Happy Independence Day
To celebrate India’s Independence Day, we go back in time and visit restaurants, cafes and other establishments that have been around since before 1947 and have witnessed our country’s journey and history and watched a nation being born.
Britannia Cafe: Run by Boman Kohinoor, a quintessentially Parsi gentleman, Britannia is a charming cafe established in 1923, the same year that he was born. Boman visits each table and takes every order, even now at the age of 90 and the eccentric host charms and tells stories and gives you a little taste of history. For example the 3 flags of India, Britain and Persia on the peeling wall symbolize where they are from, the British that allowed them to set up this establishment and highest of all, India, the nation that took their people in and sheltered them and gave them a new home. With a lovely story like that to start with, it was just a cherry on top that the meal was so delicious too. Fantastic Chicken Cutlet, and the famed Berry Pulao – oh my does it live up to expectations. Delicious, savory, sweet and a gorgeous hit of tang from the little berries.<
Pancham Puriwala : A landmark of sorts located at Fort, Pancham Puriwala has been around for over 100 years. This is one of the hidden gems of Bombay, and one of the few must try poori subzi places. Their Pooris laced with salt and red chilli are absolutely delicious, specially paired with aloo ki sabzi. And the prices are almost pre-independence too! A meal here will cost you about Rs.50.
Bachelorr’s Ice cream: Located on the street opposite Chowpatty with Charni road as it’s backdrop, few would guess this place was started in 1940 and has been a witness to this ever changing city. Savour the sandwiches or enjoy the seasonal fruit with a large dollop of fresh cream and richly textured ice cream. If you are the adventurous sort ask for some Green Chilly Ice cream.
B Merwan : Located opposite Grant Road station is this iconic cafe. Legend has it that the chairs at B Merwan are from Czechoslovakia and the table top marble, from Italy. You can find the most delicious, quintessentially Bombay, Mawa cake at Merwan. The anda bhurji and pav with chai is a delicious, savory, satisfying breakfast. Head to B Merwan for a slice of vintage Bombay.
Cafe Royale: Located near the culture square of Bombay since 1919, Cafe Royale has watched the city changing for 94 years, and it has changed with the city too. It started out as an Irani Cafe and reinvented itself to become the best fine dining place with a live orchestra. It even hosted Bill Clinton for dinner on his visit to India. But what keeps people coming back to Cafe Royale is its food. They specialize in Continental fare and their Sizzlers are particularly good.
Cafe Leopold: The board proudly proclaims ‘Since 1871’ and the fact that they’ve stuck around for a century and a half makes one wonder the scenes that place must have seen. It holds a special place in the novel Shantaram and we imagine many other great stories have taken place there including some really sad ones. Head to this stalwartly resilient spot for a taste of history, a glass of beer and some brunch.
Flury: Flury started as a tea room by Mr & Mrs Flury over a 100 years ago and probably served the best pastry then. Flury is now managed by Park Hotel but still retains its timeless charm. Visit Flury for a deliciously old fashioned tea with scones served with lashings of butter or whipped cream.
Mukh Mishti: As you walk down Rash Behari road in Kolkata you will see an array of sweet shops, at the corner is a small unglamorous shop that has been around for over a 100 years. They’ve been serving up Bengali sweets such as Sandesh, Mishti Doi, Rosogulla and more and they’ve had some time to practice and perfect it. As we bit into the Sandesh, it was fresh, sweet and melted in your mouth, oozing delicious jaggery.
Karim’s: Established in 1913, this famed spot is tucked away in Chandni Chowk. You can’t drive to Chandni Chowk. The best way to get there is to drive to Daryaganj, park your car there and take a cycle rickshaw to Chandni Chowk. In a lane opposite one of the gates of Jama Masjid you’ll find Karim’s in an open courtyard surrounded by separate kitchens for rolls, curries and naans, kebabs and skewers and more, and waiters barking their orders from your table to the various kitchens. They serve fantastic rolls, especially the mutton seekh. And anything from the tandoor or off the skewers is good. Avoid the curries as they’re a bit greasy but definitely try the Burra Kebab and finish off with phirni or their kulfi falooda.
Moti Mahal: As old as our country, the history of Moti Mahal has been touched by Partition. Kundan Lal Shah was the first to start a Tandoor in Peshwar in 1920, but the partition brought him to India and it is in Delhi that he finally started his kitchen again and became the legendary creator of Butter Chicken.
Parethewali Gali: Located in the heart of old Delhi at Chandni Chowk, the tiny lane is packed with people, cycles and a lot of chaos, but the lovely fragrance of parathas being fried in pure Ghee is hard to miss. This street is almost 300 years old and the first paratha shop opened its doors sometime in 1870’s. While we spoke to the shop owner he mentioned that only pure vegetarian meals are served here since the shops are all owned by Brahmins. Aloo parathas, papad parathas, kajoo parthas, sweet parathas and anything in between can be found here. While you are strolling along in this street stop over for a sweet treat from Ghantewala, a shop that opened it doors in 1870 and was a favorite with royalty. The Sohanhalwa is particularly good. And on the way out, stop by at Kanwarji Bhagirathmal Dalbhajiwallah’s 150-year-old old shop to pick up some namkeen.
MTR – Mavalli Tiffin Room: The MTR outlet on Lalbagh Fort road, established in 1924, always has huge crowds of people gathered outside every sunday morning. Bangalore and its uncle would turn up to have their yummy idlis, vadas and dosas for breakfast. You need to get there early before their stocks run out. They even have a famous lunch thali, with food served out of pails. They have good, thick dosas dripping in ghee and delicious bissi bele bhaath and even Rasam. But the next time we visit, we’re ordering the Thali for sure.