18.12.07

Cafe De La Paix, Girgaum


Bun maska and chai at much more affordable rates than its Paris namesake

Did you know that we have a little Irani café at Girgaum whose name was inspired by the famous 1862 opened Café De La Paix (pronounced – pay) located at Place de l'Opéra in Paris and designed by architect Charles Garnier? T
he story goes that when the owner, Mr. Irani, opened this Girgaum café in 1932, the landlord of his building had just been to Paris and had been greatly impressed by the Café De La Paix there.


So he requested him to give this name to the Irani café he was opening. It is located at the corner of Avantikabai Gokhale Road, which has the bustling auto spare parts market. And don’t worry; our Café De La Paix will serve you bun maska and chai at much more affordable rates than its Paris namesake.

Abodh Aras



IMAGES, top to bottom:
Cafe De La Paix,
Avantikabai Gokhale Road, Girgaum, 2007 - courtesy Abodh Aras
Cup of chai - courtesy Sandeep Paradkar

16.12.07

My B. MERWAN diary. .


My feet slowed down. My eyes went around. And everything for the next one hour happened in slow motion. It was as if I had walked through the doors of a time-machine. Straight into 1914.

It was a godforsaken overcast day in 2002. That was my second year in Bombay. Before that I had been writing for Gentleman magazine of the Indian Express newspaper. Through Gentleman I had known another writer/contributor and aspiring screenwriter, Rohit Gupta.

Rohit used to live in Grant Road in a rat infested rickety building in those days. And used to spend whole day at a place nearby that was his hangout joint and muse too. The place was B. Merwan. He said the name while we were walking to B. Merwan. The name gave me an impression that we were going to a persons house.

A few minutes later we entered B. Merwan.

My feet slowed down. My eyes went around. And everything for the next one hour happened in slow motion. It was as if I had walked through the doors of a time-machine. Straight into 1914 - the year B. Merwan was established. The feel. The ambience. I felt a sense of deja-vu. As if I was searching for a place like this all my life. As time went by I visited B. Merwan more and more, but alone. It was like falling in love with Rohit's beloved. So I had an affair with B. Merwan behind Rohit'a back. And B. Merwan loved me back with all that it had to offer. I sat there for hours - writing, thinking or just soaking in the place with my eyes.


For a long while it didn’t occur to me that there might be other Irani cafes around. There indeed were. In the years to come I ended up visiting a lot of them – Kyani, the late Café Johnson, Britannia, Regal Stores, Sassanian, Military, Oval, Leopold, Stadium, Lord Irwin, Brabourne, Mondegar, Universal. But B. Merwan remained my first love. Brabourne and Oval became close seconds.

On 3rd November 2005 armed with one handycam and two assistants I shot a short documentary on B.Merwan titled 'Brun.' On that day, while I was taking a break from the shoot Sourosh Nausheed Irani, one of the owners of B. Merwan told me this:

"I came here is 1984 from Iran. My grandfather and my father had opened this cafe in 1914. Till 1984 I was working in Iran - most of my youth days. I was there during Shah's time, then Khomeini's time. When the war broke out the family here got worried and called me back. Since then I am running this cafe with my elder cousin Bomi Irani.

We are the third generation running this cafe and fighting hard to keep the same old tradition going. The menu at the cafe has been same for 91 years while most of the other Irani cafes have given way to Chinese food or fast food etc. The chairs in this cafe are from Czechoslovakia and the marble top tables are from Italy. You don't get these at stores anymore.

We are trying very hard but we are growing old. We don't have a fourth generation to run this cafe. Both of us have daughters and it's not that we have anything against women running the place. It's just that after their marriage they have lives of their own."

Atul Sabharwal

IMAGES, top to bottom:
B. MERWAN, Grant Road, 2007
B.MERWAN - courtesy Atul Sabharwal
B.MERWAN signage - courtesy Atul Sabharwal
B.MERWAN, 2007

6.12.07

Gutli pao : YAZDANI Restaurant and Bakery, Fort



In the old days Irani bakers used to slice the loaf by hand - now that’s an art!; to cut parallel slices in a uniform size.
Zend Merwan Zend

Is there anything as delicious as a fresh, hard crusted gutlipao, perhaps, soaked in the gravy of a spicy curry? Gutlis, pao and a variety of other breads are made in large batches daily by the many bakeries scattered around Mumbai. These oven baked European breads made their appearance in Indian cuisine about three centuries ago. The very word pao, in fact, comes to us from the Portuguese, though there is a mistaken belief that the word derives from the feet (pao) that knead the dough!




