. .

We are saddened to hear the news that Mumbai's much-loved Boman Rashid Kohinoor of Ballard Estate's Britannia & Co has expired at 97 years of age.

We extend our warmest condolences to Boman's family and all who knew him.

[An interview we did with Boman in 2007 can be found here.]


Courtesy Satish Roy


From Girgaum : 'the wood's been polished, and we have new lights and new paint'

We've never hidden the fact that Cafe de la Paix is one of our favourite Irani cafes. 

So we were happy to hear from Gustad Dinshaw Irani recently who sent through a few pics of the spruce-up the cafe is currently undergoing.

We're looking forward to our next chance to check it out, over a cup of pudina chai, naturally.

Thanks to Gustad for the pics!

Cafe de la Paix, Girgaum, July 2019, courtesy Gustad Dinshaw Irani


Bombay A-1, Grant Road : quick & polite!

For Irani men newly arrived in Bombay, the money was modest, starting out in another’s cafe. In 1980, Khodayad Dameri, who began working at Grant Road’s Bombay A-1 in 1928, clearing tables, earned 3 rupees per month.  A rich customer tipping with a ‘daboo’ – the old 2 paisa piece – was an occasion remembered as ‘lavish’.

Busybee (Behram Contractor) A-1: prices moderate, service quick and polite, though not fanciful. Mid-Day, May 14, 1980


Monsoon anniversary. .

“We just celebrated seventeen years of marriage with a quintessential Mumbai experience” writes Anjalika, “walking in the rain with the love of my life to an Irani cafe for omelet, bun-maska and chai. On the way we met a dog, two cats, a childhood temple, a cow and love” 
Har janam tere saath

 © Anjalika Sharma,2018


Peace in Girgaum, indeed. .

We've always had a soft spot for Dinshaw Irani's Cafe de la Paix in downtown Girgaum. 

So it was lovely to see Shunashir Sen's piece in MidDay yesterday.

You can find a little more of Cafe de la Paix in previous posts here .


. .

We were saddened yesterday with the news that Mehraboon (Meherwan) Kohinoor - senior partner - with his brother Boman - of Ballard Estate's iconic Irani joint Britannia has expired.

We have fond memories of quiet chats and  -always- a friendly welcome from Meherwan over many years.

Our condolences to his dear wife Pervez, and children Kuresh and Farzana. More on Meherwan's life can be found here and here

An interview with brother Boman that we did in 2007 can be found here.

Mehraboon (Meherwan) Gourabian at Britannia, Ballard Estate, 2007


Sunday evening, Grant Road. .

At Grant Road's much loved B. Merwan the shutters may go down for the night at 6pm these days, "...but often, just outside, the adda keeps going right on!" says Sami who sent us these images just this afternoon.

[thanks, Sami!]

Images :
B. Merwan, Grant Road, Mumbai, April 2018, photographer Sami Tanade, © Sami Tanade.


Nowruz Mobarak {Happy Persian New Year}. .

Cafe Sunlight, South Mumbai, 6am :

As a March night folds and day breaks, three men with long family connections to a space that has operated continuously for 90 years in South Mumbai’s Kalbadevi area – the first 60 of them as café and store, the last 30 as a bar - opened its shutters, unlocked its doors and walked inside just as they had every other day of their working lives.

They were followed minutes later by two Zoroastrian priests who quickly set to work as the doors were closed behind them, laying out the sofreh - a white linen sheet  - on the floor and populating it with fruits, a fire urn of burning sandalwood twigs and incense, flowers, milk and water, before reciting prayers.

Within the walls of one of Mumbai’s now iconic Irani café spaces, this jashan ceremony gave thanks and invoked prosperity as a new year began; a ritual with a heritage from Sassanian times that has occurred within this neighbourhood commercial space every Nowruz – Persian new year - since its opening almost a century earlier.

- Top and bottom : Cafe Sunlight, Kalbadevi Mumbai, March 21, 2017
- Middle : Meheraban Jamaspi Irani, 
   Cafe Sunlight Restaurant & Stores, circa 1970


Remembering Crown, Mahim

The iconic Crown Bakery in Mahim has made way for the Metro Line 3 project and locals have been ruing the end of the 63-year-old institution reports MumbaiMirror.

