When Mohammad Yaseen started selling kebabs at the young age of 17 behind Hotel Taj Mahal, Colaba, he could hardly have foreseen the great success that it would eventually become. Now, though a younger crowd has replaced the men in uniform from Fort and Navi Nagar, who were the stall’s original loyal patrons, little else has changed about kebab corner Bademiya over the past 70 years.
Until now Yaseen’s five sons have finalised plans to open a swanky restaurant at Horniman Circle, Fort, by the same name, though the original will stay right where it is. Food at the new split-level, air-conditioned eatery will carry on the Bademiya tradition, while adding a variety of biryanis and curries to the menu. The owners promise only a meagre difference of ten per cent in pricing. And for those whose habits die hard, the ever-attentive waiters will willingly serve them outside in their cars too.
Says Mohmmad Gaus, co-owner, “My brothers and I have run this place for a long time now. All our sons have studied hotel management and for their sake, we have started expanding. We plan to open a few other branches in the suburbs too.”
Over the years, the joint has been frequented by a number of celebrities including actors Ajay Devgn, Kajol, Anil Kapoor and Tushar Kapoor, and the occasional cricketer like Zaheer Khan, Kapil Dev and Ishaan Sharma. Most drive up and order a steaming plate of chicken seekh kebabs or warm baida roti in their ritzy cars, while some even brave the open-air seating arrangement on either side of the bustling lane.
Gaus narrates an interesting anecdote on how the place came to be called Bademiya. “My father served kebabs from a small cart behind the Taj Hotel. The regulars referred him to as ‘Miya’ (endearing term used for a older man). But as the length of his beard increased, he came to be known as Bademiya. That’s how his cart gained popularity,” he says.
So what makes the chicken kebabs and mutton rolls so popular with the late night partygoers at Colaba? Gaus attributes their success to his father’s secret recipe, saying, “We use a particular jadi-booti (herb) in our food. My father’s guru gave him the knowledge of this recipe, which he then passed on to us. Someday, we will pass it on to our sons.” He adds, “Even the meat is carefully picked by us.” And what if the secret recipe is let out in the process of expansion? Gaus smiles confidently and says, “That is never going to happen. It will be kept in our family and passed on from one generation to the next.”