Leopold’s café on Colaba is another Bombay institution. The wide shopfront on Colaba Causeway, one of the oldest and busiest roads in the city, opens up the large café to an expansive view of the street. Beggars beg, hawkers peddle counterfeit goods to the crowds of passing locals and tourists, and black and yellow taxis stuck in traffic honk, pointlessly. It’s a snapshot of vibrant, energetic, urban Bombay.
Gregory David Roberts famously wrote about Leopold’s in his book Shantaram, which was the essential backpacker accessory a few years ago. The main character used to sit there endlessly with his colourful cast of friends. The book recounts the story of Roberts himself, an Australian prison escapee who lived in the slums, where he established a health clinic, became a street soldier for the Bombay mafia, was thrown into Indian prison and then went on to fight with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. Slightly crazy, but a fun and lively read.
As in the book, Leo’s is almost always full, but it’s much better to be inside than outside. The high ceilings and buzzing fans provide welcome relief from the heat. The café chairs are just comfortable enough. The big old clock above the door and the aging mahogany trimmed mirrors even lend the café a distinguished air. Leo’s dates back to the 1870s, so it has earned the right to its shabby elegance.
The customers are pretty diverse. Bombayites mix easily with tourists from all over the world. Hours are lost in people-watching. Business is conducted. Some suggest that Leo’s is a good place for less legitimate kinds of trade, but it’s just part of the fabric of Bombay.
If you ask, the waiters will point out the bullet holes in the walls and in the mirrors where the terrorists who took over the café for a day in 2008 left their mark. It was a traumatic day but a few days later, Leopold’s re-opened and resumed its rhythm.
We began working with Magic Breakfast in 2015, supporting them in their goal of ending hunger as a barrier to education in the UK. Over the years, we’ve developed lasting and loyal friendships with the incredible team and their partner schools. This month, we celebrate reaching the milestone of donating 10 million meals to hungry children in partnership with Magic Breakfast and Akshaya Patra. Magic Breakfast’s Head of Schools, Rachael Anderson, has kindly taken the time to reflect on the last six years of our work together, as well as sharing her thoughts on the profound impact the past twelve months have had.
Since 2015, for every Dishoom meal you’ve enjoyed (whether in the cafés, via delivery, or as a meal kit), we’ve donated a meal to a child that might otherwise go hungry. A meal for a meal. This month, as we reached the milestone of donating 10 million meals, we had occasion to catch up with our dear friends and long-term charity partners, Magic Breakfast and Akshaya Patra. The work both charities do to end hunger as a barrier to education is simply incredible and we’re extremely proud to be able to support them and the communities they serve in the UK and India, respectively. We kindly invite you to take a moment to hear their reflections on our partnership and on the impact of the very important work they do.
Uttapam are a fluffy savoury dosa, made with rice. They're usually enjoyed with savoury toppings but we particularly like ours with lashings of jaggery syrup and a thick, strained yoghurt. Chef Naved has shared his recipe for making an extra fluffy stack at home.
Our Old-Fashioned bottled cocktail takes its name from the Permit Room bar, found in every Dishoom and so named after the official term for all Bombay drinking establishments, in which, according to the Bombay Prohibition Act of 1949, only permit-holders may consume alcohol. Herein, liquor can be sold and imbibed, but only for the goodness of one’s health.
Though the doors of the Permit Room are closed for now, you can still enjoy our tipples in bottled form at home. Follow our lead to achieve the perfect pour, and transport yourself back to a cosy corner of the bar.