If you know a little about us, you may know that our restaurants, our cookery book, our food and drink – in fact, anything and everything we do! – are all deeply rooted in a profound love for Bombay.
This love springs from treasured childhood memories, hundreds of trips back and forth, thousands of hours spent in dusty archives, many enduring friendships and endless wanderings around the more obscure parts of the city. And of course, many hours sitting in the remaining Irani cafés. (Shamil actually celebrated his first birthday in Koolar & Co, near his grandmother’s small flat on King’s Circle.)
It is a city full of contradictions and extremes, of human existence cohabiting cheerfully, hemmed in tight against each other by the ocean on three sides. And yet between the layers of accumulated history, frenetic development and constant migration, there is much magic to be found and many stories to be told.
It’s easier to show, rather than tell, and so, we're inviting you to explore the city by way of a photo journal, including many dishes and places which have inspired many of our recipes. A love-letter-of-sorts to the city of Bombay.
Our cafés pay homage to the food of all Bombay, and the Irani cafés. These cafés broke down barriers by bringing people together over food and drink – they were actually the first places where people of all backgrounds could break bread together. Bombay became more open and welcoming thanks to their existence.
Bombayites have been enjoying pau dipped in chai in Kyani since it opened in 1904. It’s the sort of place of refuge that helps you to feel comfortable in a city.
Chai is the powerful concoction of milk, sugar, black tea and spices that keeps the city of Bombay running.
No finer mid-morning snacks than the baked goods fresh from the wood-fired ovens at Yazdani Restaurant & Bakery on Cawasji Patel Street. Occupying a former Japanese bank building and run by Mr Zend M. Zend, formerly known as ‘Knock-out Zend’, their brun maska draws hungry patrons from across the city.
Britannia & Co. is one of the loveliest of surviving Irani cafés. Your lunch here should involve a fragrant chicken berry pulao as well as the excellent Parsi speciality salli botti (tender lamb braised in a rich and flavoursome gravy topped with crunchy salli crisp-chips) mopped up with fresh chapati. All pair rather nicely with Pallonji’s Parsi raspberry or a light and refreshing fresh lime soda.
As the sun loses its ferocity towards the end of the day, Bombay relaxes and takes to the seafront to stretch its legs. Chowpatty Beach is a place of relative calm, a welcome respite to Bombay’s hectic manner, where parents rest on blankets, teenagers sit closer than their elders would allow and old friends take their evening stroll just as they’ve been doing for the past several decades.
Groups of children enthusiastically play cricket on Chowpatty as dusk sets across Bombay. With so many Dishoom-wallas being avid fans of the sport, the Dishoom Premier League was set up in 2018 so café teams can battle it out to win the coveted Dishoom Premier Cup at Lord’s Cricket Ground.
During the day, browse shop-cum-treasure-troves of Chor Bazaar for a fascinating collection of antiques, motorcycle parts, old photos and pretty much anything else you can think of. As they close up in the evening, have a second dinner in and around the crowded Mohammed Ali Road. A note: this area is undergoing vast urban redevelopment turning hundreds of buildings into new shiny skyscrapers. As such, a lot of places in this area so dense with character and history may no longer exist if you visit Bombay.
Restaurant Bademiya is the big boss of Colaba, where each night it extends over the road itself as Bombayites dine on their famous sheekh kababs, chicken tikka and roomali rotis.
As you stroll along Marine Drive to Nariman Point, the odd murmur or giggle can be heard as Bombay’s lovers take advantage of the quiet shelter of the sea wall.
K. Rustom & Co. started life as “dispensing chemists, tobacconists and general merchants” in the 1940s before graduating to an ice-cream parlour in 1956. Now run by Roda and Aban Irani, the founder’s daughters, it’s firmly a hit in Bombay, known for its very delicious ice-cream sandwiches.
Don’t shy away from the first-class guava and jackfruit ice-creams. Best enjoyed sitting on the seafront taking in the view of the Queen’s Necklace.
Couples sit on the seafront hand-in-hand and take in the sensuous sweep of Marine Drive where the Arabian sea is lined with Art Deco apartments and palm trees. Co-founder Shamil would be taken on walks here as a child back in the 1970s by his grandparents – it all felt impossibly glamorous to him as a young boy.
For more eclectic stories and a highly subjective guide to Bombay, do explore our best-selling cookery book.
With February comes a gladdening of spirits, lighter morning skies and discernibly louder birdsong. It is also the month to bid farewell to our winter cocoons (at least partially) and tune back into the world beyond our blankets. Allow us to ease the de-hibernation process, by sharing some of the things piquing our interest this month.
“Who wants to see some magic?” Chef Arun calls out. He flings the rolled out dough into the air, sending it soaring above the counter. It spins and twists, a graceful dancer in the air. The children watch its arc, their eyes wide with wonder, until it lands gently back in the chef's hands. The children shriek in delight.
January is a most divisive month. For some it heralds the hopeful turning over of new leaves; for others it is a month to trudge begrudgingly through towards the promise of spring. Whichever camp you find yourself in, we have plentiful diversions to share. See them as the cherry atop your already gleeful January cake, or a welcome distraction while you await winter’s end.
I AM HERE, dear reader, slovenly and slouched, staring into my drink at the end of the bar in our new restaurant in Battersea. My mind is still down and out, sifting around in the dregs of ’23 but of course it knows that I should really straighten my back, raise my chin and look squarely up into the cold new light of ’24. My drink – Choti’s Punch – clear and strong, sweet with a little salt, may help.