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.
Another Dhobi Talao favourite, Sassanian is also over a hundred years old. On your way in, say hi to the plump gentleman at the counter. He owns the place and is really friendly. You’ll soon realise how much he likes to chat. Once you manage to extricate yourself from his good-natured jibber jabber, seat yourself at one of the many marble-topped tables and beckon one of hovering waiters and place your order. One of the best things about Sassanian is the fact that it’s also a bakery and makes some seriously good baked goods. Pick up some chicken or mutton patties, wine biscuits and cashew macaroons on your way out.
What you’re getting: Dhansak, bun maska, chai, and the kheema gotala.
V. Koolar & Co.
Another joint decked out in the traditional Irani café way with ebony chairs and chequered tablecloths, this Matunga mainstay has always been popular. And that’s saying something, considering that Matunga is known more for its vegetarian juggernauts such as Café Madras and Café Mysore.
What you’re getting: Khari biscuit and chai, and the house special five-egg Wrestler’s Omelette.
In a little bylane of the busy Fort district, this incredible little place always smells of fresh bread. And it’s as old school as you can imagine—they still used wood-fired ovens to bake their bread, which means it comes out oh-so-good. Don’t miss the quirky photographs on the wall as you sit down to order. Don’t forget to grab some of their signature seven-grain bread on your way out.
What you’re getting: Their famous extra-flaky khari biscuit and chai, sweet bun maska, apple pie.
VII. Paris Bakery
Maybe there’ something in the water at Dhobi Talao because this is another unmissable gem hidden in yet another bylane. The best time to go is in the morning as they sell out every single day. If you wait till evening, you’re going to be setting yourself up for disappointment, my friend.
What you’re getting: Khari biscuit, cheese straws, cheese papri biscuit, rusk toast, and mawa cake.
VIII. Café Military
If Ballard Estate has Britannia & Co., Fort has its own legendary establishment in Café Military—they’re full for lunch every day. So time it well and keep a buffer of 15-20 minutes to get a table.
What you’re getting: Kheema sali, chicken pulao, and caramel custard.
IX. Café Excelsior
This little café, located across from Excelsior Cinema in Fort, was once one of the most frequented Irani cafes. Though its popularity seems to have waned a bit in recent years, its food is just as excellent.
What you’re getting: Mutton cutlet, ice-cream soda, dhansak, and the non-veg club sandwich.
X. Ideal Corner
Open at lunchtime and in the evenings, Ideal Corner draws a crowd every day. Its bright interior and closely packed tables lends this restaurant a certain charm and as you wait for your food to arrive, you’ll be able to eavesdrop on practically every table.
What you’re getting: Sali boti, dhansak, jardaloo sali gos (mutton with apricots), chicken farcha, brain fry.
XI. Good Luck Café
Bandra’s Good Luck Café, located across the road from Mehboob Studios, is always packed. Its old-world black-and-white checkerboard floors and bench-style seating are not what many of us are used to seeing in Bandra, where new restaurants and bars pop up every week. But that’s the thing about old-world places like these: when they stick around, they do for a reason.
What you’re getting: Kheema pao, kheemagotala, akoori, bun maska, and masala soda.
XII. K Rustom’s Ice Cream
K Rustom’s is one of those really old, hole-in-the-wall places at Churchgate where the paint is peeling, the floors are scuffed—but nobody cares. It’s the original ice-cream mecca of Mumbai. If you haven’t been here yet and haven’t stood around scratching your head while you read the extensive, faded menu on the wall, you’re really missing out.
What you’re getting: Ice cream sandwiches in more flavours than you can count. Try the rum n raisin, nescafe, bitter chocolate, and mango.
XIII. Ashmick’s Snack Shack
This inconspicuous yet wildly popular little restaurant sits bang in the middle of Bandra’s manic Pali Naka neighbourhood. And frankly, it’s more like a little canteen than a restaurant.
What you’re getting: Chicken farcha, mutton chops, sali boti, and dhansak (only on Sunday)
XIV. Katy’s Kitchen
Firstly, let us just begin by saying Katy Dalal was to Parsis what Tarla Dalal was to Gujaratis. That’s huge. Her son Kurush and his wife Rhea now run Katy’s Kitchen, a catering service that delivers amazing Parsi food to your door. Which is perfect if you don’t feel like running around the city trying out all the restaurants we’ve mentioned above—but, you really should...they’re great.
What you’re getting: Mutton pulao dal, patra-ni-machhi, bheja cutlets, lagan nu custard, and mutton kebabs. They also do forgotten dishes like Bhaji dana ma gos, and Gos no batervo (mutton cooked in toddy).
XV. Tanaz Godiwalla
Of course, you know exactly who this culinary queen is. If you don’t, shame on you—go read our interview. She doesn’t actually cater through the year, just during navjote-lagan season (December - February). You can call her and pick from the usual navjote-lagan menu. But you already know exactly what you want, don’t you?
What you’re getting: Saas-ni-machhi, pulao dal, sali marghi...the list goes on.
This is probably the only restaurant serving Parsi-Irani food on this list that isn’t owned by a Parsi or Irani. It already has branches in Delhi, Gurgaon, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Finally, it’s coming to real home ground—Mumbai, where most of India’s Parsis live (although it’s going to be in the suburbs—what?!). Nonetheless, we’ve heard so many great things it’s going to be very interesting to see how SodaBottleOpenerWala fares. We’re going to buy a pair of pants one-size big soon so we’re ready for opening night.
What you’re getting: Let’s wait and see. In the meantime, whet your appetite with a picture of their dhansak.
XVII. Bawi Bride Kitchen
If you can’t make it to any of the above, Parsi food will come to you, right to your doorstep. This Navroze, Bawi Bride Kitchen has an extremely indulgent six-course menu with kheema pattice, patra ma prawns, kid gosht, lagan nu custard and more. Get in touch: +91 98192 85720