Mumbai, the city of dreams, embraces one and all; the expats, the migrants and people from other cities. In India, the Parsi community currently is a varied group of ethnicities thriving together. However, at one point in time, they were refugees too; on boats and ships, they had fled their homeland. The 19th century India became home to numerous Zoroastrian migrants, who had fled from Iran to avoid oppression, and who later, came to be known as the Parsis.
These settlers blended in seamlessly and integrated some of their cultures into the Indian culture of the time, notably through numerous characteristic cafés, particularly in Mumbai. Parsi food is intrinsic to the rhythm of life and history of Mumbai. With their little-known delicacies, the Parsi cuisine is more or less traditionally adapted from the Indian cookbook and from Indian ingredients and spices.
Mumbai's grand old Parsi cafes are a symbol of this maddening megalopolis' diverse cuisine and culture. With their time capsule dining rooms and speciality dishes, the cafes form a gloriously eccentric part of the fabric of Mumbai.
The city's cobblestoned alleys are lined with many Parsi eateries which continue to retain an old world charm. Even if, a handful of these Parsi cafes remain, they are still a symbol of India's cultural diversity. Here we explore the best among them.
1. Yazdani Bakery
Yazdani Bakery, with its magnificently faded and worn out interiors and over three generations of serving lip-smacking delicacies, is known to dish up some of the city's best bun maska and carrot cake. Back in 1951, the Yazdani Restaurant and Bakery was started in place of a Japanese bank that stood there through World War II. This 67-year-old bakery, located in the Fort area, gives the feeling that you have stepped into a time warp and have been transported back to the 50s. Its rich history and the stirring aroma of the oven-fresh hot buns, cakes and fluffy muffins, keep the place always busy and bustling with people.
2. Sassanian Boulangerie
Sassanian, established in the early 90s, stands tall on the Grant East Road, with its over 100 years of heritage and ascendency. The old-school bearing of the cafe with its marble flooring and wooden fittings imparts an ageless and antique look to the cafe. The cafe is a popular joint for delightful baked items like bun maska and mawa cake. Drop by for a sumptuous plateful of calorie-laden indulgence.
3. Cafe Excelsior
Sample some delectable Parsi cuisine at Cafe Excelsior, located in the Fort area. The cafe is a queer vintage-looking joint retaining its old world charm and is considered to be one of the most underrated eateries in Mumbai. The cafe is not really known for its great ambience with dusty ceiling fans whirring above and crowded, chattering tables but for the scrumptious Parsi cuisines and hearty meals the place presents. Tha cafe's menu is not just easy on the pockets but also its kheema pav, cutlets and dhansak deserve a special mention. With the extensive list of must-eats, this little vintage-looking cafe makes a perfect place for a quick catch up and hearty meal.
4. Jimmy Boy
Mumbai would possibly never go down swinging on cute cafes and artsy decors, but this classic vintage-looking Parsi cafe will never go out of vogue. With appetizing meals and craftsy decor, Jimmy Boy, situated in the Fort area, is something of an old-style eatery. You will find the vegetarian dhansak, chicken farcha, saas ni machhi, the mutton berry pulao something to look forward to at this place. The timeless and archaic decor of the cafe with high ceilings and colossal windows transports you to a time capsule of the lost art.
5. Leopold Cafe
Leopold Cafe, located on the busy fashion street of the Colaba Causeway, is popular for its dreamy creamy unspiced cuppa. The cafe has a homely and cosy vibe to it with its walls screeching of the spoils of 26/11 terror attack. With bullet holes from the 26/11 punctuating the dusty paintworks of the walls, the cafe is a go-to joint for steaming pots of Parsi chai, a wide array of beer and good food. This good old cafe with all its history and warmth makes it a people's favourite and no wonder why it always remains jam-packed with swarming crowds.