Partner of Mumbai’s iconic Irani cafe Britannia & Co dies at 87
Britannia & Co, the iconic Irani café in south Mumbai, shut for the day on Tuesday, in honour of senior partner Merwan Kohinoor, who died in the wee hours. He was 87.
Information of his passing was first posted on the Facebook page of the community weekly, Parsi Times. The family was not available for comment.
Merwan was one of nine children born to Rashid Kohinoor, a Zoroastrian immigrant from Iran who set up Britannia in 1923. The restaurant — famous for its berry pulao and mutton dhansak — is now run by Merwan’s brother, Boman, with a third generation helping manage it.
It is the charming nonagenarian Boman you will remember seeing at the eatery. He still takes orders, offers recommendations and will tell every willing listener the story of how he met the British royals William and Kate when they visited the city last year.
“While his brother is more outgoing and chatty, Mr Merwan was more reserved,” says Simin Patel, of the Bombaywalla blog and heritage tours. Patel is currently working on a book on Mumbai’s Irani cafés, with photographer Hashim Badani.
“I would frequent the restaurant to interview Boman. Mr Merwan was hard of hearing, and one would often find him either greeting customers at the entrance or tucking into his meal at a back table,” she says.
Merwan started his career at Sailor Restaurant in Fort in the 1950s, Patel adds. He went on to manage Bastani & Co, a landmark Irani café at Dhobi Talao.
“Boman was a partner at Bastani but couldn’t manage both that and Britannia. So Mr Merwan ran the former,” Patel says.
When Bastani shut in the early 2000s, Merwan moved to Britannia. “He had been in poor health lately,” Patel says. Merwan is survived by his wife, two children and two grandchildren.