These days, birthday celebrations in the institute have become synonymous with cake-cuttings at Brews and Bites or Campus Hub. They are the go-to places after a stressful exam or an especially long extra-class; places to catch refreshing juices in the heat of the summer and hot chocolates in the middle of the winters. The sandwiches at Campus Hub and the pizzas at Brews and Bites have appealed to almost every person on the campus. In this article, Insight delves into the past and explores the origins of these eateries and how they have developed and become an integral part of every campus resident’s itinerary over time.

Pre-BB Days

Way back in early 2000s, the eatery scene in the institute was far removed from what we see today. Srishti, a food outlet ran entirely by women, stood in the place of Aroma’s Delight, serving an extremely limited menu comprising of items like aloo paratha, thepla and chutney, sabudana khichdi among others. The fare, however, was prepared in limited amounts. And, as one of the only places to serve food pre-lunch, the day’s rations at Srishti would be exhausted on a regular basis by 2 PM. Canteens, our saviors on many a day when the mess workers are having an day-off, hadn’t caught on enough to open during the day. Besides, there was no standardisation of prices or menu items in those days. When they eventually opened by 9 PM, they served simple edibles like maggi and bournvita. Parathas and gravies were a rarity; only the Hostel-4 canteen used to serve paneer and parathas back then!

Brews & Bites Cafe, IIT Bombay

Brews & Bites Cafe, IIT Bombay

Ching’s was another of the insti eateries. Serving chinese food and the only place in the institute to boast a jukebox, you could have desi chinese while listening to your choice of music. Initially located where the badminton court now stands, it was relocated to beside H8. However, the place never really picked up post the relocation, thanks in part to the mosquitoes, and was closed down in 2004.

One may be forgiven for thinking of the Shack as serving maggi and frappe from time immemorial; because that is the truth. In the early 2000s, the shack, with the exact same setup, served maggi and frappe – and much more. There were maggi-bondas (the maggi equivalent of aloo-bondas), maggi sandwiches, just maggi, and hot and cold coffee. Another place near the lecture hall was Kresit – which, again, used to be the same as before, serving Idli, Wada, Samosa and tea.

The general picture that we get is of a haphazardly running set of eateries. Add to it a general lack of variety, and the food scene certainly becomes a lot more unpleasant than it is now.

Behind the Scenes of BB

Imagine trying to celebrate a birthday back in the 2000s; there’s no cake shop inside the institute, the closest place to serve good cakes was Monginis, which always used to have a long queue of people waiting for their orders. And should you forget all about a friend’s birthday until the last moment, then all the best getting any sort of a cake. This, and the lack of variety of food being served by the eateries, hadn’t gone unnoticed by then-students of IITB. And Neelesh Patodi, a 2007 graduate of IIT Bombay (and, quite interestingly, an E-Cell manager), eventually came up with the idea of a place serving fast-food and coffee.

The area beside H8, where Brews and Bites now stands, was earlier occupied by Coffee Day Express – a roughly 5 ft*4 ft outlet that served Wai Wai Cup Noodles, pastries, coffee and tea. However, it ran into a lot of trouble, with cash siphoning and no quality control. Around the same time, Mr. Patodi approached the institute officials with his plans of an eatery serving fast-food and coffee. The call for an agreement came in June 2011, and after a torrid month of problems from all sides, Brews and Bites (then called as Brewberrys) finally opened on 21st July 2011 – right before the new session began.

“Earlier, the agenda used to be to bring in cheaper stuff. My aim was always to bring in quality food, even if it was expensive,” said Abhishek Aggarwal, the then-GSHA.

The Campus Hub - The Old Cafe at IIT Bombay

The Campus Hub – The Old Cafe at IIT Bombay

The outlet opened with an eat-all-you-can-for-free offer on the first day – which helped get initial reviews and check the system. Those first few days saw a lot of activity, with students and professors, including then DoSA Prof. Prakash Gopalan – trying out the new eatery in the campus. However, there was a very skeletal crew at work initially – led by the owner’s brother himself. However, with the passage of time, more staff was brought in and 2 months into the semester, in September, cakes and desserts were introduced to the menu – with the aim of making a one-size-fits-all eatery. Given the open space and the ambience available, it started to draw students to celebrate birthdays at the venue itself, rather than cakes being brought to the wing like they earlier used to be.

After a topsy-turvy initial few years, the next big revamp came in 2016 – when Mr. Patodi, who had taken franchise from a company in Baroda to set up Brewberries, bought the place off and renamed it to Brews and Bites. Quite fittingly, 15th August 2016 saw a wide range of items added to the menu – the much-loved piri piri fries, new varieties of sandwiches, burgers and pizzas, along with cheese-burst pizzas were introduced. A few other items like Nachos and Cheese Salsa were added on student demand. Alongside all of this, 2016 also saw Brews and Bites starting to make their own bakery products instead of getting them from a supplier.

The ambience of the place, which once started out with only plastic tables and chairs, has gone on to now include wall hangings, umbrellas and lights.

Cue introduction of Brews and Bites’ sister eatery – The Campus Hub.

From BB to CH

Back in 2007, the Hostel-8 xerox shop owner started a counter by the name of Bhawani Juice Center. It began operations in the place where Campus Hub stands now. After about 3 years, it got replaced by Ganesh Juice Center, which already had an outlet near the market gate. At around the same time, an Amul ice cream parlour was also established on the same plot of land, and the two worked together, serving ice-creams and juices where Campus Hub currently stands. The Hostel Affairs Council felt that the space was being underutilized. With the growing number of residents and hence the demand on the rise, a need for a better and unified food court was felt.

“Once I had brought in Brewberries, attention shifted to the plot of land beside Hostel-5. The parlour there had been having some issues with quality as well – so we decided to get a vendor who would offer more than just ice-cream and juices while maintaining quality,” said Abhishek.

It was decided to set up a new eatery combining the two previous ones, with added menu items like juices, shakes and ice-creams. A tender was floated, and several parties were interested in taking up the space. The tender was eventually signed by Mr. Patodi. The target was to start before Mood Indigo 2011, but due to delays in the legal formalities, Campus Hub was finally set up on the 19th of March, 2012. There was a trial period of 7 days, post which the eatery started its operations. The construction phase was completed so soon that students were surprised upon returning from their mid-semester break to find a new structure standing!

Since then, the graph has only gone upwards. The staff, the menu and the sales, have all swelled with time. The TV, in front of which numerous IPL matches have been enjoyed sipping Aam-Ras in the scorching heat, was installed sometime in 2013. The infrastructure has seen slight upgradation with time. The menu has now grown to include not only perennial but also seasonal fruit juices. What started out with Rajma-Chawal being the main item in the menu now has a large variety of frankies, sandwiches and not to forget, the very unique chaat counter.

It is not just the students for whom Brews and Bites and Campus Hub have become permanent fixtures; professors with their families and friends and alumni can also be seen lounging around in the evening; sipping on their coffees or juices, not to mention the staff at both these eateries, for whom IIT has become a permanent fixture. These two places have been fundamental to celebrating most of the milestones of our insti life – birthdays, internship and placement treats, get-togethers and what not. Here’s hoping they continue to be so for a long time to come!

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