Inside Papa's Bandra: Chef Hussain Shahzad's 12-Seater Diner

If you’ve been to Veronica’s in the pretty Ranwar village in Bandra, you'll be familiar with the lines waiting to get a table. In stark contrast is Hunger Inc.’s 12-seater dining experience, Papa's, which is hidden right above the sandwich shop. Steps from behind the coffee counter take you upstairs. Walking into Papa's is like walking into someone’s personal, cosy space. There are knick-knacks and art-deco memorabilia sprinkled all around. Remember the 'You in a Wes Anderson film’ reels that were popular on Instagram sometime ago? That’s what the space might remind you of.

“We wanted it to be like those sandwich shops where the owner lives upstairs,” says Chef Hussain Shahzad who leads the team at Papa's. “You work all day and then come up to your pad and throw a dinner party for your friends. That's what we wanted Papa’s to be. There are parts of fine dining that I really love, but there are also parts that I detest. Over the years, fine dining has become kind of solemn; white tablecloths and service. For me, going out for a meal is more entertainment and fun. So that’s the idea we wanted to stick to.”

When asked how the economics of having an intimate space with 12 dinners work, Shahzad is candid. “We have an ecosystem that we’ve developed around Hunger Inc. properties like The Bombay Canteen, O Pedro, Bombay Sweet Shop and Papa's, where we leverage each other's strengths and limitations. Had it been a one-off as a hospitality company, it would have been difficult to sustain. Your ordering quantities are not as large as 12 people. You cannot have those discussions with farmers about those quantities. Right now, I can do that only because I have other restaurants.”

What the interiors, designed by Shonan Purie Trehan, manage to do successfully, with the perfect tone of lighting and warm wood tones, is recreate the old-world charm of Bandra homes back in the day. 

The Drinks

The dining counter and bar top are repurposed from a wooden bar top from the Bombay Canteen. But the dining counter isn’t where the Papa's experience begins.

While there is a single-page bar menu designed by Pankaj Balachandran, co-founder of Countertop India, head bartender Harish Subramanian may be able to create something with you just spelling your mood out. Words like sweet, refreshing, and fruity do the trick.

The bar menu has been designed to pair with the key flavours of the food; expect  fresh takes on the classic Bloody Mary, a “drinkable” pizza with homemade marinara sauce, garlic and herbs, a splash of vodka and a delicious one called Seabiscuit with clam juice, basil and fennel.

The Food

While you see words like Bebinca, Samosa, Modak, Salad and Biryani on the menu, nothing that comes to the table is like you know it to be. 

The Rasam is inspired by the late Chef Floyd's signature dish—rice-crusted fish and watermelon curry. In Chef Hussain’s version, he pays a tribute to his mentor with a cured trout sitting in a watermelon rasam broth with lime leaf oil and topped with trout roe. “The meals at Papa’s are a collaboration of all our memories and our experiences put together. It was important that we told those stories through the food and hospitality at Papa’s and that those aspects of who we really are came out through the food,” says Shahzad. “It was important for me to dedicate the first course to Chef Floyd Cardoz; I wouldn’t be cooking Indian food if it wasn’t for him. That watermelon curry is the last thing I cooked with him before he passed away.”

Just like in a Bohri Thaal, the meal begins with something sweet, in this case Shahzad showcases two popular desserts from different parts of India. A savoury version of Goa's Bebinca and Cheena Poda from Odisha. Kaluga caviar and a 12-month-old Comté (aged cheese) meet in the Chenna Poda Canelé. 

In another dish named What the Duck, the chef shares how he loved the slightly charred bits of the Ambur-style biryani his mom made and never got enough of it. The star of this dish, though, is the seven-day dry-aged duck, cooked with Indrayani rice. 

The Modak features char siu pork and red weaver ants from Odisha make an appearance on the menu too. Then, there is the Wellington with a spin, where a Kashmir-inspired dish with layers of yakhni, sour apples and morels sits in a puff pastry and is served with a pumpkin makhni sauce. For dessert, you’ll see an ode to the familiar honey noodles served with vanilla ice cream at Chinese restaurants across India. 

The Magic

The meal is served tasting-menu style as you sit on a bar stool, watching all the action. There’s a sort of method to the madness and what you see is a mix of pure artistry in bringing a fine dining menu to life while you are regaled with charming stories and interesting nuggets of information about the food that's about to arrive on the table.

 “There aren't many chef's tables in the country that offer part nostalgia, part story telling, great food and hospitality together. It helps if you have a personality you can showcase through food and otherwise. We trained for this for a month to get ourselves accustomed to this style of service before Papa’s opened. I love it. I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s also why we limit the number of days we are operational because one has a bandwidth which is difficult to stretch.”

There isn’t a dull moment as, between courses, Chef Hussain Shahzad and GM Madhusudhan Kashyap share stories about their memories, the origins of the dish and the ingredients. During the course of the evening, you find out that Chef Hussain grew up in Chennai and realise that many of the dishes on the menu have a southern influence.

The happy playlist deserves a special mention. The tempo goes up, and the lights get dimmer as the evening progresses. If you’re a solo diner, you end up talking to the person next to you. The evening also has its share of surprises. You can flip a metal disc placed on your table to request a shot (which Chef Hussain will make sure you get anyway) or ask to see a magic trick. Madhusudhan lets the magician out of the closet and shows off his skills. If you do get to ask for a shot, let’s hope it is the one that tastes like a Christmas cake.

Address: Papa’s at Veronica’s, Waroda Rd, Ranwar, Bandra West, Mumbai.

To Book A Table Call: +91 77388 95597; Email: or log on to

Opening Hours: Wednesday to Saturday, 8 pm onwards