Kala Ghoda Irani Cafe Walk
The Kala Ghoda Festival held some pretty amazing walks this year.I was floored by their Stained Glass Workshop and Walk earlier in the week and again by the talk and walk on Public Dining History today.A great way to know your city! Kudos to the Kala Ghoda Fest committee for organizing such events
First we had Krutti Garg tell us about Fort and its three gates.She spoke of how Indians traditionally ate at home in the late 1800s and how restaurants were unheard of.The migration of people from interiors of Maharashtra to work at mills brought about the setting up of Khanawals,home style cheap food served in little houses for workers living away from families.These were in Dadar,Parel and Lalbaug area as that's where the mills were.Bhatiyarkhanas and Caravan Serais were also set up in the same light.
The first hotel that was set up in Mumbai was the Watson Hotel,which was in current day Kala Ghoda area,next to the Army-Navy Building.British clubs and hotels were not open to Indians,at the time.The Royal Bombay Yacht Club was one such and now of course has Indian members.For this reason,the Taj Mahal Hotel was started as a place where Indians and British could socialize with each other
Kalyan Karmakar joined in and spoke of Pancham Puriwala which is near VT and is being run since seven generations.This served as a food joint for workers who transported cotton bales which was the prominent trade then.
The talk was a huge success with people above,below and under (even on the floor,that is :)) There were people of all ages united by their interest in food and Mumbai
The talk was held at the Artisans' Centre which is in the lane adjoining Rhythm House,opposite the Synagogue
After the talk,we gathered outside Rhythm House and set off to look at Irani Cafes.Irani Cafes,as we learnt are usually in corners of buildings,a place that is considered inauspicious by Hindus but it worked well for the cafes.
The cafes sold provisions as well as tea,coffee and biscuits.The tables used to be made of marble tops as they were easy to clean.The ceilings used to be high for better ventilation
We stood in the Fort area that used to be enclosed by the Church Gate,Apollo Gate and Bazaar Gate.This was the Ropewalk Lane that once had shops selling ropes for ships. Kalyan described Fort in his talk as having Mangalorean Seafood,Tamilian Dosas,Kerala Parboiled Rice,Punjabi lassis,Gomantak thalis and more.Food from all over just like the people that worked there.
Cafe Military was our first stop and its menu showed they served more than just Irani Chai :)
Most Irani cafes had family rooms enclosed by glass (you can see this in Kyani near Metro) and did not serve liquor.They instead sold provisions like eggs,bread etc.You can spot this at the Regal Restaurant at Byculla.
The second stop was Jimmy Boy.a restaurant that serves Parsi Wedding Food all the year through!
Above is the picture of the son of the owner of Jimmy Boy,a quaint restaurant we hope will run for many years to come,unlike B.Merwan that is shutting down.Yes,there used to be 1400 Irani cafes earlier,then 350 and now only 25!
Our third stop was Yazdani which is shaped like a Japanese Pagoda as it used to be a Japanese Bank.Just as valuable today with its Brun Maska and Wholewheat Bread
Irani Chai,Suleimani Chai and what not.......I stopped to buy some bread and missed the last part of the talk which was outside Mocambo Cafe
The tea/ coffee houses have changed today
Brands like Starbucks attract large crowds.I must say they provide great service too.The other day when I was waiting for the Stained Glass Walk to start,I dropped my Java Chip Frappucino while trying to photograph it at the Fort store and they replaced it without a charge!
The decor at this cafe is lovely
The point really is that we love them all....be it the Irani cafes or the Kaapi from South Indian coffee houses or the new coffee chains.....we don't want to choose between them.... there's place in our hearts for all of them!!!
We passed the Banyan Tree above, outside the Horniman Circle Garden.It used to be the Bombay Stock Exchange under which people traded.It still stands strong today and provides shade to people.Here's wishing that all the cafes last a long time,like this banyan tree, and serve to connect people,regardless of caste,creed or religion