I am a big time foodie. I head out to places famous and unexplored, which are renowned for the food. Sometimes, I just head ahead, without any motive in my mind. And in my pal Satveer Singh, I found a person, who is a lot more dedicated towards food than me.
One fine day, both of us decided to head off to Mumbai to enjoy the ‘famous’ Irani cuisine.
Britania and Co. is exactly the place a person thinks an Irani café to be; small area, a constant noise being heard from every corner, constant chaos like situation existing, group of people sitting around and chatting, and the like. The restaurant commenced operations in 1930’s. I felt like being transported back in time, to the 1940’s, when Irani cafes were aplenty in the length and breadth of Mumbai. The complete place looked like a page taken from history books.
Waiting for thirty minutes seemed trivial, as we finally were there inside, ready to order. Hungry since four hours, we ordered the food in a hurry. When the food arrived, we took no time to dig into the dishes in front of us.
Mutton Berry Pulao, Salli Chicken, Patrani Machchi, Roti, Caramel Custard, Raspberry Soda; every dish served was heavenly in taste. As it turned out, it was going to be my first shot @ the Irani cuisine.
We were almost half done with our food, when Mr. Boman Kohinoor, the second generation owner of the restaurant arrived at our table to enquire about the quality of the food on our table. Being 91, he seemed to defy age, as he was walking throughout the restaurant at a brisk pace. At such an age, finding so much life in the person was quite pleasing, especially when other people would take to the bed and wait for their departure from this world. His smiling face to every customer was a delight to watch. When Satveer told him that we both came all the way from Hyderabad to witness the traditional Irani taste, his face lit up. We chatted for around five minutes when he went to the other table present, to start another conversation.
At the entrance of the café, the brother of Mr. Kohinoor was sitting, welcoming the guests. His face beaming with happiness, he was instructing the waiters from his chair to take care of the people inside.
At the cash counter, the third generation owner, Mr. Boman’s son, Afsheen, seemed busy as a bee. Now the third generation is actively managing the historic eatery and it does not seem to die out pretty soon.
This foodie trip to Irani cafe of South Mumbai was a mixed bag of emotions. Although the Irani café culture is meeting a slow death in Mumbai, its places like Britania and Co. and Kyani and Co., which are still keeping the culture going on. Once there were around 350 Irani cafes in Mumbai, now there are hardly 20. I believe it was the unique characteristics of these two cafes, which helped them escape the times of complete closure. I pray that the remaining cafes still keep on running and not go down in the pages of history.
Nevertheless, I have found a place in Mumbai to visit, whenever I make a trip there. What better a moment of time that would be, going to South Mumbai to an Irani café, enjoying Irani tea and eating bun maska, along with the endless conversations with a dear friend?