Mumbai is undoubtedly a smorgasbord of cuisines which reflects the city’s cosmopolitanism as much as its carbohydrate-fueled routine. Of the many shapes and sizes of food joints you experience in the city, Parsi cafes are sort of exclusive to Mumbai, rather South Bombay (as a townie may protectively point out).
You cannot miss the distinct old-world charm of Parsi cafes- the high ceilings, dusty chandeliers, slowly turning ceiling fans, ubiquitous antique wall clock, quirky quotes and posters on the crumbling walls, chequered table cloth and the endearingly eccentric people who run it. Parsis play a huge role in giving character to the city.
Likewise, their food is simple with a distinct flavour. Their love for edu (eggs) can be seen in their breakfast like in all other meals. A wise Bawa once said, when in doubt, break an egg. Here are some of the most delightful Parsi breakfasts (more like breakfast experiences) in town:
Brun Maska @ Yazdani bakery and cafe
To begin with the simplest, Mumbai’s best brun maska! Hot toasted white bun with a crunchy crust, slathered with copious amount of Amul butter. Dip it into the chipped china cup of hot sugary chai and enjoy the bread melting in mouth. Can you have a better start to the day? Yes, if you add their apple pie (more like raisin pie) to your breakfast!
Opens at 5:30 am for the morning larks! Yazdani is known for its baked goods, which it has been making since the 1950s. Tucked into a by-lane in Fort it is quite easy to miss, because of its unassuming exterior. Take one of the many wooden benches; the framed posters on the wall, the archaic clock and the antique brass bell will surely transport you to a past era. To take-away some of the charm home, customers often buy their multi-grain bread, ginger biscuits, mawa cakes and rum-soaked plum cakes (during Christmas)
Getting there: 11/11-A, Cawasji Patel Street, Fort. Opens at 5:30 am
Akuri @ Kyani and Co
Akuri simply put is a spiced up, pepped up version of the boring scrambled eggs. Similar to egg bhurji, Akuri is a spicy melange of scrambled eggs with onion, tomato, coriander, chillies, pepper and ginger. It is one of the most popular dishes in the protein-loving Parsi homes and formed an essential part of the body-builder’s diet (back in the day, body building used to be a very popular sport among young Parsi boys). It can safely be called a hangover diet too!
And the best place to devour it leisurely is at the 110 year old Kyani and Co. One of the oldest cafes in Mumbai that has so many stories to tell: the stories of their patrons like Raj Kapoor, MF Hussain and Mario Miranda; stories of the glorious days when Kyani and Bastani and co. (a similar bakery right across the street) happily coexisted; the story of Kyani’s infamous kus-kus tea (tea with poppy seeds) that literally got people addicted to this place in 1950s and many more. Chat with the 80-something Aflatoon Shokri, the second generation torch bearer and enjoy his stories over an irresistible cup of tea.
Getting there: Jer Mahal Estate, Opposite Metro Cinema, Marine Lines. Opens at 7am
Sali par edu @ Jimmy Boy or By the way
Sali par edu is undoubtedly my favourite and probably the most sinful Parsi breakfast (maybe, it is closer to brunch). Simply translated, it means eggs on sali, sali is grated deep fried potatoes (like I have mentioned earlier nothing matches the awesomeness of deep fried!) Two eggs sit on top of a bed of crispy potato strips that have been sautéed and fried further with onion, tomato, coriander, chillies and ginger. This lip-smacking and heavy breakfast goes wonderfully well with a nice cup of Irani chai.
While all Prasi restaurants serve it and most of them are delicious. Two you could try:
Jimmy boy for getting transported to the pre-independence era with the chandelier on its high-ceiling and the wooden-beam interiors but mostly for music from the 70s playing in the background.
By the way for having Parsi food in not-the-typical Parsi but warm and friendly ambience but mostly because it run by a century old NGO (Seva Sadan Society) working towards the training and empowerment of underprivileged girls.
Getting there: Jimmy Boy: Vikas Building, 11 Bank Street, off Horniman Circle, Fort. Opens at 11am. By the way: Pandita Ramabai rd, Next to Gamdevi Police Station, Grant Road. Opens at 11am
Parsi Pora @ Kala Ghoda Café
The ‘eggcentrcism’ continues, but we are back in modern times at the artsy Kala Ghoda Café. One of the many reasons to love this place, their Parsi Pora. The Prasi Omlette.
Much more potent than the masala omelette, Parsi Pora is fried omelette with tomato, onion, coriander, chillies and garlic; but what really takes it to the next level is the addition of raw mango, ‘kairi’! Accompanied with KGC’s freshly baked bread and naturally, butter. Wash it down with your favourite coffee (all of them are spectacular) and sink further down into the couch.
You will be amazed at how this part cafe-part gallery was once a barn, the barn roof and brick walls, still intact. That along with the interesting use of white and lights makes the cafe fit perfectly in the art district of Mumbai. There is enough and more to draw the not-so-artsy as well:
for the cycle owners: free coffee to customers who cycle over a on a Sunday
for the dog owners: bring your dog along! so long as it is “small, clean, friendly, quiet, polite and curious, but generally non-intrusive and not an attention seeker”
for the sweet tooth owners: all their desserts are recommended!
Getting there: Ropewalk Lane, Kala Ghoda, Fort. Opposite Trishna (a famous sea food restaurant). Look out, easy to miss! Opens at 8.30am
Mutton Cutlet @ RTI (Ratan Tata Institute)
You may have been to some of the RTI outlets around the city, but the one where it all started is at Hughes road. RTI is not just the ultimate destination for Parsi goodies it is actually a self-help movement that started in 1899 to counter the helplessness of Parsi housewives widowed by the bubonic plague of 1896. Definitely not the most popular choice among the ‘millennials of today’, but many Parsi kids of the 70s, 80s and earlier grew up eating RTI food. I owe it to one such true-blue for telling me about this hidden gem.
Their food like the place looks innocuous. But the seemingly innocent Mutton Cutlet will surprise you as you bite into its crunchy crust.The filling is soft with a very flavourful and penetrating taste. To balance this, you could also try their Dar ni Pori. Dar ni Pori is a classic Parsi dish, a sweet and wholesome pastry stuffed with dal. Always found at Parsi weddings and almost always at their tea table.
Getting there: 35, N S Patkar Marg, Hughes Road, Grant Road. Opens at 10am
These are the kind of rules Parsi cafes used to put up 🙂
It’s a pity that such iconic cafés are fast disappearing and most others are fighting for survival. But well, we are lucky that a handful still exist! So as a Parsi would say, Jamva chalo jii! (Come, lets eat!)