SodaBottleOpenerWala is one of my favourite diners in the city. This lively cafe by the Olive group recreates the quirks and eccentricities as well as the fabulous food of the legendary Parsi Cafes from Mumbai. Last year, SodaBottleOpenerWala Hyderabad became the first SBOW outlet to expand beyond its Parsi roots by adding Hyderabadi Irani Cafe dishes. Now, SBOW is further expanding its menu and there are almost thirty new dishes for patrons to relish.
SBOW has always envisioned itself as a drinking destination in the vein of cafes like Leopold and Mondegar; a casual place where young and old can come and enjoy both pub and grub. Draught at SBOW begins at just Rs. 130 for a glass and a three-litre tower costs about a thousand bucks. The redesigned menu now has a dedicated section for Bar Snacks, which features many of the old favourites like Aloo Aunty’s Vegetable Cutlet, Bhendi Bazaar Sheekh Paratha, and Chicken Farcha as well as new introductions like Chilli Cheese Pav and Gwar Fali Cutlet. SBOW always had bits from the streets of Mumbai, like the Vada Pav, but now it’s doubling down on this segment. There’ a whole lot of bread in the menu with multiple varieties of pavs and sandwiches. Some like the Boiled Egg Sandwich loaded with sliced boiled egg, green chilli and cheese are terrific. While some like the Paradise Chicken Roll, a recreation of the legendary roll from Paradise in Colaba that’s famous for its distinctive mayo, are rather humdrum.
It’s sacrilegious to have a Bombay menu without the fabled Bhel from the chowpatties of Mumbai. SodaBottleOpenerWala has taken this humble street food and added it’s own twist by incorporating crispy corn and cheeselings into the mix. And boy, is it delicious! The Crispy Corn and Bhel is quite easily my favourite among the new introductions. There’s also a seafood variant that adds bits of fish, squid, and prawns. It’s delicious, but the price tag of Rs. 295 might give you a sticker shock.
Another new section in the menu is the ‘Daily Specials’. The Gos No Saas, a Mutton white gravy that is a Friday special, stood out owing to the unique combination of sugar and vinegar (Kolah No Sarko). Among the vegetarian dishes, the Paneer Sanju Baba with its onion, saffron, and buttermilk gravy impresses. This dish is inspired by a preparation from Noor Mohammadi restaurant that is said to have been based on a recipe provided by Sanjay Dutt. While the vegetarian preparation is available every day, the Chicken Sanju Baba is only available on Wednesday.
The desserts selection has been augmented with a range of cupcakes and brownies. The Rum soaked brownie became the talk of the table and is definitely not for folks who don’t enjoy alcohol. The menu states that this dessert is ‘loaded with a generous dose of dark rum’ and they aren’t kidding. SBOW is serving cupcakes without icing, which I am not a huge fan of. Nevertheless, the Wheatgrass Citrus is worth trying due to the unique flavour imparted by the wheatgrass. Wheatgrass isn’t the most appetising thing in the world but SodaBottleOpenerWala has succeeded in making it work.
I was sceptical when I heard SBOW was incorporating Hyderabadi elements into the menu, but I was sold the moment I tasted their Marag and Haleem. The Hyderabadi Irani section boasts of several home runs. The new set of dishes don’t quite succeed in evoking the same sense of delight but there’s plenty to like here. Dishes like Bhel, Gwar Fali Cutlet, and Babycorn Fry are unique yet feel familiar and comforting. Many of the short eats are a perfect foil for a mug of beer. In fact, I’d love to see the craft beers from Hoppery on the tap. Yet, there is no way of denying that the vision behind SBOW is getting rather muddied. It began as a new age Bombay Irani Cafe and has now expanded into an Irani Cafe with Parsi signatures along with dishes from the streets of Mumbai as well as old school cafes of Hyderabad. The new menu even features salads and healthy eats! The impetus behind the expansion is obvious. Parsi food is delicious, but it’s also quite distinctive. The unfamiliar ingredients and flavour combinations might prove to be an insurmountable challenge for a conservative palette to overcome. By incorporating more familiar dishes, SBOW is hoping to be able to offer something to everyone. There are significantly more vegetarian options, and pork has been dropped. The latter change means that Hyderabad isn’t getting the super tempting Bacon Vada Pav. However, if a more inclusive menu helps SBOW thrive and ensure that I have a place to satisfy by Berry Pulao and Dhansaak cravings, then that doesn’t sound like a bad thing. Does it?