Bombay Mahal

Bombay Mahal on UrbanspoonI love living in Topsham. It combines pastoral beauty with small town convenience, and Portland is thirty minutes away. We have goats, our neighbors have chickens, there’s a horse pasture and farm stand a mile down the road. We’re within minutes of all the things we missed in Mexico, including gross, delicious consumerism and a theater that shows art films and serves hummus for lunch. It’s insanely great. We did, however, find ourselves stumped last Saturday night. Topsham, as it turns out, is not a scintillating center of nighttime hijinks and intrigue. Really, we just wanted to go out to dinner. Not to celebrate or analyze anything, but with somewhat loftier goals than basely filling our guts with fats and calories. We wanted to sit across a table, private in a crowd, and talk. Which is different than talking in the car, in bed, or in the kitchen, though all those are good, too.

I put on earrings and pants that zip (ha – not really!) and hopped in our Jeep, headed to a nearby Mexican restaurant – the one that people always mention when talking about food in Brunswick. We had laughed at the reviews that warned of hipsters and a bar scene…then we walked in to the most crowded, cool-dark, energized room I’d been in in many months. Smart and pretty seeming people sipping cocktails in an appropriately seductive atmosphere. I turned and left. As I am currently not drinking and increasingly round, this was not the right place for us, not on a Saturday night anyway. Oh, but I will return. And I will drink liquor and eat tacos. Someday.

We decided to park on Maine Street (seriously? apparently.) and see what was about. Not much, though it is a pretty main street. A chilly wind was blowing and it felt so autumn in a New England college town. A good night for bar crawling and stealing mums, but not for us. We accosted an older couple emerging from the first restaurant we came across – they said it was where they always go for Indian food. That was enough of an endorsement and we got a table in the window, perfect for forced hot air and people watching, inside and out of Bombay Mahal. Maybe because in the past our Saturday night plans led us into different circles of fun, but we found the restaurant pleasantly busy with a mix of families, middle-aged couples, and college kids who don’t go to parties.

I really liked the harried, handsome waiter and the somewhat more distracted waitress, as much as the tapestries billowing from the drop ceiling, the elephants and painted welcoming woman on the wall. Our order was strictly business. For whatever reason, it’s been ages since we’ve had Indian food, so our personal staples were automatic, maybe a bit boring: Garlic Naan ($4.50), Chicken Pakora ($4.50) Lamb Vindaloo ($14.95), Lamb Saag ($14.95). I thought it was all super satisfying, ideal Indian comfort food (to me). My lamb saag – ordered medium – was spicier than I am used to, with lamb that tasted like lamb and lots of creamy spinach. I didn’t know that vindaloo is from the Portuguese for “melt your earwax hot”, but this one was. I wanted to wrap myself in a cape -size version of this naan and spend all winter being buttery.

I am an eater easily swayed. In my personal universe, quality takes precedence over pretension and atmosphere often trumps authenticity. You may have gleaned by now that I like the surroundings of things, the context, the way I am made to feel in a setting. When a place strikes me as precisely perfect for what it wants to be, its appearance and reality being one, I am pleased. Bombay Mahal is full of nice Brunswick people in sweaters, professors you may know, families you would like to be, wide-eyed, curly-haired kids with ambition and opinions and optimism and a thesis due on Tuesday. It’s exactly where I want to be.


  1. says

    Back in my Bath/Brunswick days (Yar, ages ago), this was my first and favorite Indian. While in those days Indian was not quite as easy to get as it is now, I always prefered Bombay Mahal to the food I sought out during Portland trips. I’ll have to make it back sometime soon.

    • jillianjillian says

      I hesitate to say THIS IS THE BEST INDIAN FOOD EVER and that’s why you should go there.opinions, recommendations, and superlatives are all so subjective and I am certainly no expert. Experts, right? dumb. Bah. But you should go. Cause it’s nice.

  2. Steph says

    Love your blog–and not just because we happen to live in the same town (didn’t know that until today!). You really DO need to check out that Mexican restaurant. I also wanted to recommend Sista’s Bar-B-Q which is on Pleasant Street where The Udder Place used to be. Real southern barbecue takeout–I was totally impressed. The owner had a restaurant in Alabama for 25 years and she definitely seems to know a thing or two. Loved the pulled pork and baked beans. They also have some sort of flat cornbread sandwich with pulled pork and cole slaw that sounded great.

  3. Ohforgotssakeeverydamnwestiewantsaname says

    Portland, Exchange street – Tandoor. Try any of the classics but do not miss the mango lassi.

    (And the garlic naan, and the samosa and the keema mutter, etc.)

  4. Rose Johnson says

    Bombay Mahal has been around for ages! I first walked in here around the time they first opened which was probably about 20 years ago. I always have a great time, and I too deeply enjoy all the naan options especially the garlic nan. I love the wide variety of vegetarian friendly options that always satisfy! This is a great spot for ethnic food in Southern Maine area!

  5. Rachel J. C says

    I have been here once before and loved the entire experience. It was a first having Indian food, but now I am hooked. I don’t live in the Brunswick Area anymore, however found some places closer to the Portland area where I reside now. I must admit they are not nearly as yummy or delicious as what I remember the taste at Bombay Mahal to be. Glad to see this place on here, & brings back some great old memories of how I miss the Brunswick area dearly!

  6. Charliemesomegoodies says

    Words can not describe how much I love Indian food. With that said, this place is and has been a favorite of mine for a while! My meal of choice consists of keema somasas with a bowl of lentil soup to start. Then the chicken tikka masala with a butter nan. I always like to end on a sweet note, and get their rice pudding or switch it up and get the mango milk shake. Bombay Mahal is a true gem in Brunswick’s small close community! five star indulgence for me!

  7. Hannah G says

    I also agree. Garlic nan bread from this place rocks my socks and mouth every time. They are ever so kind to always help me with my vegan needs! Bombay Mahal is a great place!!!

  8. says

    Hmmm…. Have you been to Shere Punjab? If not, you need to go. It is far superior and the first place I go when I visit Brunswick. Order the butter chicken, punjabi naan, and onion kulcha. You won’t be able to get them out of your head!

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