They say change is constant, but not for Mumbai’s Irani cafés. They refuse to change a thing, and thrive.
So, what makes a café Irani? You don’t have to be an Irani to open one, and you can have pretty much anything on the menu.
But you cannot be an Irani café if you do not have at least three of these: bun-maska, chai, marble-topped tables, bentwood chairs, glass jars full of stuff no one ever buys, and some really odd rules – no sitting for long; no asking directions; no arguing; no gambling; no discussing politics.
No Irani café worth its bun-maska would open without some version of the rules — not even the new ones in London (Dishoom, now a chain of five, was launched here in 2010) and Paris (which has an Irani café called MG Road)
B Merwan in Grant Road. The cafés and their quaint boards became icons of another time. No Irani café worth its bun-maska would open without some version of the rules — not even the new ones in London (Dishoom, now a chain of five, was launched here in 2010) and Paris (which has an Irani café called MG Road).
Even the paint on the walls is peeling at Britannia, and there’s usually a pet cat at the cashier counter, but the tourists stream in with their guides all day and sit down to plates of berry pulao — that now cost more than Rs700 (yes, one thing changed).
As a tribute to those that were gone, filmmaker Mansoor Showghi Yezdi made a documentary called Café Irani Chai in 2013, and two years later opened an Irani café of the same name in Mahim. It was the first new Irani café in the city in 50 years.
Bun-maska and chai are a must-have at any Irani cafe.
SodaBottleOpenerWala is the perfect Irani café for the glass-and-chrome business district of Bandra-Kurla Complex. You don’t come here to reminisce; you come here to chat over retro music and take selfies against the décor.
Dishoom’s walls, in fact, are rather startlingly rude — ‘Simon Go Back’ shouts one word cloud. A list of rules at the King’s Cross outlet declares: ‘No Rowlatt Act’, ‘No Salt Tax’, ‘No Lathi Charging’ and also the more familiar ‘No making mischief in Cabin’ and ‘No cutting nails’.
First Published: Apr 20, 2017 19:08 IST