Mumbai's iconic restaurant Britannia & Co's partner Boman Kohinoor passes away at 97
Tribute: Grand old man of Britannia & Co restaurant, Boman Kohinoor, was as much a draw as his famous pulao
Whether it was the berry pulao with its little bursts of tartness or the luscious dhansak, at Ballard Estate's Britannia & Co. Restaurant, things tasted best only when served with a dollop of Boman Rashid Kohinoor's warmth. The senior partner at the legendary Parsi eatery, who would walk up to every table to confirm if his patrons were enjoying their food — the telltale queues outside notwithstanding — passed away last evening at the Parsee General Hospital. He was 97.
The news was received with a heavy heart by the city's food community, regulars at Britannia and those in love with the majestic South Bombay, of which he was a delightful representative, at large. Whether it was the iconic scene from Tezaab (1988) that featured Kohinoor and his equally famous pet rooster at the counter or his meeting with Prince William and Duchess of Cambridge Catherine Middleton during their 2016 visit to the city as part of their India tour, the nonagenarian will be remembered as being more of a seasoned raconteur than entrepreneur of a city restaurant. Countless stories and anecdotes can be found of tourists from India and overseas who would visit the restaurant with the single-minded intent of meeting and breaking bread with Kohinoor.
Boman Kohinoor at Britannia & Co
"It is the end of an era. It is like two generations gone in one man. I don't know for how long he was ill, but until very late in life, he continued to serve tables with a smile. Britannia was a place our parents would take us to. I remember it since the time they had the rooster on the counter," food writer and columnist and comedian Kunal Vijayakar says. Sunday mid-day columnist and city chronicler Meher Marfatia, too, remembers Kohinoor for "soldiering on with charm and humour." She adds, "In his bow tie, he would walk up to every table with his sweet limericks. So, after asking customers what they would like to drink, he would follow it up with, 'Fresh lime soda sweet, to beat the Bombay heat!' But maybe losing his brother [and fellow senior partner Merwan Kohinoor] last year left him saddened. "
Kohinoor's passing has also given rise to some concerns, which aren't unwarranted given the challenges the city's beloved Irani cafés are facing. Vijayakar says, "He was the force that kept the restaurant open against all odds, and I hope it lasts." Parvez Patel, owner of Ideal Corner in Fort, echoes this concern when he says, "I felt sad [on hearing of his death] that such a veteran had passed away and I hope that the kids carry on the legacy, and not shut shop."
Gustad Dinshaw, who runs Opera House's Cafe Dela Paix, which underwent a revamp recently, sums it up best when he says, "It a great loss not just for the Parsi community, but also for Mumbai." In four years, the iconic restaurant will complete 100 years. For a city that's fighting the odds to preserve its rich, diverse past, we are pretty sure that a smiling Mr Kohinoor will be raising a toast to this milestone from above.
With inputs from The Guide Team
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