The Taste with Vir: Renowned chef Cyrus Todiwala’s culinary journey, his restaurant Café Spice Namaste’s closing and possible revival amid coronavirus pandemic

In this week’s The Taste, Vir Sanghvi writes of the legacy of renowned chef, Cyrus Todiwala. From the chef’s early days at Taj Aquada in Goa to currently crowdfunding to reopen his well-known restaurant Café Spice Namaste in a new location, read on….

If you watch food shows on TV — or if you are a dedicated foodie – then you will know who Cyrus Todiwala is. Even if you missed The Spicemen, the show he co-anchored with a Scottish sardarji in a kilt, the chances are you have read his cookbooks, which are simple to use and packed with foolproof recipes.

I have known Cyrus and his wife Pervin from 1981/2, when they were both at the Taj Aquada/Holiday Village complex in Goa. Those were simpler and happier times. The people who came to the Taj (especially the Village) tended to be professionals from Mumbai and the super-rich had not yet decided to create a ‘Goa scene’. There were no imported ingredients available so Cyrus developed first, a kitchen garden and then, even tried to breed pigs. (In those days, commercially-available pork in Goa was not always safe.)

His food was excellent. He had come from the Mumbai Taj so he understood Western food .Partly because of his own ethnic background but mainly because he had been made to cook for the Tata directors at Bombay House, he was a master of Parsi food. In his years in Goa, he also immersed himself totally in the local cuisine. By the end of that decade, Cyrus had vanished from Goa and when I next heard of him, it was in London. He had opened Café Spice Namaste, which, along with the Taj’s Bombay Brasserie, became the most influential Indian restaurant in the UK. Last week, Cyrus announced that he was closing Café Spice Namaste after 25 years. The news created such a stir that The Caterer, the journal of the British F&B business, led with the story and all over the UK, foodies were left sad and despondent.

The news is not all bad, though. I spoke to Cyrus after The Caterer story caused a stir and he told me that he hopes to open another avatar of Café Spice Namaste soon. Three regular guests at the restaurant, (they have been coming since it opened), Nick Gooding, John Minton and Howard Townson, have set up a Friends of Café Spice Namaste fund to help with a move to a new location and donations are pouring in. Cyrus reckons that if all goes well, they could open a smaller version of the existing Café Spice Namaste somewhere else by next spring.