There aren’t that many Irani cafes left in Mumbai. The few that are left face a dwindling crowd. Only the faithful head there for their daily dose of brun maska and chai. That’s why we were surprised when we saw Cafe Irani Chaii, an up-end Irani cafe, open up in Mahim in October 2015.
We spoke to Dr. Mansoor Showghi Yezdi, founder and owner of the cafe, over (what else) but a cup of chai and some brun. “While I was making a documentary film on the Irani chai culture in India and tracing its history back to Iran, I realised that a lot of Irani Cafes which I had documented were after a month or two were calling down on shutters or called off their legacy due to various reasons.
“Being a filmmaker and a Parsi this touched my heart and I really wanted to do something as I could not see the Irani Chai culture going down in history. It was then and there that I decided to open ‘Café Irani Chaii’ and keep alive the legacy of India and Iran that dates back to many centuries ago. Thus on 11th Oct 2016 we launched our restaurant and till now it’s been six months that we are into business and the response has been overwhelming.”
With a symbol of ‘India Iran Bhai Bhai’ adorning a wall in the cafe, this brightly lit space is situated in a quiet lane in Mahim near Canossa High School. Yezdi is keen to play on the centuries-old Indo-Iranian relationship. So much so that the two ‘iis’ in Cafe Irani Chaii stand for India and Iran. The love extends to the food as well: mawa cakes, akuri, khari biscuits and seeni kebabs that are made with Irani haleem. Yezdi has also made a documentary film titled ‘Café Irani Chai’ made in 2013, that has won 14 International Awards.
The menu offers a variety of things to its customers such as Brun Maska (Rs. 20), Irani Chai (Rs. 20), Mutton Dhansak (Rs. 180), Berry Pulao (Rs. 200), Mutton Biryani (Rs. 170) etc. They also offer a 10% discount to people in uniform such as students, police officers, army people and even cyclists who come down as s group for a brunch over here.
When asked why the 10% discount, Yezdi replied, “My grandfather landed in India from India back in 1890 and from then on our whole ancestors and generations have lived here in India. Indians are really open-minded and helpful people and they embraced us (Iranians) open heartedly, they have truly lived to the core values of Athiti Devo Bhava (Guest is God). My grandfather started selling chai in a ‘kitley’ at Apollo Bunder and from then on he went on establishing a café in Bandra to opening Café Ideal in Matunga he has come a long way. And over the years it is the Indians that have helped us, supported us and showered their abundant love upon us. We are very grateful to this country and motherland that has borne fruits not only for her children but also for children from all over the world. That’s why we are giving a discount to the people in uniform who are protecting our country, the students who are the future of our country and for environmentalists and cyclists who care for our motherland –India.”
Where: Café Irani Chaii.
Location: Rosary Building, Mia Mohd Chhotani Road (Near Canossa High School), Mahim West, Mumbai 400016.
Time: 7 am to 11 pm.
Meal for two: A meal for two will cost around 300 bucks.
Why should you visit: For the love of Irani chai, culture and cuisine.