art Made From Ruins
When Architect Kamal Malik walked past the old ice factory, he caught a glimpse of the ancient banyan tree suffocating within its walls. He noticed the potential this space had. That’s when he decided to rope in construction development and project management consultant, Abhijeet Mehta, and hotelier Amardeep ‘Tony’ Singh to bring the busy city a creative space that melds art, architecture and culture while also honouring the banyan tree through IF.BE. What we love about the space is its expanse (it’s a 10,000 square feet space) and the fact that the interiors of the ice factory are still maintained–the exposed brick walls, the glass floor enclosing the cooling coil and machinery that loaded and unloaded the ice–it all adds to the charm and rustic vibe. Tall, glass doors separate the cafe and the exhibition rooms here.
Today, you can visit the IF.BE for art exhibitions and tours. We got a glimpse of the ongoing event, (de)Coding Mumbai, which documents the history of Mumbai’s housing fabric through the evolution of building and development regulations. And there will be many such events in the future too.
Healthy Bowls Under A Banyan Tree
Whether you’re visiting IF.BE as an art enthusiast, or simply strolling around the area, we definitely recommend enjoying a peaceful afternoon or evening at Banyan Tree Cafe. With an emphasis on clean eating, the all-day cafe wants you to take it slow and enjoy its nourishing offerings, right under the banyan tree. Just above the cafe, a Terrace Garden is under development. And this is the source of all the fresh ingredients that go into the food here. The cafe has also collaborated with a local farm in Karjat to ensure fresh, local produce.
For Those Who Love Their Greens
Going to a healthy cafe and not eating its salads is like going to Italy and not having pasta. You get the drift, right? The salads here come in a generous portion but are just enough to make you dive into another meal. Salad lovers are spoilt for choice with an array of options. There’s everything from your classic Caesar salad to unique preparations that borrow influences from different parts of the world. For instance, Back to Balsamic is a Spanish-style salad featuring grilled veggies in balsamic, tossed with caramelized almonds and sautéed kale. When In Italy is a Burrata salad featuring basil, plum tomatoes, balsamic reduction, pesto and a handful of microgreens. So expect that cheesy goodness with crunch from the veggies. Beach, Please! takes you on a tropical vacay and features calamari tossed with Asian slaw and sesame seeds, drenched in a sweet and spicy chilli sauce. We tasted A Trip To Chinatown–a spicy chicken salad featuring bok choy, carrot, onion, spring onion, cucumber and tomatoes, drizzled with a coriander root dressing and garnished with crushed peanuts. It is on the spicy side, but if you can handle the heat, this dish is a great pick.
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For the mains, the recommended dishes include local toasties like Bombay Bhaji, Mutton Kheema, and Masala Prawns, each served in brown or white bread. But if you’re looking for a full-on meal, take your pick from the No-Meat Cheat (Grilled Tofu with herb jus and basil, served with garlic mash and sautéed veggies) or The Griller (grilled chicken with herb jus, garlic mash, and sautéed veggies). For us, it was the Salmon Says that were the most appealing. This dish features a Grilled Atlantic salmon with lemon butter sauce and mashed potatoes. We swept the plate clean–need we say more? In addition, there’s also 100% vegan and gluten-free pasta, which you can customise as per your preferences.
The menu also includes freshly made juices to pair with your meal–Oh, Honey blends honeydew melon and pomegranate; The Sunset Squeeze is a fresh blend of apple, orange, and ginger; D-Tox is a mix of spinach, carrot, cucumber, tomato, celery, and mint. And if a dessert is a must at the end of your meal, the mud cake or apple pie will sweeten your experience for sure.
The Morning Marvels
Banyan Tree Cafe serves as a great spot to indulge in a healthy breakfast. You can choose from the sandwiches, waffles, pancakes ad smoothies here. But it’s also the egg-cellent preparations that are worthy of a try. Eggs, My Way or The Breakfast Club in particular.
Banyan Tree Cafe is the ideal spot to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city where you can sit back, relax and enjoy sustainable and nourishing meals with a view of a big Banyan tree and the stunning IF.BE.
On the hunt for new restaurants and menus in India? We’ve rounded up a list of places you can head to this month.