Restaurant Review: Irani treat in Mahim

Cafe Irani Chaii, claiming to be Mumbai’s first new Irani eatery to have opened in 50 years, manages to rekindle the nostalgia

3-1While many older establishments threaten to shut down, Café Irani Chaii (spelt with a double ‘i’) in Mahim, recreates fond memories of buzzing Irani cafés, once the pride of the city. When we walked into the café, the black-and-white floor tiles, wooden furniture and the jumbo glass jars filled with toffees put us into rewind mode in a flash. We loved that there was no forced attempt to create a fusion-style cafe.

As we waited for Bun Maska (Rs 25) and Irani Chai (Rs 20), we noticed a few curious customers walk in, each with a host of queries. We overheard the owner, Mohammed Hussain, tell one of the visitors that the chairs were over 90 years old. “We have owned them for very long, while a few others have been sourced from relatives”, he added. “The Irani community is known for their wooden furniture,” he beamed. Cutesy, red, Irani-style kettles sat pretty in a showcase beside sepia-tinted photographs. The space is small, neat and compact, complete with a black board that lists out strict rules like ‘no combing hair’ and ‘no talking to the owner.

3-2The décor wasn’t the only thing that reminded us a bygone era, the taste of the food and the prices did full justice to our time travel trip. The menu is limited as of now but quite a few additions are in store. Post our chai and maska treat, the melt-in-mouth Chicken Pattice (Rs 25), and the slightly sweet Mutton Pattice (Rs 25) were wolfed down in minutes. Convinced that we were in good hands, we ordered Akuri (Rs 60), Paya (Rs 80), and the Mutton Kheema Ghotala (Rs 120), which was better than the regular Kheema Pav. a Egg and Kheema were cooked together in a gravy, served with hot, buttery pav.

3-3The Chicken Biryani (Rs 150) was also a hit as it was not too oily or spicy. We washed down these goodies with the traditional Parsi Ice Cream Soda, Rasberry Soda and Ginger Soda from Pallonji’s (Rs 25 each). The Mawa Cake (Rs 25) was soft and fresh while the greatest delights were the Dinshaw ice creams. After years, we were able to indulge in our favourite flavours Nimbu Pani, Bombay Chaat and Raw Mango (Rs 5 each). As we were about to leave, we spotted fresh Chicken Rolls being placed in the display shelf. “We made these for the first time today, and haven’t decided on the pricing yet. You can have both for Rs 50,” Hussain offered. Needless to say, we obliged. We will certainly return for the Dhansak, the Persian Kebabs with butter rice and Berry Pulao, soon to be added to the menu. For a trip down memory lane and for some lip-smacking Irani fare, drop by this little gem.

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