In the 19th century, India became home to numerous Zoroastrian settlers, who had fled from Iran to avoid persecution, and who came to be known as Parsis. These settlers integrated some of their culture into the Indian culture of the time, notably through numerous characteristic cafés, particularly in Mumbai. Although today few of these remain, they are still a symbol of India’s cultural diversity. Here we explore the best among them.
Old and unruffled, Kyani & Co’s checkered table cloths and vintage wooden furniture take visitors down memory lane to a time in India’s past. Kyani & Co. is one of the Parsi cafés that closely resembles a cosy family room, with numerous homey touches and comforts making it a delightful place to relax. Kyani & Co is the earliest, the oldest and one of the last Parsi cafés remaining in Mumbai’s Marine Lines. Old and young, rich and the poor, all come to sample the restaurant’s historical menu, filled with Parsi specialties.
Britannia & Co is a legendary Parsi café, and is well known for its humorous and charming host who welcomes all visitors – Mr. Boman Kohinoor. Transporting visitors back to the 1980s, the crystal chandeliers hanging above in the corners of the room with tiny golden globe lights flood the inside of Britannia & Co with warmth and affection. The interior of the café reflects back the colonial period, again reflecting the diversity of Indian culture. It is one of the oldest and iconic cafés in Mumbai and is often crowded at all times of day. Address: Neville House, 1st Floor Currimbhoy Road, Ballard Estate, Fort +91 22 3000 8585
Café Universal is very well known for its traditional Parsi dishes. No one can miss the great entrance of this cafe with its art nouveau décor, butterscotch walls and four grand doorways. The interior is cheery and colourful, featuring paintings hanging all over the walls, bottles methodically placed and huge open windows bringing fresh air and natural light in, making the Café Universal look like spring time no matter how gloomy the weather outside.
Ideal Corner Café takes you back home with their freshly made, homemade dishes on their frequently changing menu. This café is somewhat cramped and stuffed amidst a tall building in the busiest lane of Mumbai Fort, but once you find this little café this only adds to the charming experience. The main feature of Ideal Corner Café is the ever-changing menu which offers something fresh and new on the table every day. With their yellow and blue tiled décor this place has a cheerful, bright vibe, and is the perfect place to experience authentic Parsi cooking. Address: Hornby View, Gunbow Street, Borabazar Precinct, Ballard Estate +91 22 2262 1930
The Light of Bharat is what a typical Parsi restaurant is supposed to be like. The checkered tablecloths, grandfather clock and the tattered walls stand there exactly as they were decades ago when the café first opened. Preserving the original and old look of the Parsi culture when it had first begun, Light of Bharat is still standing strong after 85 years. It is the perfect café to head to for a pocket friendly meal, and a true slice of Mumbai culture.