You don't need a DeLorean to go back in time in Mumbai. Instead, all you need to do is step into one of the handful of surviving Irani cafes that dot the southern part of the city. Once gathering centers for Iranis who fled a famine in their home country in the 19th century, Mumbai's Irani cafes quickly became the city's lifeblood thanks to the cheap, quick and delicious food they offered office-goers.
Today, however, these cafes are struggling to survive. 100-year old institution B. Merwan & Co., which made the best mawa cake in Mumbai, was the latest cafe to close on April 15, 2014. In a world where soy milk cafe lattes, free wi-fi and air conditioning outmuscle the simple pleasures of full-fat milky chai, old world charm and eccentric owners, there's no doubt that other Irani cafes' days are numbered, too. Their refusal to adapt or embrace modernity may be costing them their very existence - it's natural selection, after all - but they seem content to be going down with their heads held high.
That said, there's no denying that a piece of Mumbai's soul dies with every closure. And that's why Trabblr highly recommends you to go on a crawl to experience these institutions before they're gone for good. We've suggested an itinerary below and also guided you on what to order at five of the oldest Irani cafes. Bring your appetite - you'll need it!
Check out the route map here.
1. Kyani & Co. - Start the crawl with a simple bun maska and Irani chai.
2. Sassanian & Co. - The puffs and mutton cutlets here are famous.
3. Britannia & Co. - This is the place that will take up most of the real estate in your stomach. Order the mutton berry pulao, salli boti/mutton and the fish patra. Wash it down with a raspberry, ginger or ice cream soda.
4. Cafe Universal - Just for a beer :)
5. Yazdani Bakery - This bakery bakes fresh apple pie every day at 3pm. Get 'em while they're hot!
Meeting point: Kyani & Co. To get there, ask your taxi driver to take you to Metro Cinema. Kyani is bang opposite.