Thursday, October 28, 2010

A pilgrimage of sorts- La Bella

NID kid- Abhishek and I had quite few food and culture adventures in my three days in Ahmedabad. It is a great city to wander about in and discover its various markets and food joints. The first evening he took me to eat Tibetian food near NID, which was really delicious. It is a small little room, near the river bed and a long time ago when I lived there it was part of a huge Tibetian market which has now been relocated. We had beef and noodle soup, beef momos and stir fried beef. (Abhishek please remind what the dishes were called). Later we walked down to VS hospital to the famous frozen coconut water wala. It was a good 20 min walk in which we caught up about design and such.  We decided to meet early next morning and visit the Calico Museum of Textiles. I could not believe what an amazing collection they had. I remember visiting it when I was in CEPT some 10 years back and not really getting it. But this time I was blown away, it was a collection that would make the Met in NY, the Art Institute in Chicago and the Louvre in Paris jealous. The tour was too fast for me, the details of the textiles were spectacular. Owned by the Sarabai's, the Calico museum is housed in a series of lovely, ornate wood carved buildings. I am including a sketch of it as cameras were not allowed in the entire complex. After the tour, we were starving so Abhishek and I decided to head over to La Bella (Labs) which we both agreed made the best economical meal in all of Ahmedabad. I used to go there when I was in school. I was introduced to the place by my friend Prats who swears that she would have died if it was not for Aunty's food.

I could not wait to get there. It was a typical hot Ahmedabad afternoon. The rickshaw took us through the narrow streets of the Old city. Oddly enough both Abhishek and I had never taken a rickshaw to Labs and did not know how to give the Rickshaw wala directions. Labs is the kind of place you get to sitting behind someone's motorbike, hungry at the end of the day- ready to eat a lovely home cooked Goan meal. All we knew was that, it was in Khanpur and the rest we could visually direct him there. And that is just what we did. After a bit more wanderings, and a few wrong turns and some backtracking, we came to a long wall painted with Pepsi and Coke graphics and a rusted, old shutter door. No signage, so easy to overlook. And then we saw him- Anna was standing by the door looking absolutely the same as if I was there just yesterday. Yes we had arrived. We were at Labs.

We ordered our meal in anticipation. Mutton curry, Mutton fry and fried fish. Rice on the side. We ate our meal in silence. I savored the flavours of Auntys cooking. Each bite brought back memories of the days gone by in Ahmedabad. Eating aunty's food after 8 years. It felt like a pilgrimage of sorts. The mutton was succulent, perfectly spiced. The curry was thick and tangy and made the perfect mouthfuls with rice. The mutton fry was spicy and crispy. We ordered another round and ate in silence. Just sighing and yummying the food as we finished it.

I went to the back to thank Aunty and see if she remembered me. Not me. But she remembered John, KB, Roy, Garima, Jose and Prats. Yes Prats she remembers you. Prats- I hope this inspires you to pack your bags and just visit Ahmedabad.

So what is La bella or Labs. It is a little hole in the wall place that is run by this Goan aunty for as long as anyone can remember. She makes a couple of dishes everyday and any one who eats her meal, swears by her. I know I do. It is a place of no pretensions. The meal that Abhishek and I shared- 3 Mutton curries, 3 Mutton Fry, one fish fry and a bottle of water was all for Rs 150 which is hardly $3. And it is not about that- it is about eating at a place which is like a home away from home.

Check out these pictures of this quaint little place in Khanpur, Ahmedabad.

The sketch of the Calico Museum:


  1. Hey J,

    Great post - am truly very jealous. There are so many secretly historical places hidden around Ahmedabad. My grandfather used to go to a La Bella in Khanpur after work (he was a chemist/specialist in dyes for textiles) and he used to stop by La Bella every night after work. I read somewhere online that there was a La Bella in Paldi, near NID (and that you had to ask the rickshaw drivers exactly where) but it turned out to be a wild goose chase and I never found it, sadly. I did find a pretty bad Goan take out near Vijay Char Rasta that I will never ever go back to :D

    I think this may be the same La Bella, but I believe the owner's name was Mary (and considering she was far older than my grandfather, she may have passed away and left La bella to a relative). I'm hoping it's the same one - you must give me directions so next time I can bring back curries to my grandfather! He really misses it.


  2. oooh the mutton fry!!! mmmm...teju and I went there a lot - LOT. - during our thesis. for lunch. silent lunches. yeah. her cats used to freak me out - the food though... mmmm.

  3. me liking your blog, babe!!! good going ! And these photos are making me want to take flight tomorrow to labs. mmmmmm......

  4. Hey! thanks for sharing this Jo! And great pics. Made my mouth water. Haven't been to A'bad in several years now. Glad to see aunty looking the same as ever.

  5. Wow Jo! Lovely to see pics of Labs, every so often i get a major craving for the pork vindaloo :D So happy to see anna and aunty looking the same.

  6. hey really nice post. finally labs is deservingly on special mention now. thanks 4 all the fun!!

  7. hey A: Call me when you are in Ahmd next. Promise to give you directions. Pack some for your grand dad. What a great story.
    Megsii: You know I was thinking of calling teju. But anyhow...
    Anjalika: You came to my blog... yehhh
    KB and John- it was so sweet when she asked me how you two were. So honored u landed here.
    Abhishek- Thank you too. Next time you are in Mumbai.. lets do some food adventuring again.

  8. You sketch so beautifully. There's so much I don't know about you. I often fantasize about settling in Goa, running a breakfast cafe -the husband will do all the cooking of course, while I play the gracious hostess.

    Loved reading your post as always.

  9. Is visiting La Bella on Sundays in between 09:00 to 12:00 pm will be fine ? Please suggest the timings, so that I cannot miss any of the dishes of the day there !

  10. Jyotika.....Can you pls provide address of the joint near NID, where you enjoyed Tibetian food, as I would like to visit there.