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.
As a thirteen year old boy in Delhi with endless energy and appetite, I treasured Sunday mornings. I’d wake up early, jump on my rickety Hero Cycle bicycle and hurriedly pedal five miles to a park close to Shantivan and Raj Ghat. There, me and my friends would set-up makeshift stick stumps and play cricket for hours… or until our minds and bellies turned (inevitably) to food.
The festival of Eid al-Fitr (literally “the Celebration of the Breaking of the Fast”) marks the conclusion of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month where restraint and discipline must be practised.
In India, mealtimes are very much a family affair and everything is shared which makes these cheese-and-pastry twirls perfect for making together this half-term. They’re incredibly easy to make, which make them just right for keeping little hands happily occupied during the holidays.
The culmination of Ramadan will bring with it Chand Raat (the night of the moon), an evening of great excitement and unity. It’s the eventide or moment the first crescent moon of the month is observed, which marks the end of the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, a period of fasting, prayer and reflection, and the start of Eid, the beginning of great festivities.