To learn more, we sniffed the delectable aroma of fresh-baked bread that permeates Flora Fountain area and followed our noses till we reached Yazdani Bakery on Cowasji Patel Marg. We spent an enjoyable hour with the incredibly jovial Zend Merwan Zend, chatting about the history and traditions of bread in the city.




We learned that Zend’s grandfather, Zend Merwan Abadan, came to Bombay at the turn of the century and set up a bakery near the Alexander cinema. “My grandmother Jerbanoo would get up at 3 o’clock in the morning to knead the dough with the khamir”, recounts Zend. “Khamir is the basic yeast ferment and the technique was brought from Iran where bread was made by the sour dough process and not with readymade yeast as is done today; a lump of the dough would be kept for fermenting the next day’s dough. The Iranis and Parsees knew how to leaven dough but they learned the technique of pan bread from the Portuguese who also taught us the use of hops in baking”.


“They probably used hops in bread because it prevents unwanted bacteria from impregnating the dough and spoiling it”, Zend surmises. “Nowhere in Europe do they use hops for bread making, so I don’t know 
when and how they were introduced here. We had to boil two spoons of hops in water and we added it to the ferment when cool. When the bread was taken out of the oven, the whole area was filled with the sweet-sour smell of that bread which remained for days together without getting spoilt - it dried up but it was still edible.”

After his own father’s death, Zend’s father joined one of the oldest city bakeries at the age of eleven. This was the Rising Sun bakery at Golpitha presently owned by Shah Behram Sheriyar Irani. “They were famous”, says Zend. “Anton Pereira was their old Goan baker and they used to make seven-tiered cakes which were sent by P&O liners to Singapore and the Far East.”

“The bakery used to supply cakes and pastries from Colaba Military camp to Chembur Naka in a bullock cart. The bullock knew the journey so well that even if father fell asleep, the cart carried on and the bullock would stop near the shops where deliveries were to be made. My father knew each and every lane and all the bakers in Bombay. If the bullock collapsed, my father would pull the cart himself for some distance with the tired animal tied at the back!”



Today, at the bakery established by his father almost 50 years ago, Zend produces a wide variety of breads to cater to changing demands. The kneading process begins at 3 o’clock in the morning and the baking starts at 6 a.m. We sample some of his fresh, delicious and nutritious seven-grain bread, made from whole-wheat,barley maize, jowar,bajra, rye, andnachli or kang. He also bakes an array of cheese and garlic buns, chocolate bread, Swiss rolls, brown bread, whole-grain bread, pizza bread, sesame buns, hot dogs and of course, sliced sandwich bread and the ever-popular gutli and pao.


“The so-called ‘American’ bread that some people like these days contains at least five to seven different types of chemicals to make it soft and white and have a longer shelf life. How can you expect that bio-chemical mass to be digested by your system?”, he asks with disdain. “Bread must have a bite to it. In India we need bread which will maintain its structure when you dip it into gravies and sauces. Soft bread dipped in daal or tea would simply flop or disintegrate.”


We speak of flavour and aroma: “Because of the high demand for bread, modern bakeries do not ferment the dough by a bio-chemical process; the gluten matures with intense machinisation of the dough, whereas in our process of hand-kneading and slow machine kneading, the gluten takes at least 3 hours to mature and gets a chance of evolving alcohol and carbon dioxide, so the bread develops that typical sweet-sour flavour. Also, the skin of our bread is harder because we bake it for a longer time.”

Unsold bread at the end of the day is baked into toast. “The only people who appreciate this toast are Zoroastrian Iranis” says Zend with a smile. “During the days of persecution in Iran, they couldn’t afford to throw away anything and they broke up this dry noon (naan) or dry toast into small pieces, put them in a large bowl with salted curd, chopped onions and mint and pepper and it made a delicious breakfast. Today the toast is crumbled into papeta-ma-gosht and of course it’s excellent with tea.”




Sandwich bread: “In the old days Irani bakers used to slice the loaf by hand - that’s an art, to cut parallel slices in a uniform size.” Zend tells us about Kaikhushroo Irani of the Old Parisian Restaurant in Bruce Street who at the age of 65 can still expertly slice a loaf thinner than any machine. “He learned his trade at the age of 11 from Gustasp Irani of Naaz who introduced free-style wrestling to Bombay”.“Most people today want sandwich bread”, says Zend, “but they don’t realise that you can make excellent sandwiches out of pao; cut it along the equator, spread it with butter, a bit of cheese or ham, close it up and bake it again, and have it with a cold beer. It’s simply heaven on earth!”


