It is a close and heavy monsoon night on Marine Lines. Despite the weather, there is a jostling of people outside the Bombay Roxy. Well-turned-out gentlemen and flirty-eyed women clad in Banarasi silk saris all crane to catch a glimpse of Bombay’s finest musicians. The heavy doors to the club swing open and closed. Hot jazz spills out into the street.
The club didn’t always have this pull or indeed its current reputation. It is housed within a former cinema. The previous owner’s savings had been frittered away on the floors of marble, panelling of Burmese teak and four large chandeliers. It had been a beautiful but bankrupting experiment in Art Deco extravagance.
Under new management, it is café by day and club by night. The fortunes of the Bombay Roxy have been turned around, and now it shines brightly where darkness once stood. Bombay society comes here, to see and be seen. Local hustlers try to get the better of American card-sharks. Wealthy men of industry eye up coquettish women in cholis that expose more of their midriffs than strictly considered decent. A moustachioed Maharaja with an accent polished at Harrow or Eton exchanges pleasantries with several glamorous ladies who have perfected the art of looking beautifully bored.
The building has become a hot-tempered, noisy beast in the city’s belly, roaring through the night until the sun rises.
The man behind this reinvention is the charismatic Cyrus Irani. His name was once synonymous with Bombay’s racketeers, with murky allegiances, and with police escorts to Arthur Road Jail. Now no longer a jailbird, Cyrus fully intends to put the Bombay underworld behind him. And his new venture, the Bombay Roxy, might just be his redemption.
[Enter CYRUS IRANI.]
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.