Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cafe Britannia & Co.

Warning: If you detest non-vegetarian food, or its sight, do not read this post.

Tucked in the business district of South Mumbai, is this very old and famous restaurant called Cafe Britannia & Co. As is the case with the early restaurants of the city, this too is owned by a Parsi family. Established in 1923, Cafe Britannia is located at Ballard Pier, a walking distance from Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST).

The restaurant is famous for its Parsi/Irani style of non-vegetarian food. I happened to read about it in a newspaper. Although, what I read was sad. The restaurant owner, an old Parsi uncle (surname Kohinoor), has decided to close down the restaurant in due time. His sons, are not interested in running the place as both have settled abroad. They wanted him to shut down the place, but he coaxed them into keeping it running till he is alive.

One limitation of this restaurant is that it is open only 12:00 PM-4:00 PM Monday-Saturday. So, it is a disadvantage for those who cannot make it for lunch to this restaurant. What I do not understand is why did they not change with time and keep it open for dinner as well. With Ballard Pier being an business area, it probably might not have been feasible. Whatever the reasons, I went to this place, so that I can peek into their cuisine before they shut down. Since traveling alone to CST all the way from Powai is too boring, I tagged Sushant along with me. Sushant thinks that I am a person who has nothing to do, except taste food at various restaurants and then blog about it. But then, he is a sincere companion and gives sincere reviews. Sometimes, he manages to suggest some very good restaurants. If you manage to reach CST comfortably, then reaching this place is a breeze. It is located in the lane next to the New Customs' Office. You cannot miss the huge board of Cafe Britannia & Co.

They serve non-vegetarian food only. And it is classical Parsi/Irani style of food. This place is a delight for those who love non-veg food. The restaurant seating arrangement is spartan, like most Irani restaurants across Mumbai. Even the table fans are so old, you suspect whether they've been ever changed after being first installed. The food, is not spicy at all, so you can enjoy it without worrying about the after effects.

Here, I had the chicken dhansak for the first time and I loved it. Served along with brown rice, the dhansak tastes awesome. But, Cafe Britannia is known for its famed Berry Pulao. You can see it in the picture to the right (Picture courtesy, Sushant). In the far end, is the rice. I couldn't get a pic of the dhansak, as I was hungrily tearing into it. The berry pulao is awesome. We had ordered chicken berry pulao. The chicken was soft and properly cooked. The speciality of the pulao is the tangy tasting berries, with a few dry-fruits (like cashew). Of course, chicken is the main stay, but the berries add a unique taste to the pulao. These berries, they say, are specially imported from Iran.

At the end of the meal, I told the restaurant owner that we had come all the Powai to taste his food. He was the son of the old Parsi uncle, and was overwhelmed by the fact that we had taken the efforts to come this far. This guy has good PR skills. Every customer going out was greeted with thanks and come again, the more familiar ones were asked about their and their family's well being. And the patrons of the restaurant actually took time out to chat with him on any possible topic on earth.

Now, about the service. If the waiter takes too long to take your order, old Kohinoor uncle rushes down to note it. The time taken to serve you is not too much and you can eat at your will. No waiters overlooking you and asking you every five minutes, "aur kuch chahiye, sir?" The quantity is good enough and the taste is typical of Parsi/Irani cooking styles. The charges are a little bit on the higher side, but then, it is fine, once in a while. The chicken berry pulao cost us Rs. 240, while the chicken dhansak was Rs 200. Each dish serves good enough for one person. So, you can order two-three dishes and share between yourselves.

The sad part is, this restaurant may close any time, that is what the owners have declared. The only hope is that they franchise this out to somebody, with conditions that the same menu and ambience be maintained, but with extended timings, so that those millions of Irani food fans can savour the berry pulao for years to come.
Cafe Britannia & Co.SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


  1. Hi Vinay..
    U knw what I'm a pure veggie but just the pic was enough to make me crave for that.. its looking so sumptuous..
    Thanks this time u put up the pic unlike ur pav bhaji's post..
    P.S. : Whenever I'm coming to Mumbai, u have to take me on the food tour of the city.. :P

  2. OMG that picture is so makes my mouth water...never heard about berry pulav but wud love to taste it when i visit Mumbai...

  3. @Shweta,

    hmmm this offer for a date is tempting... on a serious note, you are welcome to be my guest and enjoy Mumbai's food outlets.

    Berry Pulao is a specialty of Cafe Britannia. There goes a saying, "If it is berry pulao, it is Cafe Britannia". Do not miss it when are in Mumbai.

  4. Hi Vinay ..
    Looking forward to the date ;)
    BTW how do u knw my name??

  5. @Shweta,

    If I've to go on a date with you, I need to know your name atleast! ;) Well, it wasn't too difficult to find your name.

    It's mentioned on your indiblogger profile

  6. I thought you were a vegetarian and a teetotaler...

    I have heard a lot about this place. There are supposed to be lots of Iranian restaurants in South Bombay na?

  7. @kaushik,

    Whatever gave you that idea! Being a Chemical Engineer, I would be committing a sin, if I didn't take to drinking the world's most popular chemical!!!!

    Yes, there are a lot of Irani restaurants in South Mumbai. This one is owned by a Parsi. There is a subtle difference between Iranis and Parsis. I don't know about that in detail. But the most famous Irani restaurants are the one near Churchgate and the one near Worli naka. BTW, do you eat non-veg food?

  8. Amazing food review Vinay....But, I liked reading your description of the restaurant even better...sadly Parsi/Iranian restaurants are in the danger of extinction like many historical structures.... but, it was a very good read and the pic itself is 'yummie'

  9. @heteroglot,

    thanks for your comment. Yes, Parsi/Irani restaurants are on the verge of extinction, because the next generation of the Parsis/Iranis is not willing to run those. But then why are only they to blame. Even the next generation of their customers doesn't want to frequent these places. They prefer the swank and chic CCD, Pizza Hut, KFC and those glitzy resorts over these simple and homely places.

    I am one of those few who would prefer to go to such restaurants. One reason, is they are reasonably priced, the other is that they do not have that staff who fake going head-over-heels when they serve you. Their real expressions are revealed after the tip is placed. Not so with these restaurants. And the taste in the Irani restaurants is a break from the regular Udupi ones.

  10. Good work Vinay, I must say!! I'm floored lol :P

  11. NICE! i have been to mumbai only once that too recently. Im a veggie but soon turnin into a non-veg! so im surely gonna try this. berry pulao sounds awesome. sure sounds like unique.

  12. @Shweta,
    I'm overwhelmed!

    Next time you are here, do try this place, since you are turning a non-vegie.

  13. @ All...

    Well am a Bawa & believe you me I dont like going to Parsi weddings but an invitation to Britannia is something I dont miss for the world...

    A word of caution.... This place is open only for Lunch & one more thing this place is open till 4pm, so dont be a minute late as they do not entertain you at all.....

  14. Valuable for information.. Is there any further reading you would recommend on this?

    <a href=">Restaurants in South Mumbai</a>