Mumbai: Colaba's scotch broth mecca 'Paradise Restaurant' to shut down after 61 years
After serving wholesome Parsi and Continental dishes for decades, Jimmy and Mehroo Kadkhodai break foodies' hearts by announcing the folding up of Paradise Restaurant
Once every year, Colaba's favourite Parsi and Continental meals Mecca, Paradise Restaurant would down its shutters. Owners Jimmy and Mehroo Kadkhodai wouldn't trust anyone else with its running when they would make their annual trip to America to be with their children. This time, the shutters have been down for longer. And mid-day can confirm that the 61-year-old eatery with a fanatic fan following, will not be open for business again.
Jimmy and Mehroo holding the menu at their Tardeo home. Pic/Ashish Raje
Some of it has to do with Jimmy's health. In November last year, Mehroo Kadkhodai noticed one morning that her husband was having trouble walking. It was time for her shift at the eatery (she would do mornings, and he would take over post 4 pm), but didn't want to leave alone, and insisted on joining her at the café. The 80-year-old had his chai, but said he felt uneasy.
Their family doctor confirmed that Jimmy, who had undergone a bypass surgery a few years ago, had had a paralytic stroke. Although he is now back home after spending a month in hospital, Mehroo says she finds it tough at 75 to run both home and restaurant. "We want to take a graceful bow," Mehroo says. The couple is waiting for their children, daughters Hutokshi and Parivash, and son Shazad to make a visit and decide the fate of the space they own.
The simple interiors of the restaurant. The artworks on the wall show Adam chasing Eve after eating the forbidden fruit and vice versa
Making of Paradise
Jimmy's introduction to restaurating started when he was barely 14 and helped his uncle run the canteen at Excelsior cinema. He says it was here that Mumbai was introduced to the sizzler. At 16, he decided he'd open his own restaurant and his uncle pitched in. Paradise Restaurant joined the likes of Cafe Mondegar, Cafe Royal and Cafe Olympia to establish Colaba as a neighbourhood that served stellar old-world food.
Paradise served only rolls, burgers and hamburgers back then, and it was after Mehroo married Jimmy in 1965 that she introduced continental dishes and Parsi bhonu to the menu, which it became famous for.
Mehroo and Jimmy Kadkhodai at their Tardeo home.
The special dishes
We ask Jimmy about the legendary scotch broth and he decides that Mehroo should talk about it because it was her "special secret of using half-boiled chicken and mutton" that did the taste trick. "The broth had chicken and mutton bones. The gosht wala came to the kitchen and gave me the cuts, which I would wash personally. But my favourite was the chicken masala, which had a superb gravy and the best pieces of chicken," she says.
The restaurant, recalls Mehroo, was her current affairs den. "I will miss talking to people, who came from all walks of life. They were my source of news, even before I read it in the day's mid-day," she giggles. Their patrons included celebrities and the influential, including Ratan Tata. "He was a good friend of Jimmy's and they'd chat about cars. Once, Johnny Walker [actor] was at the restaurant and I was having a hard time placing him. He walked up to the counter, and said, 'Yes, I am Johnny Walker.'"
The chicken dhansak served at the restaurant
Mehroo vividly remembers the day Obama visited in 2010. "It was Diwali and we were asked to shut shop and queue up outside to greet him. Soon after, when we opened for business, a CNN reporter barged in to take a byte on the nuisance it had caused us.
I told him, it was an honour, and we were proud that the then-US President had come for a visit. My granddaughter saw me on television in America, and told my son. It was a pleasant surprise for her to see Grandma Mehroo on television."
The Kadkhodais were clear that their focus would remain hearty non-vegetarian fare. "How could I do everything! We did veg specials sometimes. I used to make all the masalas myself and spend hours at the masala galli at Saat Rasta with a wet cloth covering my nose, watching sellers pound the masala. That is what made the food delicious," she remembers.
Mehroo says while the shop kept her busy, she looks forward to spending time with her grandchildren. "We connect with them on our computer, but they are all growing up and we want to see them more often."
'The best chicken roll in India'
Food writer and television personality
I recall visiting the restaurant as a child. I would go with my parents and grandparents. Their chicken roll is the best in the country, and Mehroo used to make the mayonnaise fresh every day. It was gooey, sticky and sweet. Half my weight is thanks to gorging on the rolls over the years. My favourites on the menu were kid fillet roll, chicken lollies and lagan nu custard. The shutting down of Paradise is tragic.
'Closing was inevitable'
Iconic eateries shutting is sad because it takes away the soul of the city. But it is inevitable. The food sector is no longer what it was. Restaurants like Paradise sold wholesome food, not designer quinoa salad and kale chips. The next generation isn't keen to run the establishments. The margins are lower, real estate prices are up, and if you own the real estate, it is more profitable to rent it out. Our history is no longer history in the making. That part is done. In the mid-90s, my friend Binit married a German girl named Claudia. One day, we walked into Paradise for a meal. Binit looked at the menu and frowned. "They have no vegetarian food except bread, butter and chips," she said. Honest to God, we had not noticed it until then!
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