Sharada Dwivedi

This is an abridged version of an article originally published by Times of India, reproduced here courtesy of Sharada Dwivedi. With thanks, Sharada!

IMAGES, top to bottom:

Yazdani Restaurant and Bakery, Fort, 2007
Cup and bun, image courtesy Sandeep Paradkar
Bun Maska image courtesy Abodh Aras

3.12.07

1947: Iranis A to K


We have surveyed the 1947 Times of India Bombay Street Directory and have located scores of establishments we believe were Irani restaurants, most now gone. This list covers streets (with their 1947 street names) beginning A-K. Do you have information on any of these?

ABDUL REHMAN STREET (Bombay No 4)
Karvas Nivas

Light of Bombay Restaurant

ANNIE BESANT ROAD (Bombay No )
Café City Restaurant

APOLLO PIER ROAD (Bombay No 1)
Readymoney Building

Naval and Military Restaurant and Stores

APOLLO STREET (Bombay No 1)
No.107 Apollo House

Apollo Restaurant

Botawalla Building
Imperial Restaurant

East and West Building
Morning Post Restaurant

132 Great Western Building
Royal Navy Restaurant

No.28 George Restaurant

ARTHUR BUNDER ROAD (Bombay No 4)
Grant’s Building
New Light of Asia Restaurant

ASH LANE (Bombay No 1)
SOUTH SIDE

Café Health

BABULA TANK ROAD (Bombay No 9)
SOUTH SIDE

Princess Building

Western Restaurant

Abdulla Building
New National Restaurant and Stores

BAKEHOUSE LANE (Bombay No 1)
WEST SIDE

Shining Sun Restaurant

BALLARD ROAD (Bombay No 4)
Laxmi Building

Café Ballard Restaurant

BASTION ROAD (Bombay No 1)
EAST SIDE

Kitab Mahal

Café Excelsior

BAZAR GATE STREET (Fort Street to Elphinstone Circle)
EAST SIDE
Kagdy Manzil

Café Kohinoor



No.225
New Bombay Restaurant

No.275 Edward Restaurant

No.306 Town Hall Restaurant

Union Restaurant

BELL LANE (Bombay No 1)
SOUTH SIDE

Maneckjee Wadia Building
Union Restaurant

BELASSIS ROAD (Bombay No 8)
SOUTH SIDE
Café National

Liaqat Manzil
King George Bakery

New Alexandria Restaurant

Club Restaurant

BHAJIPALA STREET (Bombay No 3)
SOUTH SIDE

Firdusi Restaurant

Nadri Restaurant

SIR BHALCHANDRA ROAD (Bombay No 4)
WEST SIDE

Café Colony

BOMANJI PETIT ROAD (Bombay No )
WEST SIDE

Lord Wellington Restaurant

BORAH BAZAR STREET (Bombay No 1)
EAST SIDE
Dhankore Nivas

OK Restaurant

CADELL ROAD (Bombay No 14)
Cadell Court
Café Cadell

Good Luck Restaurant

Sayed House
Star Restaurant and Bakery

Hardings Restaurant

Welcome Restaurant

CARNAC ROAD/LOKMANYA TILAK (Bombay No 2)
Lilly Stores and Restaurant

Khoda E Noor

Café Milan

Tyabji Building
Lucky Star Restaurant

CAWASJI PATEL STREET (Bombay No 1)
No.58 Sukhia Building

Daver Restaurant

Merwan Building
Western Stores Restaurant

EAST SIDE
No.19A Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Building

Yazdani Restaurant & Bakery

Sheri House
Star of Asia Restaurant

CHARNI ROAD (Bombay No 4)
Nehmani Building

Café Broadway and Stores

Cosmopolitan Restaurant

Wassiamal Building
Kohinoor Restaurant and Stores

Shirin Restaurant

Good Luck Restaurant

Ramachandra Building
Golden Star Restaurant

CHAUPATI SEA FACE (Bombay No 7)
Lily Cottage

Café Wilson

Fulchand Nivas
Café Ideal

Café General

CHINCH BUNDER 1st ROAD (Bombay No 9 & 3)
New Lucky Star Restaurant

CHURCHGATE STREET (Bombay No 1)
Industrial Assurance Building
Asiatic Soda Fountain and Restaurant

NORTH SIDE
Deepak Mahal
Ferry Stores and Restaurant

Lalji Naranji Memorial Building (IMC offices)
Stadium Restaurant

Marina Restaurant

Rehman Building
Hollywood Stores and Restaurant

COLABA CAUSEWAY (Bombay No 1)
Royal Best Restaurant

Habib Court
Edward Stores and Restaurant/King Edward 8th Restaurant

Atlantic Stores and Restaurant

Awabai Mansion
Royal Restaurant

Donald House
Piccadilly Restaurant

Merwan House
Union Jack Restaurant

23 Causeway House
Alexandra Stores and Restaurant

Leopold & Co.

