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A taste of the 1920’s

Known for its authentic Goan bhaji pav, Cafe Bhonsle is today one of the oldest cafes in the capital city. NT BUZZ finds out why it still remains a local favourite

ANNOUSHKA FERNANDES

Situated in the middle of Panaji city, also known as the Bhonsle Square, stands Cafe Bhonsle. Being one of the busiest and oldest eateries in the city, one will never find the place empty.

Started by Rama Bhonsle in 1920, the cafe is currently run by his grandsons, Milend and Vijay Bhonsle. And it has still managed to retain its charm and popularity.

According to Milend, the reason for this is the uncompromised quality of food and service towards their customers as he believes it plays an important role in obtaining their trust. “As far as the quality is concerned we don’t sacrifice. We use the best quality ingredients,” he says, adding that the hygiene and cleanliness of the space also plays a huge part.

Famous for their bhaji pav, the cafe also serves puri bhaji, chapatti bhaji, samosas, batatawadas, mirchi, and more, which are always savoured with a cup of hot tea. And Milend says that they prefer using traditional recipes. “We still use the old recipes from my grandfather’s time. We have not changed much, just added a few items,” says Bhonsle.

And while plenty of new cafes have come up, serving western food items, Bhonsle says that it does not affect them as their customers come for the traditional pav bhaji. “There are cafes that serve pizzas and burgers. But I have customers telling me that they can’t eat that on a daily basis and that they have to come to have bhaji pav,” says Bhonsle adding that certain customers come in to have their pav bhaji at least four times a day.

While the cafe was exclusively well known among the locals, today, social media has played a part in attracting tourists as well. “Earlier we didn’t get tourists but this has changed,” admits Bhonsle. In fact the cafe has also been featured on a hit travel and food show.

Besides this, the cafe also acts as a meeting point and is considered as a landmark in Panaji, says Bhonsle. “Here people, who have not seen each other for ages, meet up accidently,” he says, a point echoed by one of the customers, Lyann D’Souza. “The food that they serve is good especially the medu vada. The place is also good for snacks and  small meet ups,” she says. Another customer Natalia Fernandes is also a fan of their tea and snacks.

But Milend admits that keeping up to an almost 100 year old legacy is not easy. “I just put in my 100 per cent while running this business,” he says. Cafe Bhonsle has also set up a non vegetarian section above the cafe seven years also. Besides this the cafe has a branch in Ponda which was started 20 years ago, and an upcoming branch in Porvorim.

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