Believe it or not, there was a time when there were only a handful of cafes and restaurants let alone sweet shops in Sri Lanka. There was little choice and eating out was not always an option. That is why Bombay Sweets will always have a special place in my heart. A visit to Bombay Sweet House was always a treat, not just for the tummy, but because it was a sheer sensory experience. From mirrored walls, displays that had sweets of every colour with silver and gold glistening on some and the sweet milky scents to the slightly sticky table tops it was every child’s dream land. I used to take a deep breath and just inhale it all in as I stared in wonder.
Well this trip down memory lane was due to a trip Ramesh, Thadsha and I decided to take to Wellawatte. I knew the legendary Bombay Sweet House of Colombo 3 had moved to Wellawatte, but had no idea of the exact location. Google came to my rescue and off we went to the store. I think there are still quite number of loyal customers who come in search of this establishment as the re-location is actually mentioned on its glass windows.
The store is much smaller than I expected and frankly did not evoke the same sort of magic as my memory served. One long table was mounted to the wall on a side with a few chairs to sit and have drinks and while the one in Colombo 3 outlet was not massive, I miss the old school charm.
Bombay Sweet House serves an array North Indian sweets that contain milk, ghee, sugar and at times nuts. Set up since independence, two generations of the Dawood Bhoy family has been running it, with the third generation is mastering the expertise. From Jelebi, to sticky gooey Muscats and Gulab Jamuns, they had it all. What is important is that these sweets do not contain any gelatine or eggs and therefore, suitable for vegetarians who consume milk products.
They also have fried both meat and vegetarian samosas that were warm and incredibly yummy. I especially wanted to have their vegetarian samosa which was unfortunately sold out on the day we visited. (Arghhhhhhh!)
Bombay Sweet House is also famous for its Faluda, which is an experience in itself. Starting off with the sherbet at the bottom then filled with milk, kasa seeds and ice cream it is pure bliss. However, the but we decided to have a plain Sherbet Rose drink with kasa kasa seeds (basil seeds) (Rs 100) and a Nannari – aka Iramusu (Rs 100).
The drinks were served with plastic straws and I opted for my ever present metal one. Sherbet Rose is the base of a Faluda and is a sugary red drink flavoured with rose water. I have never tried the nannari which is locally known as iramusu and is a medicinal plant with properties that can cool the body. Nannari roots are boiled for this drink and I could not wait to try it. So, I took one deep slurp and closed my eyes as the sugary sweetness hit my senses. Cooling or not the sugar content is extremely high in this drink and I could not take anymore. The Sherbert Rose was equally sweet, but it tasted of childhood and therefore was easily forgiven. Oh and remember I mentioned sticky table tops? Those remained the same. While we were well on our way in having a sugar induced coma we also picked a few sweets to taste later.
Ramesh managed to catch me salivating at the drink. What can I say other than some people have absolutely no dignity as far as food is concerned.
Now to the sweets! The White Berfi was milky with hints of rose essence that would have been considered decedent in times of old. The sprinkles on top make them fun and modern and it simply melts in your mouth.
Our next choice was the much loved laddu. Once again cashew nuts, chickpea flour, milk, ghee and raisins are added to these amazing treat. Sweet and crumbly it is once again a taste of the past. It is lovely to know the age old recipes are preserved through the years.
Our final sweet was the sugar dripping whirls of gold a.k.a Jelebi. Made out of flour and ghee, deep fried and then dipped in sugar syrup, this is perhaps my all-time favourite. Crunchy Jelebies hide pockets of sugar syrup that just explode in an unsuspecting mouth releasing all the sugary rose flavoured syrup. An absolute must have.
Bombay Sweet House does not replicate its age old splendour and feels like an old, tired version of its yester-year glory. But the taste and quality of its sweets remain the same and I hope that will be enough to attract an ever changing base of consumers.
After bidding adieu to Bombay Sweet House and walking towards the Bambalapitiya side, we came across the larger than life Bombay Sweet Centre name board with the gigantic disposable drinking cup. I remembered it had almond milk and veggie samosas so I convinced Thadsha to Ramesh to cross the road and have our second snap. (The way we snack, I am starting to think we might be Hobbits)
The Bombay Sweet Centre has gone through a major facelift and looks trendy and modern. The displays contained a fast quantity of sweets both from North Indian origin as well as other sweets such as jujubs and sugar coated almonds.
We trudged upstairs and was hypnotised by the wall paper was in true candy store theme and it looks like they are also on Uber Eats and have Durian Juice! (Suramya faints)
Having no room for any more sweetness we ordered veggie samosas and received them hot and crunchy. They contained potatoes, carrot and leek and were incredibly yummy! The almond milk while was available and is said to be quite yummy, unfortunately containes a percentage of both almonds and milk. (The horror) Therefore, this is a no go for vegans but they do have loads of fresh juices you can choose from.
While we munched on our hot hot samosas, we read the sweet back story of Bombay Sweet Centre displayed on its walls. From humble beginings to its modern establishment Bombay Sweet Centre has certainly come a long way and certainly has its eyes on the future.
Today, Wellawatte has a number of shops serving North Indian sweets. A far cry from how things were, decades ago. However, as far as old timers are concerned, I hope both Bombay Sweet House and Bombay Sweet Centre will continue in their tradition of giving all their patrons a sugar induced coma. I can assure you, it is the best of its kind.
North Indian Sweets are not vegan and only suitable for lacto-vegetarians (vegetarians who do not consume any meat, fish, poultry or eggs but consume dairy products) But they do have some lovely samosas, fruit juices and drinks such as Nannari, Rose Sherbet and Nelli cordial that hits the spot in our tropical weather.
Do try it out!
Until next time! TTFN