Café Mondegar

COLABA ROAD (Bombay No 1)
Prince Albert Restaurant

Colaba Chambers
Duke of York Restaurant and Stores

Fatma Manzil
Regaud Restaurant and Stores

Cosmopolitan Restaurant

Colaba House
Novros Pehlavi Restaurant

Ruby Terrace
Colaba Restaurant

CUSTOM HOUSE ROAD (Bombay No 1)
WEST SIDE

Imperial Restaurant

Prince Aly Khan Building
James Restaurant

No.80 Apollo Restaurant

DADAR MAIN ROAD (Bombay No 14)
Modern Times Restaurant

Jaya Terrace
Moonstar Restaurant

Jenabai Building
British Empire Restaurant

Shapoor Cold Drink House

WEST SIDE
Dadar Bar Refreshment and Billiards

Kamal Building
Kamal Restaurant

DELISLE ROAD (Bombay No 6)
Bombay Good Luck Restaurant

Havewalla Building
New Byculla Stores

Golden Star Restaurant

Meher Restaurant

Shanti Bhavan
Marshal Restaurant

DONGRI STREET (Bombay No 9)
WEST SIDE
Akbari Restaurant

Banatwalla Building
New Lucky Restaurant

Hashambhoy Building
Good Luck Restaurant

DR D’SILVA ROAD (Bombay No 14)
Ghamat Terrace
Railway View Stores and Restaurant

ELPHINSTONE ROAD (Bombay No 12)
NORTH SIDE

Silverstar Restaurant

Wakani Building
Popular Restaurant and Stores

New Ideal Restaurant

FERGUSSON ROAD (Bombay No 13)
Shah Shivaji Restaurant

New Worli Restaurant

Worli Restaurant

FORBES STREET (Bombay No 1)
No.56 Café Zaer

FORJETT STREET (from Gowalia Tank Road)
New Tehran Restaurant

FORT STREET (Bombay No 1)
No.52 King George Restaurant

Royal Marine Restaurant

No.1 Davierwalla Building
Premier Restaurant

Dilkhoosh Restaurant

No.51 International Restaurant

Guishan Restaurant

Khotari Building
No.107 Kohnioor Restaurant

Goculdas House
New Edward Restaurant

FRENCH ROAD (Bombay No 7)
Tyebji House
Café Wilson

Parmanand Building
Star of Italy Restaurant

FRERE ROAD (Bombay No 9)
Jivanbhai Mansion
Nadir Restaurant

Persian Restaurant

Marshall’s Building
Paris Restaurant

No.21 Prospect Building
Café Angelia

No.28 Welcome Restaurant

Good Luck Restaurant

Café Universal

Café London

New King of Persia Restaurant

New Alexandra Restaurant

Aria Building
G.P.O. Restaurant

FULLER ROAD
(Fort, Bombay No 1)
Esplanade Mansions

Army Restaurant

GAMDEVI ROAD (Bombay No 7)
Iswardas Mansions
New Heros Restaurant and Bakery

GELL STREET (Bombay No 11)
Brijmohan Banwarilal Building
Café Nelson

GIRGAUM ROAD (Bombay No 2 & 4)



