It was founded by Rashid Kohinoor in 1923, the same year the current owner, his son Boman, was born.
Now 90 years old, but with the energy of a 20 year old, Boman Kohinoor still waits on tables, taking the orders and cracking jokes constantly. I was very impressed with his knowledge of current New Zealand politics, especially as many Indians I meet confuse New Zealand with Switzerland. I am very happy he didn’t complement me on my country’s chocolate and start quizzing me about pocket knives!
Irani Cafes were originally opened by Zoroastrian Iranians when they arrived in India in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Mumbai was the most popular destination as it was an established trading centre. The Iranians chose to work for the established Parsi community (who first arrived from Iran over 1000 years previously) and gradually opened up small restaurants.
Typically these were often found on corners because when they started coming to Mumbai, most of the corner premises were vacant as many Indians would not take the corner believing that it was very unlucky for them. So the Iranis started renting them and found the corners good for business.
Iranian cafés used to be numerous and popular. In the 40s, 50s and 60s there were about three to four hundred Irani restaurants, bakeries, stores in Mumbai, but they are slowly diminishing, and now maybe only about twenty, thirty Irani restaurants are left today.
Despite the crumbling walls and dated décor Britannia continues to do thriving business as the food is excellent. Enough to motivate the Boss and I to drive in for over an hour from the suburbs just to have lunch!
Britannia is famous for it’s “Chicken or Mutton Berry Pulao”, a rice dish garnished with cashew nuts and little red berries. The berries are from the Berberis vulgaris plant, known more commonly as Zureshk , which grows in the wild in much of Europe and West Asia. Rich in vitamin C, and with a sweet and sour flavour they are used frequently in Iran as a flavouring for rice dishes and poultry.
We ordered a plate of each, and then a third as it was consumed in no time.
We also ordered Bombay Duck (not a duck but a very tasty local fish battered and fried)
And Chicken cutlet
Each dish I ate seemed to make my tape worm more and more ravenous so I ordered a plate of Egg Masala to top everything off.
All the food was excellent and coupled with the slightly eccentric setting made for a very enjoyable lunch. One thing I have noticed with Parsi and Iranian Restaurants is that they don’t seem to eat any vegetables. However the sprightly 90-year-old owner seems to disprove the rule that eating veges is a must for good health!
Britannia Café is only open from 12p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is closed on Sundays. If you ever find yourself in Mumbai make sure you make a visit and do so soon as places like this are fast disappearing.
Britannia’s slogan is “There is no love greater than the love of eating”, which should be my life’s motto! (Apart of course from my love of the Boss! ……… better add that before she thumps me!)
Pic Courtesy Unlisted Sightings