Bengal Brothers has reopened with a bigger and better menu of regional Indian street-food dishes + cocktails
Opened over two years ago by business partners and friends Tanvir Bhasin and Vidur Yadav at the height of the pandemic, Bengal Brothers began its life as a small shopfront in Wanchai specialising in kathi rolls, those paratha wraps that are staples of Indian street food. The eatery has enjoyed further success since then, expanding to both BaseHall in Central and Kennedy Town, but it has always been the founders’ dream to offer a more refined sit-down concept. Now, they’ve done just this, and the cosy Bengal Brothers spot in Wanchai has been completely revamped, presenting diners with a lively, welcoming space decked out with vintage Indian adverts, retro booth and table seating and a buzzing bar.
The à-la-carte menu has been significantly extended to showcase a range of regional Indian nibbles, chaats and snack items, large plates, sides and sweets (and their beloved kathi rolls have stayed put). The founders explain that these dishes are “inspired by the daily canteens, street stalls and eateries that fuel the hustle-bustle of everyday India” – and we’re here for it!
If the thought of choosing dishes from the substantial menu is overwhelming, we recommend going for the Chaat Party menu (HK$398/person for veg; HK$428/person for non-veg), which includes a varied selection of Bengal Brothers’ greatest hits. On the other hand, if you’re not feeling quite so gluttonous, come at lunchtime and order one of the weekday lunch sets (from HK$118), which come with a chaat/snack, kathi roll or curry main and non-alcoholic bevvy.
On the drink side, refreshing, tropical-esque cocktails are now on board, as are a good-value Scotch collection, Indian beers, mocktails, mango lassis and more (shout-out to the silky-smooth iced masala chai with its chai ice cubes – no more watered-down milk tea).
We say a meal at Bengal Brothers 2.0 isn’t complete without a basket (or two) of the aplam and achaar (HK$48). Aplam is the highly addictive South Indian cousin to North Indian-style poppadom, which is usually more heavily spiced. These ultra-thin crackers are made with urad dal (black lentil) flour and are crispy just after frying, but they becomes softer and chewier as they sit – we rate both textures. At Bengal Brothers, the aplam is served with chunky homemade mango pickle.
Further priming the taste buds are the pataka peanuts (HK$48). These “firecracker” peanuts are robustly flavoured with chopped onion, tomato, green chilli and lemon. They’re the perfect accompaniment to Bengal Brothers’ boozy cocktails – betcha can’t eat just one…
Of the chaats and snacks we sampled, the veg items stood out (when it comes to vegetarian dining, we think Indian cuisine takes the cake). Prince’s papri chaat (HK$88) is a tribute to the papri chaat served up by co-owner Yadav’s favourite local chaatwala in New Delhi, where he grew up. This popular Indian street food is an explosion of colour, flavour and texture. It features papri (deep-fried rice crackers) topped with an assortment of ingredients like chickpeas, boiled potato, yoghurt, tamarind chutney, coriander, sev (crispy gram-flour noodles) and pomegranate. It was difficult not to lick the plate clean.
These unassuming red-hued croquettes are known as Kolkata beetroot chops (HK$88). This is the first time we’ve had beetroot in this format, and we loved the deep-fried comforting earthiness of these chops. The side of Bengali-style mustard is quite potent, so just a dab will do.
Our first large plate was this vegetarian jackfruit dum biryani (HK$228). For us, biryani is a desert-island dish of fragrant, spiced basmati rice, here layered with meat-like jackfruit for that little something extra (you won’t miss the actual meat at all). As is traditional, Bengal Brothers’ biryani is served with cooling raita and salan, a rich, nutty gravy made with peanut, sesame and coconut. It’s a huge serving that would generously serve at least four ravenous diners.
Although this picture doesn’t do it justice, the whole roast chicken (HK$298), butterflied and marinated overnight in whole spices and yoghurt before being roasted to order, is a supreme roast chook – it’s spicy, tangy and juicy, with the spices fully penetrating every inch of the meat. The accompanying masala butter is a must for drizzling over the chicken, taking it to the next level. We also suggest adding on a side of flaky Malabar paratha (HK$38) for mopping up all the buttery juices. A more unique accompaniment would be the raw mango sundal (HK$58), a refreshing salad of mango, cucumber, shredded coconut and legumes tempered with curry leaf and mustard seed.
The kaapi (filter coffee) panna cotta (HK$68) is a good choice for those craving something sweet (but not overly so) to round off a meal at Bengal Brothers. The coffee flavour is strong and familiar, and the texture of the pudding is lovely and creamy without being sickly.
Since reopening with a new look and menu earlier this month, we’re told this deluxe version of Bengal Brothers is packed out nightly, even during the recent T8 and black rainstorm, and we can definitely see why. We’re always been huge fans of the diverse and vibrant flavour profiles of Indian street food, and the restaurant has evolved to offer the best of the best of these regional, casual bites, both small and large. It would be easy to be a regular diner here as there are always new dishes to explore. With a cool-cat ambience, warm service, wallet-friendly prices – and one of the best Spotify playlists around – Bengal Brothers is hard to beat when you’re in the mood for Indian.
Where: 6 Johnston Road, Wanchai
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.