Kyani and Company Bakers and Confectioners


Lord Irwin Restaurant

Iran Restaurant

Patel Building
Café Majestic

Villa Bellevue
Café De La Paix


Sandhurst Building
Allies Restaurant

Navelkar Building
Kennedy Restaurant

New Regal Restaurant

Fateh Manzil
Opera Restaurant

Viceroy of India Restaurant

Dominic House
India Restaurant

Dhoota Papeshwar Building
Emperor of India Restaurant

Soorya Mahal
Morning Sun Restaurant

Sunshine Restaurant

Rahim Chambers
Café Victory Restaurant

Bhatia Nivas
Café Sassania


Hirjeebhoy Seth Building
Café Yazdan and Stores

XL Restaurant

Cavarana Mansion
Alfred Restaurant

Brabourne Restaurant



Bastani & Co. Provision Merchants

GHOKALE ROAD (NORTH) (Dadar, Bombay No 14)
New Shapoor Restaurant

Rawji Sojpal Building

New Coronation Restaurant

Darbar Lucky Restaurant

No.68 New High Class Restaurant

No.30 Corner View
Morning Post Restaurant

No.26 Manjrekar Building
Capitol Restaurant

GOVERNMENT GATE ROAD (Parel, Bombay No 12)
Café Yazdan

Saifi Mahal
Lal Baug Restaurant and Stores

GOVINDJI KENI ROAD (Bombay No 12)
Kismet Building
Modern Times restaurant

GOWALIA TANK ROAD (Bombay No 7)
Oriental Stores & Restaurant

Chinoy Mansion
Lord Willingdon Restaurant

Hillal House
New Gentleman Restaurant

Dholsani Building
Tehran Restaurant

Motiwalla Mansion
New Ideal Restaurant

Shri Hari Nivas
Union Jack Restaurant

GRAHAM ROAD (Ballard Estate, Bombay No 1)
Laxmi Building
Café Ballard

GRANT ROAD (Bombay No 3)
Persian Restaurant

Adi Mansion
Express Restaurant

Hamidya Restaurant

Falooda Cold Drink House

Novelty Restaurant

Regal Stores

Wassiamull Buildings
Kohinoor Restaurant

Bombay Restaurant and Stores

Big Ben Restaurant

Grand Oriental Restaurant, Bakery and Hotel (cnr. Grant Rd and Falkland Road)

GRANT ROAD BRIDGE
Bombay A1 Restaurant



GREEN STREET (Fort, Bombay No 1)
Café India

James Restaurant

GUNBOW STREET (Fort, Bombay No 1)
Nanabhai Chambers
Welcome Restaurant

Harding Restaurant

HAINES ROAD (Bombay No 18)
Stone Chawl
Bombay Good Luck Restaurant

HARVEY ROAD (Bombay No 7)
National Restaurant

Cecil Restaurant

New York Restaurant

HOME STREET (Fort, Bombay No 1)
H. Boostani Restaurant

HOMJI STREET (Fort, Bombay No 1)
Buona Casa Building
Royal Stores Restaurant

HORNBY ROAD (Fort, Bombay No 1)
No.1 Crawford Market
Empire Stores and Restaurant

B Block Sitaram Buildings
Civil Restaurant
D Block Sitaram Buildings
Yazdani & Company Ltd.

167 Gokuldas House
New Edward Restaurant

Lotus Building
Café Civil

Powvala Building
Original Light of Asia Restaurant

337 Alice Buildings
Ideal Restaurant


WEST SIDE
Capitol Stores and Restaurant

204 National Insurance Building
Café Hornby

New Excelsior

HOSPITAL AVENUE ROAD (Parel, Bombay No 12)
Parel House
King Edward Memorial Restaurant

Bachooally Terrace
Anglo-Persian Co., Stores and Restaurant

HUGHES ROAD (Bombay Nos 7 & 26)
Cecil Stores and Restaurant (at junction of Hughes Rd and Harvey Rd)

Umarkant
Mansion

New York Restaurant

IBRAHIM RAHIMTOOLA ROAD (Bombay No 3)
Syed Manzil

Zam Zam Restaurant

New Lucky Restaurant

Mohd Ali Building, block no. A
Star of India Restaurant

E.C. Madha Bros. Mansion
Wazir Restaurant

Princess Building
Western Restaurant

JACOBS CIRCLE (Bombay No 11)
Vithal Nivas
Western India
Stores and Restaurant

Shirin Building
New York Restaurant

JANJIKAR STREET (Bombay Nos 2 & 3)
Jamal Building
Central Restaurant

KALBADEVI ROAD (Bombay Nos 2 & 3)
Ravindra House
Sunlight Restaurant and Stores
Botawalla Building
Bombay General Restaurant

ADVERTISEMENTS from-
Hormusji Dhunjishaw Darukhanawala, Parsi Lustre on Indian Soil, published by Claridge, Bombay, 1939.

IMAGES top to bottom:
Kyani & Co., Dhobi Talao, c1980 - photographer unknown
Cafe Kohinoor, Fort, 2007
Yazdani Restaurant and Bakery, Fort, 2007
Kyani & Co., Dhobi Talao, 2007
Cafe de la Paix, Girgaum, 2007 - photographer Abodh Aras
Bastani & Co, Dhobi Talao, c1980 - photographer unknown