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Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019

What Bombay will miss of Britannia’s Boman

We pay tribute to the culinary legend Boman Rashid Kohinoor, who was old as his iconic restaurant at the edge of Mumbai

more-lifestyle Updated: Sep 28, 2019 15:54 IST
Yoshita Rao
Yoshita Rao
Boman Rashid Kohinoor sitting at his café — Britania and Co at Ballard Estate, Mumbai
Boman Rashid Kohinoor sitting at his café — Britania and Co at Ballard Estate, Mumbai

Tucked away in a quiet corner of Ballard Estate is a restaurant quite popular with Mumbaikars. Restoring a part of vintage ‘Bombay’, Britannia and Co is a family-run Irani café and one of the city’s last few standing that foodies still flocks to. With their decadent Chicken Lace Cutlets served with a side of Salli or the sour-sweet, flavourful, Berry Pulav with “berries imported from Iran”, this restaurant has enamoured everyone.

The café has stood the test of time with its lip-smacking dishes and decades-old architecture. But apart from the ramshackled walls and the wires jutting out of the ceiling, the restaurant holds a fixture who is even more memorable than their famous Salli Boti, which is served by their sharply dressed waiters in bow ties and neatly tucked white shirts.

The inside of Britania and Co café
The inside of Britania and Co café

If you’re lucky, when you walked in, you’d inevitably be greeted by a charming old man, who wouldn’t quit until he brought a smile to your face. Be it to explain the history of the Iranian flags on their walls or to engage in a little guessing game about his age, or even talk to you about the photograph of their pet rooster on the wall and throw in a bit about his letters from the Queen — Boman Rashid Kohinoor, who was as old as the restaurant itself, was always an informative run-in.

Britania and Co at Ballard Estate, Mumbai
Britania and Co at Ballard Estate, Mumbai

On September 25, Mumbai lost another legend when Boman breathed his last. While the family was unreachable for comments, two prominent voices from the Parsi and film communities reminisce their tales of the restaurant and their encounters with this kind restaurateur.

I would take food home from Britannia: Boman Irani

When you entered the restaurant, it would be like entering a time warp — from the food to the waiters, everything looked the same in the 1970s to even 2007. For the last couple of years, I haven’t been going there much, but at one point, I was a very frequent visitor, for at least 30 years.

If we were shooting at Ballard Estate, which is a popular location on Sunday because of its deserted roads, the entire production unit would end up at Britannia and Co’s for lunch, and we would hope to arrive early enough to get breakfast, as well. We used to order our usual eggs and kheema pav. When we’d enter the restaurant, I’d open with, “Welcome to the great Britannia and this is the great Boman Kohinoor”.

Boman Irani
Boman Irani ( Photo: Viral Bhayani )

Boman used to always have the same demeanour — he would always chat about the good ol’ days, send something extra to the table and of course, we’d have a huge argument over who would pay the bill. I loved their plate-sized Lace Cutlets and Salli Boti. I don’t remember ever going there for dinner. I used to only have lunch there and invariably pack food from Britannia and Co and take it home.

Boman was a huge part of my life: Cyrus Broacha

All my life, from the ‘90s to the 2000s, I was a pretty frequent visitor at Britannia and Co. I loved their Berry Pulav. Boman would go around tables, talking to every customer as though he was a waiter himself. He’d tell you about the Queen and his fondness for the British empire, why he named it Britannia and how they’d acquired the ground floor of the building for the venue of the restaurant. He used to always have this naughty smile on his face and would ask if you’ve tried their raspberry soda drink, which I loved. It had this pulpiness and just the right amount of tartness. It still is very tasty, very bubbly and rare to find, just like the Parsis in Mumbai (laughs).

I would mostly visit them when I was working in advertising in Nariman Point in 1994. We would get a one-hour break and this would be our go-to place. But growing up in Mumbai, people like Boman and Irani cafés have always been a huge part of our lives. He was always very friendly. Here’s hoping all these places (Irani cafés) don’t disappear any time soon.

Cyrus Broacha
Cyrus Broacha ( Photo: Anshuman Poyrekar/HT )

First Published: Sep 28, 2019 15:53 IST

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