Few look beyond South Mumbai's Irani cafes but Café Colony near Dadar TT remains a thriving landmark and a sentimental favourite thanks to Gen Next's decision to carry on the mantle
Walk into Café Colony Stores and Restaurant near Dadar TT, and you’re sure to spot elements from an Irani café — wooden furniture, brun pav loaves, glass jars with khari biscuits, home provisions in glass cabinets, and a white-haired Irani gentleman rattling off orders from behind the counter. But the surprise here is the sight of two young women or a young man who take turns to run the show.
Agha Nazariyan with son Mirza at the counter of Café Colony. Pics/Dhara Vora
The trio, his children, Bibi Sadat, Mirza and Bibi Fatehmeh have kept the café buzzing in times when 100-year-old cafés like B Merwan are shutting down. The white-haired owner, Agha Nazariyan has been with Café Colony since “sometime in 1960s”, he tells us.
Bibi Fatehmeh sits proudly at one of the tables
The café has been in the same spot since 1933-34; it had a different owner until Nazariyan took over. His children, help their father. Settled at our table, as sunlight lit up the buzzing yet quaint space, we chatted with Bibi Fatehmeh (Ruia College alumnus) of her childhood memories at Café Colony: “I don’t have any, I was busy with my studies and would come by when dad had to take a loo break!” she chuckles.
The Kheema is one of the most asked-for dishes at Cafe Colony
While prodding Fatehmeh about joining the business, she admits: “We can’t trust others; we tried doing that once, and made losses. Instead of working for someone else and being bossed around, I felt, why not work within the family, as daddy needs help. I love every bit of it.” She has been working at the cafe for six years. Their biggest hurdles (and at other city eateries too, she shares) are labour, and expenses to run the café. With Café Colony, thankfully, business is good.
Café Colony, housed at the corner of Hindu Colony
Unlike some Irani restaurants where other cuisines have crept into menus, to meet demands, Café Colony sticks to original Persian recipes, plus Brun, Bun Maska and Tea (only Amul butter, and milk from Parsi Dairy Farm).
While their winner is the Mutton Kheema (`60), which is available early morning too, their specials include Special Paya (Wednesdays), Chicken Curry (Tuesdays, Sundays), Chicken Burgers, Lollipops and Pattices (Sundays), and Chicken and Mutton Biryani (Fridays). “My father cooked the biryani at the wedding for Dr Ambedkar’s grandson. When Ramdas Athawale was an MP, he dropped by; our café was full of his security and we got famous in the locality,”
The dishes are made in an open kitchen
“During the Mumbai riots, troublemakers tried to shut down our café but residents from the neighbourhood chased them away. During curfew, dad would provide rice or food from the back door as everything else was shut,” she adds, giving us a sense of the iconic café’s success and ethos.
At Shrikant Lodge, corner of Hindu Colony, near Dadar TT junction, Dadar (E). Call 24142321; Time 6 am to 10.30 pm, daily
More than just Bun Maska
Cafe Colony sells fresh chicken, kheema and meat too, apart from home provisions. They also stock eggs at wholesale rates. The interesting bit about the café is that they also have a drug licence so medicines can be bought as well.