“Generations have grown up eating its brun maska and kheema pav, and spending leisurely evenings sipping on Irani chai” recalls  Roy Pereira.

Nandakumar Vijayakar echoes his sentiments. “Now no more queues for fresh hot pav, no more chicken cutlets, no more rum cakes,” he laments.

Established in 1954 by Khodaram Golabi, and later run by his grandson, Rohinton Khosravi and his elder brother, Crown Bakery Stores and Restaurant served generations of Mahim locals.

We remember a memorable afternoon spent at Crown some years back here
You can read a little more on Crown falling victim to the Metro project here
And there's a video from the folks at Mumbai Live here.

top : the remains of Crown Bakery, Stores and Restaurant January 2018, courtesy Mansour Showgi Yezdi. 
bottom : Crown Bakery, Stores and Restaurant, March, 2009.


"I still shiver" : Dongri : Cafe Johnson and the riots of '92/'93

Twenty five years have passed since the Bombay riots of late 1992 and early 1993. Media coverage today saw us reflecting on this and remembering an interview we did with Hormaz Irani whose father Aspandiar and uncle Behram opened Café Johnson bang next to Sandhurst Road railway station in 1937.

For Hormaz, the closure of his café for weeks during the riots of ’92 and ’93 brought home what he had quietly known for some time - the impending final closure of the family business was nearer than farther.

I told my wife at that time that it wouldn’t be long, not much longer. When I sent the staffs back home to their native place I didn’t even know if we would reopen the shop. Very bad time. I had to shut down my restaurant, or else, eh, see my staff were all Muslim. They were pretty close of being killed also. For maybe a month the restaurant was shut and my shop servants used to come to my house, I, my wife used to cook food and give them. 

For 3 or 4 days  when everything was normal then I could return to the railway station, I bought their tickets, and put them in the train, and told them from here now God is with you, you can go back to your village. They’re all from Kerala.

I still shiver when I think of those days. Very bad. I just praying to God that I should be successful in saving, I had ten people. Ten people who were working in my restaurant by God’s grace I saved them and then I sent them back to their village.

Things were getting pretty bad, very bad to the extent that, instead of earning something out of it, I had to put money from here [a refrigeration business he still operates] over there [the café]. What I was earning here I had to put it over there to maintain that, that’s all.

While he did reopen Café Johnson, the death of his father in 2000 gave him license to lease the shopfront to an emerging supermarket chain which he was able to do in 2006.

I was happy as well as sad. Sad in the sense that er, I had to close down my Dad’s business and happy in the sense now I had to do it for good because the future generation also has to survive. I was happy that way. 

No hope of survival at all with respect to the menu what we had, unless you specialise, like the, the other cafes which are based in very good areas like Colaba and Chowpatty and all.

 If you have those kinds of menus and those class of people and come and pay and buy those high quality stuff, then you can survive. Dhansak and liquor and beer and all that. Yes. Then, only then, can you sell that but in the old menu we were having you can’t survive.

The supermarket chain that leased the site from Hormaz when he closed in 2006 didn’t stay and the site has seen several different businesses come and go in recent years.

From an interview with Hormaz Irani, Dongri, Mumbai, 2008.

IMAGES, top to bottom  :
- Cafe Johnson, Dongri, circa 2005 by Atul Sabharwal, used with permission
- Subhiksha supermarket on the site of Cafe Johnson, 2008
- News reportage on the riots featuring Brarbourne Restaurant, Dhobi Talao, December 1992


"Serving up a legacy" : Kyani & Co., Metro

Mini Ribeiro of The Hindu paid a visit to Kyani this week to soak up what she calls "...a heritage treat for old-timers and newcomers".  . You can read Mini's piece here. An interview we did in 2007 with the late Aflatoon Skokri who ran Kyani - for over 50 years - can be found here  .

IMAGE : Kyani & Co., Dhobi Talao courtesy The Hindu, 2017.


Girgaum teatime. .

We're always up for an afternoon break at Dinshaw's Cafe de la Paix, Girgaum. 

The pudina chai hits the spot, you're guaranteed a friendly welcome and the space offers cool calm respite, just off the street, but still on it!

Highly recommended.

You'll find a little more about Cafe de la Paix in a previous post, here.

IMAGES : Cafe de la Paix, Girgaum Mumbai, March 2017


Taking time out to walk through retroscapes and consume nostalgia. .

