Mumbai boasts of some of the most unusual and fancy restaurants in India. But no other city can probably beat the charm of Mumbai’s Iranian Cafes that dot the city from Bandra southwards. I have had some of my best breakfast moments at these cafes right from the time in encountered Bastani and Kayani on my way to St Xaviers college.
What sets these cafes apart are they are such an integral part of the city’s history – with little or no changes since the time they probably started shop. No nonsense attitude and house rules set them apart from other cafes and that also lends them a charm of their own.
If I have to count some Iranian cafes and restaurants that I have gone to I can barely count them on my fingers. Maybe i haven’t been to all of them and someday i will. Here are some of them that i went to, all my favourites:
- Koolar & Co: Located at Mumbai’s South India – Matunga East, this place is probably the only Parsi/ Iranian restaurant this side of town. Make sure you order the ‘rasberry’ and double egg.
- Stadium restaurant: This restaurant in Churchgate has a special place in my heart. It has memories linked to my day at college for post graduation. They used to also have a cyber cafe attached to it which shut down a year after we graduated. So we used to go to the restaurant for print outs, followed by dinner or a snack. Their kheema pao is legendary and so is their caramel custard.
- Military Cafe: What do you when you have a meeting at Fort, and just 500 Rs in your pocket? Go to Military Cafe and treat yourself to a feast. This is one restaurant that serves you beer in the afternoon and is frequented by lawyers and business men in their expensive suits, all sitting on their rickety chairs and gorging on their salli boti. When at Military cafe, you need to book your caramel custard in advance. The best things to eat here? Salli boti, kheema par eedu, chicken dhansak on days specified and of course chicken liver masala.
- Cafe Excelsior: Bang opposite New Excelsior, the cafe hasn’t changed in decades. The cinema hall has been revamped from what i have heard but not the cafe save for maybe a few additions of ‘Indian’ Chinese in the menu and some wall graffiti. What do you eat when you are here? Bun maska is staple but do indulge in their chicken cutlets.
- Kyani and Bastani: Why i am i calling out these two competing Iranian cafe’s in Marine Lines together? Because they are the first brush i had with Iranian cafes when at graduation college. While Kyani was more welcoming, it has its set of weird rules. Bastani only had rules. I never went there. Kyani was my go to place for chicken puffs, pound cakes and bun maska while going to college or back home. I think Bastani eventually shut shop. Kyani still lives on.
What are some of your favourites and where should i go next? No the new age Iranian / pseudo-Iranian restaurants don’t count, only authentic ones will do. Let me know!