Iconic South Mumbai hangout Cafe Samovar to shut shop

With Jehangir Art Gallery’s Cafe Samovar set to close by the end of this month as a result of a court order, the city will lose a landmark and artists will have to say goodbye to one of their favourite hangouts

A court order is set to lead to the closure of one of the most favoured hangouts of city artists and art lovers by the end of this month, sources told mid-day.

Photos: Famous faces that graced South Mumbai's Cafe Samovar

Cafe Samovar. File pic
Cafe Samovar. File pic

Started by Usha Khanna in 1964, Cafe Samovar in Jehangir Art Gallery has been an icon of Mumbai’s cultural landscape and, for decades, has served as a haven for the city’s creative minds across the arts. Especially known for its pakoda platter and pudina chai, not to forget the yummy kheema paratha, its menu and competitive pricing have also added to its popularity.

The decor with a cosy vibe, the whirring of mini wall fans and a view of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya adds to its arty charm. “This restaurant has served on occasion, as a theatre for dramatic performances, a meeting place for executives, young lovers and students.

It has been an oasis for several generations of youth, sometimes dreaming, but always struggling to make their mark in the city. It has become as permanent place in Kala Ghoda as has the Gateway of India in Mumbai,” filmmaker Shyam Benegal had said in an earlier petition to save the cafe.

So popular is the café that a coffee table book was released a while ago on its early days and place of pride among Mumbaikars and out-of-towners. No other standalone café in the city can boast of such an honour. At the book release, Jaya Bachchan reportedly said that the café was the venue of her first date with Big B.

In an interview to mid-day last year, Khanna’s daughter Devieka Bhojwani had recalled, “Initially, Samovar was a hangout for artists who couldn’t afford fancy eateries. My mother befriended them and treated them like family. If they were lonely she would talk to them about their problems.

At times, the artists couldn’t afford to pay for the food till they sold their paintings; my mother was adamant that no one should go hungry from Samovar, and didn’t even keep accounts, at times.” She said she had practically grown up at Samovar and visited it with her classmates from the Sir JJ School of Art.

Cafe gupshup
>> Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan frequented Samovar Cafe while they dated. They would travel by bus and taxi to reach it. 
>> Artist MF Husain would often pick up his favourite Baingan Ka Salan, wrap it in a roti and leave in a hurry. 
>> Artist Jatin Das got married on the premises.

Year the cafe was opened by Usha Khanna

600sq ft
Total area of the cafe

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