My first exposure to the Irani cafes in the city was in 1992 , when I joined Sophia (junior) college. Limited budgets and the need to get out of the confined space of college saw my fellow students and me, daily in various cafes that were spread from Colaba to Worli. These eateries were started by Zorastrian Irani Immigrants and were very popular. Some still are.
Those days there were no fancy coffee shops like Coffee day or Starbucks. It wasn’t unusual to see 5 or 6 students share two plates of bun maska and three cups of tea or fresh lime soda (depending o the weather) over two hours in one of these cafes. Very rarely were we asked to leave or order more. With all our chatter, we probably livened up the place in the dull hours of business or may be the owners just took pity on us, perched behind the cash register, with big glass jars in front of them displaying the buns, biscuits etc, is hard to tell looking back now.
Akuri, a spiced Parsi style of scrambled eggs, Mawa cake, Kheema pau , Ice cream soda, Khari biscuit, Parsi style mutton cutlet, Sali boti were added to my culinary palate. Later on when both my taste buds and wallet grew a bit, Mutton Dhansak, Chicken Farcha, Berry pulao and Patrani Macchi added to the list.
My favourite was Cafe Naaz opposite the hanging gardens on Malabar hill. It had a great view of the marine drive and the lush trees of Malabar hill. My friend Gupi and I were regulars. We spend many happy hours discussing the affairs of the world and our own from this fabulous spot. The cafe was on three levels and the top space was our preferred spot. The food was great and all sorts of people use to come there. Quite popular with both the hoi polloi and the celebrities of Bygone Mumbai. You never really knew who would be seated nearby. It was shut down around 1990’s by the BMC when the restaurant’s lease expired. I am sure many people join me in mourning the loss of this precious cafe.
I remember accompanying a friend’s mom for Christmas shopping and it was a ritual for her to visit Yazdani bakery for the Christmas cake and ginger biscuits. It is located near Horniman circle, in Fort. It advertises itself as a Persian baked goods shop.
Kayani bakery and co , is said to be the oldest surviving Irani bakery in the city . It is situated on marine lines and I had my first Bun maska here. It was my introduction to Irani cafe chairs that are made with bent wood and I have coveted them ever since. Thanks to my friend Jackie, I am now a proud owner of four of these chairs!
For a proper meal Jimmy Boy in Fort or Britannia and Co in Ballard Estate are the top pickings. On a recent visit after a gap of many years, it was heartening to see that nothing had changed at Britannia. Including the decor and the owner, Boman Kohinoor, who still did the rounds of greeting each table and showing us a picture of him taken with Prince William and Kate Middleton during their visit to Mumbai. Apart from the food, the interiors of these cafes offer a lot of eye candy for anyone interested in vintage decor and furniture. A sure treat and a must during a visit to Mumbai.
Image courtesy – author’s own and http://www.google.in