The Parsis are one of Mumbai’s smallest communities, but over the years, their influence on the city has been paramount. From architecture and the economy, to art, culture, healthcare and more, their presence has set Mumbai apart from every other Indian city. However, their most well known contribution, beyond doubt, has been to the culinary scene. If you’ve grown up in Mumbai (particularly South Mumbai), there’s no way you don’t know a Parsi—we may be small in number, but we have this uncanny knack of really getting around—and where there’s a Parsi, there’s food. So you probably know about the food too. Maybe you’ve even been invited home for an authentic home-cooked Parsi meal, which is the best—unbuttoning-your-jeans-because-you’ve-eaten-too-much kind of best.
But, if you don’t know any Parsis, you poor, unfortunate soul who’s really missing out on some great grub, we’ve put together a list of the must-eat-at restaurants across the city and what to get at each.
PS: While unbuttoning your jeans may be acceptable at your friend’s house, you may attract some stares—mostly from the non-Parsis. If that bothers you, wear shorts or track pants. It’s a wise decision, we assure you. We don’t care—food over fashion any day.
Yes, yes, we know every article on Parsi food in Mumbai has Britannia & Co. in it. Often, right at the very top. You know why? Because it’s awesome. And a meal here isn’t just a foodgasm that will leave you in a food-induced stupor for hours once you’re done. It’s also a history lesson. Boman Kohinoor, the sprightly 90-year-young (you’ll understand why I say ‘young’ when you meet him, the man is inexhaustible) owner potters about taking everyone’s order and dishing out stories from his youth i.e. how it used to be in the ‘good old days’. He’s also an ardent supporter of the British royal family. You’ll even see a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the wall—it’s right below the one of Zarathushtra. If you look around the place, you’ll notice there’s also a life-sized cut-out of William and Kate. And if you enthuse enough about the Windsors with Boman, he’ll even pull out his most prized possession—a letter from Queen Elizabeth II. I’m not going to spoil the fun and tell you what it says. Go eat here and find out for yourself. Keep in mind that Britannia & Co. is only open 12 pm – 4 pm Monday to Friday.
What you’re getting: Berry pulao, patra-ni-machhi, Bombay duck (plus points if you call it ‘boomla’), caramel custard and as Mr. Kohinoor says, “a fresh lime soda sweet, to beat the Bombay heat.”
II. Kyani & Co.
This quaint eatery is over a hundred years old and is a quiet little spot, amidst the constant chaos that is Dhobi Talao. Like most other Irani cafes, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you walk through the door—ebony chairs, tables topped with red-and-white chequered tablecloths, confectionary in old-time wooden glass-fronted counters, and the slow whir of ceiling fans overhead.
What you’re getting: Bun maska and chai, akoori (Parsi-style scrambled eggs) on toast, and kheema pao.
III. Jimmy Boy
Located at Horniman Circle, Jimmy Boy is a favourite with the office-crowd. Its cheery red sign and blue-and-white striped awning over the doorway really make it stand out in a neighbourhood otherwise dominated by the brown stone and beige stucco office buildings.
What you’re getting: Dhansak, sali boti, berry pulao, the lagan nu bhonu, and the lagannu custard.