Century-old iconic Irani cafe to close down its doors

Grant Road's and city landmark Irani cafe, B Merwan and Co, which had completed 100 years of operation this month, will down its shutters by March

For those who love the vintage aura of the city and the nostalgic blood that flows within its veins, it was a time of pride last summer when Sassanian Boulangerie, the buzzing Irani cafe at Dhobi Talao, completed 100 years. This was a landmark for Mumbai’s diverse culinary history, more so, because barely a handful of these idyllic Irani cafes remain at corners of the city.

B Merwan and Co was started in 1914 and has fed thousands of businessmen, college students, taxi drivers and almost everyone else who alights at Grant Road

One such landmark, B Merwan and Co, outside Grant Road station, completed a 100 years as the calendars flipped to 2014. The sad ending to this fairy tale story though is that the cafe will be downing its shutters in March. Merwan, as its patrons commonly refer to it, has always been the go-to place for the common man, for a quick bite. The cafe is known for its mawa cakes and such is the demand that they are usually wiped off its shelves by afternoon.

Unlike other Irani cafes in the city, which offer a lot, apart from dishes including kheema pav, special biryanis and even Chinese food, to keep up with the competition, Merwan has stuck to its roots and only offers quick preparations, selling omlettes, egg fries and bun maska with tea. The cafe also serves as a provision store.

Having dropped by the cafe on several occasions to savour their best sellers the generously buttered bun, chai and pudding, cost just Rs 25. This time around, as we approached the counter to pay our bill after our snack, our worse fear about this landmark came true.

Co-owner Sarosh Irani confirmed the news of the cafe’s shutting down, “There are two months to go still, and yes, we will be shutting down in March.” When we prodded a bit for more details of what would rise in place of the building, he said, “We aren’t aware of what will happen yet; talks are still on about the next course of action. One never knows...”

City historian Deepak Rao, an avid fan of Irani cafes in the city shed some perspective about the cafe’s relevance to the area, “The building that houses the cafe is as old as the cafe; and Grant Road being a bustling place, Merwan has always served as an important landmark in the city. Its signboard, wooden chairs, marble-top tables all of it, has been intact since it opened its shutters.

Grant Road is one of the oldest stations in the city, and there was a time when there would be a Hack Victoria (horse-driven carriages) and a taxi stand outside the station. Trains were known to stop at the station, just a little bit longer so people could buy items from Merwan.”

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