The best ice cream in town is the one that is least advertised. And though it has got a fancy name - Taj Ice Cream - the ice cream parlour is situated in the heart of Bohri Mohalla, Bhendi Bazar. Which is not exactly an elitist address. But then, fancy addresses and good food do not go together.
The secret of the quality of this ice cream (try the chickoo, Rs.15 per cup) is that it is hand-made, in large moles, churned for several hours with an iron rod, what used to be known as the sancha ice cream, created and consumed by our forefathers.
The proprietor of Taj Ice Cream is Abbasbhai Icecreamwalla. Yes, that's his name, at least he does not have any other name. His father used to run the place before him, and his father, and his. He is fourth generation of the Icecreamwalla family, they have been making ice cream for 110 years. As he puts it: "One business, one place, one formula, one method of making."
My late and much-lamented friend, Imitaz Kapadia, introduced me to Taj Ice Cream. He was an aficionado of food prepared on the pavements and by-lanes of Bombay. Bohri Mohalla is the network of lanes between Bhendi Bazar and J.J. Hospital on the left side of Mohamedali Road, travelling north from Crawford Market. It is bordered by Chor Bazar (Mutton Street), and, at one end of the mohalla, is that pearl of the East, the elegant mausoleum of Syedna, the supreme religious head of the Bohras. The lanes are stuffed with little eating houses, barra (12) handi shops, chop shops, farsans (Feroze Farsan), and Taj Ice Cream.
You enter the place through Khara Tank Road (present name, Syed Abu Mohammed Road), which is the third lane after passing the Bhendi Bazar traffic lights. The ice cream parlour is at the end of the lane, a corner shop. Abbasbhai Icecreamwalla will be sitting at the counter, he is always there. The parlour, again in his own words, is "9 a.m. to midnight, 365 days of the year."
It sells ice cream, kulfi, falooda, milk-shake, but ice cream is the main business. The ice cream is thick, even when you melt it, which I do, I like to stir it up a little, and it is heavy with milk and cream, you can taste it. This is to be expected as the milk is boiled on slow fire for six hours (repeat, six) and made into a rabri, and the ice cream is made from this. Nothing is added or subtracted, there is as much ice cream as there is milk. Mr. Icecreamwalla says: "Today, out of one litre of milk, they get two litres of ice cream, not here. And we add no powder, no essence, only fruits." I suppose, it is because they don't use essence that they don't have the famous vanilla ice cream. But they have all others, prepared with seasonal and unseasonal fruits. The sitafal is everybody's favourite, you may eat it, large chunks of it among dollops of ice cream. With both the fruit and the ice-cream being creamy, there is a double edge of cream to it. A cup costs Rs.25 and it is VFM all the way.
Other favourites include strawberry, the fresh fruit, and mango, Rs.20 each, dry fruits, fig, also Rs.20, pineapple, once again the fresh fruit, pista badam, and pure cream, all Rs.15 per cup. Cones are Rs.15, also the kulfis, and the milk shakes are thick.
On a good day, you can get 50 types of ice cream, or the shop could make them if it wanted to. And they have a delivery service, where they serve ice cream in kilograms. Phone: 346 1257.
The main thing, of course, is the sancha, which makes it a hand made ice cream.
They have large moles, in which the ice cream is stirred around with a rod, though the road is now motorised. It makes the ice cream hard, what is available outside, generally, is the softy ice cream.