Nissim Ezekiel, the famous Indian poet wrote a lovely little tribute to Irani cafes in Mumbai, with the lines going “Please/Do not spit/Do not sit more/Pay promptly, time is valuable/Do not write letter /Without order refreshment.” Indeed that sums up the brusque functioning of most Irani cafes, which have quick service and grumpy waiters who try to hustle you out of the restaurant as quickly as possible. Nevertheless, Irani cafes remain close to Mumbai’s heart for their delicious Irani fare like bun maska, cookies, bread pudding, akuri and berry pulao. Although Irani cafes seem to be on the decline, there are a few standing in Mumbai that are frequented by droves of people each day. Here, we bring you the best.
1) Kayani and Co
Where: Marine Lines
As an ex-Xavierite this café holds a special place in my heart, being only a five minute walk from the college. Consequently, you’re likely to find a host of college students and white collar workers here at all times of the day enjoying the cheap delicious bun maska, mawa cakes and shrewsbury biscuits.
Try: Bun maska, mawa cakes, shrewsbury biscuits, Irani chai, mutton crisp patties
2) Britannia and Company Restaurant
Established in 1923, this charming restaurant has been delighting Mumbai’s taste buds for almost 100 years. For their famous berry pulao, they are rumoured to import berries directly from Iran.
Try: Sali Boti, muton berry pulao, chicken berry pulao
3) Good Luck Café
While most Irani cafes are in South Mumbai, Good Luck Café has remained steadfastly on Bandstand in Bandra, having Bandra dwellers thanking their lucky stars each morning. It is most popular for its breakfast menu, which offers bun maska, black tea and eggs. Fun fact: It used to serve emu eggs!
Try: Bun maska, clack tea, Hydrebadi Haleem
4) Ideal Corner
Compared to its counterparts, Ideal Corner has a more pleasing ambience with a décor that was recently renovated and friendly waiters. I’d recommend that you have one of their ice cream sodas with your meal; while it may be too sweet for some palates having a Irani meal with ice cream soda should be on any foodie’s food bucket list.
5) Yazdani Bakery and Restaurant
This vintage bakery transports you to a bygone era with an ancient clock, brass call bell and a hand painted board advertising Fresh Apple Pie. In fact, apple pie is one of the hot sellers at the restaurant along with the puddings and biscuits.
Try: Apple pie, mawa cakes, khari biscuits, 7 grain bread
6) Café Military
See yourself gasp in delight after tasting the fare in Café military in their mirror lined walls. Established in 1952, this café has perfected its Irani offerings and remains a firm favourite among office goers as well as tourists in Fort.
Try: Chicken biryani, keema Sali
If you’re now raring to visit an Irani café, before you go, take a little time to consider the history of Iranis in India. Watch Mansoor Yezdi’s documentary “Café Irani Chai”, which traces the migration of Persians to India and the reason that Irani food became such an important aspect of their identity. Understanding the history will allow you to appreciate the story behind the Irani fare in front of you and make it that much more delicious.