Farokh Shokri sits at a table distant from the cash counter but directly opposite so as not to miss any transactions. With a snowy mane and a friendly demeanor, Farokh seems to have just finished his breakfast when we meet him, and is looking pensively at his multivitamins and medicines. And at 55, managing Kayani & Co., a restaurant with a legacy can be difficult because he looks slightly stressed while accounting for his bills and supplies.
FAROKH SHOKHRI HANDLES KYANI
He makes it a point to tell us that his name is ‘Farokh’ and not ‘Farooq’ as people always mishear or mispronounce it as. “It’s a more common mistake than you can think. People always end up saying ‘Farooq’, which is usually a Muslim name,” he corrects us.
Old is still bold
Kayani & Co. is known to be one of the oldest restaurants in Mumbai. It has been standing strong, its interiors jovial with engraved darkwood panels for almost 113 years, in a building that evidently looks its age, but sturdy nonetheless. The restaurant is so quaint from the inside, it’s hard to guess what’s oozing the charm – sepia toned pictures of a hundred years old Mumbai, the small bakery section at one corner of the restaurant, the preserved black bentwood chairs or the checkered mats over the square and some round tables all across the café.
Kyani’s, as it is fondly known, was established in 1904 by a gentleman named Khodram Marezban and was taken over in late 1959 by Aflatoon Shokri, Farokh’s father. Since then it’s the Shokri family that has been retaining the restaurant’s glory. Its namesake in Pune, however, is run by a completely different family, Farokh informs us.
Apart from the obvious legacy that the restaurant has inherited, the authenticity of Parsi-style dishes and old Bombay has also been retained here. The cacophony of constant traffic outside makes you aware that you’re in 2017, but it’s very easy to imagine that at one point in time, Kyani restaurant bakery was one of the most important hang-out places for the people of Mumbai. The place still makes a bold statement with the kind of interiors it has preserved.
The glam factor
“I came to know from my father that Shashi Kapoor and M F Hussain were regulars here. They would sit with their bun maska and chai, and kept it to themselves,” Farokh told us. We asked him if he himself had had any encounters with celebrities, “I have had none, but I do remember the stories of these two men that my father told me,” he said.
ANY DISH ORDERED AT KYANI’S IS A CULINARY TREAT – A SIMPLE HALF FRIED EGG AND FRANKFURTERS AND AN OMLET PAV IS WHAT WE FEASTED ON
The charming interior of the place – the high roof and the mezzanine floor is something that simply cannot be ignored. But the other thing that can never be ignored at Kyani’s is the aroma of some really delicious food that is cooked here. It’s a culinary treat in its best form. Be it a cup of chai infused with a generous amount of elaichi, a freshly made Chicken Pattice, a breakfast of Half Fry with Frankfurters, or eating Chicken Tandoori or Kheema Pav, the sheer simplicity of these dishes is what makes them worth chasing after from any part of the city you live in.
Memories and tragedies
The relatively recent outbreak of restaurant franchises in Mumbai have no doubt, gained instant popularity among the youth, but the number of young people – especially couples coming here is surprising. And we’re sure it’s not just the pocket-friendly prices and melt-in-your-mouth bun-maska that lure the youth here, it’s the charisma of the place that brings them here. The round shaped tables, for example, are more than a hundred years old.
CHECKERED MATS ADORN THE TABLES AT KYANI
“We have had to change some of the tables and replace them with square ones because some of them broke down during my father’s time. We have managed to retain some of these though, the ones with Italian marbles-laden over wood,” he smiles and shows us the table where he’s sitting.
And much to our fancy, there are many more of these tables on the mezzanine floor above, which is made accessible only when the floor below gets too crowded.
Kyani’s is almost diagonally opposite to Metro theatre, again a part of the cluster of heritage locations in Mumbai. Being at a prime location has its set of complications as well. Complications lead to stories. One of the stories is the fateful night of 26/11 terrorist attack when the jeep full of terrorists passed from right in front of the bakery. Farokh recalls that it was a close call for them. “The bakery closes at about 9 pm. I remember I was at a wedding that day and saw the chaos that has ensued on TV when I reached home,” he said.
Long live legacy
Farokh says that the reason Irani bakeries and their legacies are slowly fading away is that of the lack of interest of the new generation. “A lot of children from our community have settled abroad, or want to do something else. I took over from my father, but whether or not my children will do the same will depend entirely on them. My daughter’s 19, and son is 13, so they are still too young to make this decision but whatever that may be, I will have to respect that,” he said.
PICTURES OF MUMBAI WHEN IT WAS BOMBAY HANG ON THE WALLS OF THIS QUAINT RESTAURANT
And perhaps that is the one thing most Parsi bakeries are facing – extinction by the gap of generation. Suckers for history and lovers of the good ol’ Bombay will be disappointed if these Irani restaurants cease to continue. And one can only wish that in the era of remakes and revamps, places like Kyani’s are not stripped off its personality and re-wrapped into something God-forbiddingly ‘new’.
Click Here for the full story, with many more pics – http://www.indiatimes.com/news/india/with-113-years-of-legacy-here-s-the-story-of-mumbai-s-popular-kyani-co-bakery-326777.html