We are taking a little time out from Irani Chai, Mumbai to continue our research in different ways, part of which sees us walking through retroscapes and consuming nostalgia like we never have before, on three continents! We will see you again sometime in 2017, so do check-back from time to time!

We'll leave you for now with Darius Cooper's lovely piece Don’t Worry Darling, We Have a Legend and a History, Too from his wonderful anthology Beyond the Chameleon's Skill.  The upstairs 'family room' of the Bombay Irani is the setting for the poem; a space where for the cost of a couple of refreshments time could stop for a while and couples could retreat, albeit not completely.  The eyes and ears of the café waiter were never too far away.

This city, fed
on rumours and insults,
and customarily
so indifferent to truth,
becomes inquisitive
you fall in love.

But don't worry darling,
we have a legend
and a history too.

Cobblers wait
for the straps of her slippers
to break.  Then,
sly glances can be stitched
into leather.

Grasping the main bell
of the temple
we daily pass,
the devotees suddenly pause.
The idol is in front.
You, both, are behind.
To-day, for whom,
shall this bell
be rung?

You have looked at the sun enough.
It's time for privacy
on the first floor
of non-descript restaurants.
These do have names -
"A Star of" ...something or the other,
and since this is the first time,
for you, that's symbolic

The staircase
to the dingy first floor
is perilous,
but so is your love,
strangely assured
by a chair, a corner,
and an ancient marble-top table
with a crack
running down the center.

This strange earthquake
into which
your innocence
suddenly opens,
makes your foothold
all the more firmer
in climbing these stairs.

The ceiling is very low.
You are warned
about hurting your head.
But you disregard the sign.
After all
this is only
the first floor.

The smirk
on the waiter's oily face
has to be tolerated,
like the surfeit of sugar
in that badly served
cup of coffee -
its coarse cream
forming on the rim
of a difficult day
divided by
crowds, and

Time is short for awkwardness,
so you kiss,
waiting for her hair
to tumble out
of the rubber band.
It does,
and your face,
tenderly draped
behind her saree's border
will be carried
home soon,
and repeatedly kissed,
the saree folded
over a late evening hanger.

Two-thirty noon!
It's time to leave
your "star of" ...something
or the other.
And after you leave
the table is wiped clean,
and the chair,
put properly in place.
Only the crack
across the table remains
carrying traces
of your breadcrumbs
and orange bottle rims
miraculously missed
by the waiter's duster.

And who will come after you,
and what traces they will leave behind
in that crack,
it really does not matter.

Like us, my darling,
they have a legend
  and a history too.

- Images : 

B. Merwan, Grant Road, 2014

King Edward Restaurant and Stores, Fort, Bombay, 1970s by Pablo Batholomew © Pablo Bartholomew

- Poem : 

Like Us My Darling, They Have a Legend and a History, Too Darius Cooper from Beyond the Chameleon's Skill, Poetrywala, Mumbai, 2011. © Darius Cooper.


Entrepreneurial spirit. .

A nice piece on Mumbai's Irani cafes by Michael Snyder accompanied by Hashim Badani's sterling images appears in this month's Virgin Australia Voyeur magazine.



1934 : a "Peculiar Gift". .

It’s been a few years since we first came across this gem; please forgive our tardiness in sharing it with you :-)
The writer of the Indian National Congress Guide for delegates in 1934 to its significant meeting in Bombay that year let it be known – without reservation – that the city’s Irani restaurants were a peculiar gift of Bombay to civilisation…more than a restaurant. What strikes the visitor is not the service the place gives, but the wonderful cosmopolitanism of it. 
The guide’s beaming evaluation of the corner Iranis of the city continued the Irani…has done more to break down orthodoxy, tradition and racial and religious aloofness than any social institution.

Wow, we thought to ourselves when first reading this amid musty dusty library shelves. For the author of the 1934 guide appears to be consciously constructing an image of the Irani café as an open, tolerant space – where one could avail oneself of tea and snacks {and other assorted products} no matter who you were or what your religious or ethnic background. 

One of the earliest references we have located that positions the Irani café as a space of tolerance and multi-ethnic cosmopolitanism. 

Image : 
Indian National Congress Committee. 1934. Congress Guide. Bombay.