Irani Cafes in Mumbai: The Lifeline of Bombay


Click here to read full post.

image Enjoying Mawa Cakes and tea




  1. This is a wondeful portrayal of a lasting business in your city. It very much resonates with me as we have a similar place i New Orleans called Cafe Du Monde. French is the orevailing influence in New Orleans and this cafe was designed originally with that in mind. In all these many years, though their popularity has grown, they have never changed their simple method or style of serving strong Cafe Au Lait with deep fried nuggest of piwdery heaven called beignets. I love businesses that do not conform to the seeming demands of commercialism.

    1. Thank you for your comments. Although, these Irani cafes never really get highlighted in a glittery world, but I can say that they have served almost four to five generations, considering that I am in the fifth generation category. Back then in that era it was all about the people and service so I wanted to put that concept forward to the people of India and even globally.

      1. And you did so very well. I like the photos you took as well. They certainly do not portray a glittery world but it has a very ordinary feel and that appeals to me.

  2. I had a similar post about small breakfast shops in the US. It’s so good to read these descriptions about places like this in other countries. My guess is that many will survive, at least I hope so. The big brands have to focus on costs, and quality will eventually suffer. The places you’ve described here should not be allowed to fall away. Thanks for sharing a slice of life from a distant land.

    1. These cafes still attract large number of people here in Mumbai, but Indians are passionate about American products here, especially the younger lot so they choose Starbucks over this, they get this feel of sophistication and classy appeal that these cafes wont offer.

      1. That’s sad. I’m not sophisticated but I seek out places like you describe in every city I visit. I don’t travel much outside the US but on a recent trip to England, a friend took me to a small private cafe. I had one if the best breakfast sandwiches ever.

  3. These are really interesting observations and photos — thanks for highlighting something that isn’t mainstream for tourists. I hope there continues to be support for these cafes — maybe blog posts like yours will help with spreading the word. It’d be a shame if giant chains like Starbucks crowded them out.

    1. Thank you Jaime. The cafe in the picture celebrated 100 years this year, but unfortunately they are closing down on March 31. I have visited this place for almost three decades now. In fact, my school was just right next to it, so I would come here for early morning breakfast and I would rush out as soon I hear my school bell at the start of the day.

  4. What a wonderful post! I traveled to India as a young man, many more years ago than I care to remember, and is indeed one of the places I wish to return when I retire in a few years.

    This is a beautifully written and nostalgic post, and the accompanying photographs compliment your account most vividly. Whilst i appreciate that times change and that society evolves and moves on, it is saddening that all to often it has to be at the expense of culture and heritage, and that the needs and wishes of local people are so often set aside for the needs of big business. Much the same is happening here in London; a number of local city markets are slowly being eroded and closed down as their valuable free-holds are bought up by the multinationals and property developers.

    My compliments for a superbly written and illustrated piece…

    1. Thank you for your comment. I am glad that you have been to India even though it was long time ago and that you would like to return. I know it might have faded out of your memory, but I am still curious to know where did you stayed in India during your visit.

  5. Your description is excellent and it awakes a strong sense of nostalgia for valuable things now lost, maybe lost, about to be lost, or just missed. I have seen what happens when huge international brands invade a city. Recently, KFC opened in Nairobi, and there are already stories that McDonald’s is coming. The local restaurants and cafes like Steers, Wimpy, Galitos, Kenchic, etc are rapidly losing customers, and, with time, might close down for good. Thenceforth they will only be memories in our heads, after all these years of decent service. Most businesses these days target the youth, but, I think, the youth anywhere in the world love American products, with complete disregard to the old and the quaint. If it is American, it must be a good thing–this seems to be the preponderant thought amongst them. As the world shrinks and we all become closer and closer to one another, at least in distance, so many changes will take place and so much will be lost that I think it will totally useless to hold dearly an attachment to a property that is not under the direct influence of one–but even those directly controlled inevitably wither away as well. What lasts in this strange place, this world, whether our home or prison?

    1. Thank you for your comment Peter. Well, change is inevitable so I cannot blame completely these multinationals. It also depends on the people that want better lifestyle and sophisticated places to hang around rather than sitting in a cafe that does not give importance to ambience and classy appeal.

    1. I’m a Parsi so all this bun maska and pudding and custard is a part of my DNA. I love Starbucks, but at the same time these 100 year-old establishments are an integral part of our lives and seeing them go away due to fierce business competition makes me feel sad.

      1. When we have friends coming to visit, places I take them are Irani restaurants, udipi in Matunga, the cheaper gomantak joints for fish… and if can swing with a friend with membership – a slice of history at the Yacht club. More recently I’ve added The Bombay Canteen to the list for its mix of being a ‘happening’ place that has newly inspired canteen khanna. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s