Brun Maska & More

If you are someone who loves food and enjoys the traditional delicacies, then you would enjoy a tour to Mumbai’s heritage Iranian cafés and bakeries. When I was invited for the event A Heritage Walkin the Iranian café’s around the city I jumped up to the opportunity and took a break from work to visit. A group of 12-13 of us eager to titillate our tongues got around along with the city’s best known amateur historian Mr.Rafiq Baghdadi to have an informative tour of the places which are an integral part of Mumbai’s history and promises an experience that will stay alive in your mind forever.

Brun Maska & Irani Chai

With breakfast at a humble place like Kayani & Co. came a super surprise in the form of Brun Maska and Irani Chai. On the surface the humble bun looks pretty harmless but the generous spread of yellow melting butter threatens. Reality check: a sip of Irani chai makes the fear fade into oblivion and you are back in your bubble.  The combination is unmatchable and if you don’t believe me, here’s a look on the left. Mr. Baghdadi gave us a brief of the history of Iranian café’s in India and how this particular café began its existence.  I looked around at the humility of the place that transported me back into the history and I was glad I was eager to learn more about similar places.

A brief walk around the Fort area was clearly a walk into the cultural alleys of the bygone era. The architecture, the pavements and somehow the sunshine smelt history. Mr. Baghdadi was generous enough to describe the roadside memorials, the ancestral bunglow of the TATAs, The Bombay Club and the iconic St. Thomas Cathedral Church. The nostalgia generated by his accounts of these places was immense and I found myself imagining the life of the era back then. We all agreed with Mr. Baghdadi when he said, The problem with nostalgia is that it can only be felt, not explained’.
Keema Pav and Raspberry drink

Our next stop was at the Military Café, another humble Iranian café in a tiny alley close to Kitaab Ghar at Flora Fountain. As soon as we entered the café, the mellow fragrance of freshly baked bread filled our nostrils. We settled ourselves down to absorb the naturally welcoming place, which had entry at two points. The owners of the place played the perfect hosts by chatting up with us and understanding our requirements. This kind of natural customer engagement is pretty unheard/unseen at the new age joints. It was immensely comforting. And when one of my friends mentioned the similarity in the checkered tablecloths with glass tabletops like the ones we had noticed at Kyani & Co., I found a sense of familiarity wave inside me. I could connect with it immediately. And then while I was soaking in the moment, I smelt something that instantly made me salivate. Here I was looking at Keema Pav and I could have cried with joy just at the sight itself. If you don’t believe me, well I have a proof here. The ‘raspberry’ on the top was unparalleled. Coke, Pepsi, Thumbs Up, Limca….please take a back seat.

Mr. Boman Kohinoor proudly displaying his
connect with the Queen

After a stomach filed with just the best food I have had in a long long time, there was no way I could have felt any excited to hit the next destination. When Mr. Baghdadi suggested that we could take a taxi there, all of us nodded in negative immediately. We all needed to get our appetite back for the famous Berry Pulav so we all walked. The scorching sun over our head did most of the trick by making us faintly and tired by the time we reached Britannia & Co. Mr. Boman Kohinoor, the owner, welcomed us all and placed us at a big table that could comfortably accommodate us all and then began filling us in with the stories of his association with the Queen of England. He also proudly produced evidences to show his connect with the Empire even after 60 years of independence. This 90-year-old young man did not cease to spread the joy his stories brought and went around the café chatting at each table and sharing his fluffly jokes. A person so full of life at this age only made me smile and feel inspired by him.

Berry Pulav with Salli Boti in
the background

We were all busy discussing how his presence made the place light up when in no time our table was spread with the best of offering from the café- Berry Pulav, Salli Boti, Dhansak, Lime Soda et al. A look at the Chicken Berry Pulav in front of me made me fall in love with it instantly. A generous dose of dry fruits sprinkled over fragrant rice and a chicken ball on the side looked tempting and we all dived into it. Within minutes, I looked around to see almost ‘all gone’ kind of a table. Another interesting dish I found was the Dhansak, made with lentils and chicken. Though I did not try it then, but I made a promise to myself to taste it the next time I visit. I can tell you for sure, I could not have had another grain of rice inside my tummy when someone suggested that they make the best caramel custard called Lagnu na Custard and considering I suffer from a terrible sweet tooth I simply could not refuse. The result: I was in bliss! Check it out here:

Lagnu na Custard (Caramel Custard)
The whole trip brought about mixed feelings. I enjoyed the trip thoroughly sipping into the legacy that the Iranian café’s brought but was also sad at the state of the dying culture. Even though these café’s offer the best of food at a reasonable price, they are still not popular especially among the young crowd who are more comfortable with the junk food offered by the multinational food joints. 

Piya Bose from Girls On The Go spearheaded our tour of the cafes in association with International Social Media Week (SMW) to create awareness on the sleepy Iranian cafes in the city that are finding it tough to pace up with modernity and are soon dying.  Though I can hardly understand why! The food is good (that’s an understatement), the prices are reasonable and the service is immaculate. Through this post I urge you all to make a visit to the places mentioned above and witness for yourself a taste, I promise, is unmatched elsewhere.

Disclaimer: All pictures used in the post belong to the author and may not be used by anyone in any form without prior permission


30 thoughts on “Brun Maska & More

  1. Wow! Have seen your pics about this Heritage Walk on Facebook and am so glad that you shared the story behind it too. What an experience it must have been… Super like 🙂

  2. I wonder why these cafes aren't doing well. Is it their location? The young folks might still love their junk food better but why aren't other folks frequenting these places more often? In Delhi, as you probably know, the old time eating joints of Old Delhi and Connaught Place still thrive…as much as the swanky new ones. Great essay. I was looking forward to this after having seen the pictures you folks had posted sometime back.

  3. These cafes are not doing good because young people do not visit them often and do not enjoy the humble meals. Plus these cafes are still run in a very traditional fashion, though some people love a hint of nostalgia, others prefer modernity. That's the cause, otherwise I think these are decently well placed but people don't know much about them. Like the other day we were looking for Military Cafe in Flora fountain and some of the people we asked there did not know about it. Its really sad :(Thanks for liking the post. Please do visit these cafes when you visit Mumbai!

  4. I think I need to plan something like this in Lucknow too. Seems like a very good idea. Delhi heritage walk is already doing very well. And this is probably the first time I am seeing something similar with respect to Mumbai. And the pictures speak of the foodies fun you all had 😀 Richa

  5. Love the review and pics of Yummy Food. Gosh! You brought back the nostalgic times when I was studying at the library-Rajabhai Tower- and my walk with the ex and most of the times, alone at Fort. I've been to military cafe quite a few times. You making me cry now. Amazing Mumbai. Btw, have u tried tea at the tapdi outside Mumbai univ, it's amazing:)

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