Oldie But Goodie: American Express Bakery
Every Monday, Tuesday and Friday, at 5pm, my neighbour Lizanne Costello heads to the American Express Bakery on Hill Road. Like many other Bandra residents, Costello knows that the bakery’s central kitchen in Byculla delivers a fresh batch of sweet and savoury pastries and breads around tea time every evening. Although the bakery’s daily rotating menu is not displayed, Costello, a regular customer for the last 25 years, knows it all too well. On Monday, she comes for their banana walnut loaf; on Tuesday, for the country style raisins and walnut bread; and on Friday, for slices of Battenberg cake and lemon pie.
Taking a cue from Costello, we got to American Express at 5pm this past Friday, just in time for the delivery of their healthful raisin-studded bran muffins; the Hungarian coffee cake; the rustic oats bread; and their popular sundried tomato and basil bread. It’s the consistency of their goods—speciality breads, cookies, biscuits, savoury snacks and pastries—that has helped maintain the popularity of American Express, which opened its Bandra outlet in the 1930s, for eight decades.
Their menu is conspicuously different from those of the other bakeries clustered in the vicinity. For instance, here you will not find the usual mayonnaise-slathered chicken and mutton rolls that crowd the shelves at the nearby J. Hearsch & Co. and A-1 Bakery. The food at American Express is neatly showcased in old-style wood and glass cabinets that look like they were built to display curios, not loaves of bread. The walls are adorned with framed posters of American Express Bakery print ads dating back to 1938, and a solitary wooden park bench is placed near the door, for customers who want to eat in.
Some of the recipes, including those of the best-selling chicken patties, mutton patties and plum cake, are as old as the brand, founded by Goan immigrant Jose Carvalho in 1921. Back then, in addition to making and selling bread from their now-shuttered kitchen and store in Grant Road, American Express catered for parties, weddings and—this explains their name—the American ships that would dock at Bombay Harbour. Though catering was replaced by their current retail format, bread making still comprises a large part of the business, now handled by the fourth generation of Carvalhos, brothers Emil and Yvan. “Like our great grandparents, we know that there are no shortcuts to baking,” said Emil Carvalho. “It’s a time-consuming, labour-intensive job that requires quality ingredients and plenty of passion to be successful.” The bakery’s antiquated albeit charming tagline, “We knead your needs”, sums up this approach quite well.
Prices start at Rs6 for a mini French roll.Tags: American Express Bakery, Bakeries, Emil Carvalho, Oldie But Goodie, Yvan Carvalho
American Express Bakery
LocationShop No. 87
Near Holy Family Hospital
HoursMonday to Saturday, 10am to 8.30pm. Sunday closed