S Kulwant Singhji Kohli, iconic city restaurateur passes away
Owner of Dadar landmark, Pritam Restaurant and Bar, had introduced authentic Punjabi and dhaba-style food
On Wednesday, former sheriff of Mumbai in 1998 (then Bombay) and owner and director of Pritam Group of Hotels, S Kulwant Singhji Kohli passed away at Mumbai's Hinduja hospital due to a heart ailment. He was 85 years old. Kohli’s flagship restaurant, Pritam Restaurant and Bar was established in 1942, and soon enough it became popular among families for its food and ambience.
The authentic Punjabi and Mughlai cuisine made it a haunt among many migrants from North India who missed this kind of fare in the city, back in the 1950s and 60s, when such eateries were far and few.
Kohli’s is a typical success story of dreams coming true in the Maximum City. His family originally hailed from Rawalpindi in undivided India. His father had come to Mumbai and soon, Kulwant ended up helping his father in the hotel business. It was called Pritam restaurant, a hole-in-the-wall eatery with seven tables and a cash counter. His father had initially opened a restaurant in Chira Bazaar (Kalbadevi) but that shut down and he lost all his money. So, he came to Dadar, which was largely populated by labour class and bought a shop for Rs 100. However, he had foresight. He hoped to get clients from the film industry, due to neighbourhood studios, and that’s what happened.
Pritam’s unique cuisine was such a hit that many Bollywood actors including Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Manoj Kumar and Rajendra Kumar would step here for North Indian fare. There were many film studios in the neighbourhood. So, all of them would drop by for meals. The restaurateur went on open several other restaurants including Toran and later, Grandmama's Cafe, MRP, Grandpa's Den and House of Lloyd.
The Kohli connect
1942: Rawalpindi-born Prahlad Singh Kohli travels to Mumbai and opens Pritam restaurant in Dadar, a tiny eatery with seven tables. He gradually expands it, taking over the neighbourhood shops by 1966. His son, Kulwant Singh Kohli joins the business and renovates the restaurant into centrally air-conditioned space in 1975. The Kohlis also buy the building in which the restaurant is located.
1955: The father-son open Kohli’s, a 6,000 sq-ft restaurant with a billiards table, in Fort, which shuts soon.
1960: They launch Hotel Parkway in Shivaji Park.
1970: The Kohlis’ foray into film distribution by establishing Sangeeta Film Corporation in Opera House. They distributed 18 films including Pakeezah and Patni, Patni Aur Woh, before shutting operations in the 80s.
1985: The third generation of the Kohlis, Gurbarish Singh Kohli and Amardeep Singh Kohli open Pritam da Dhaba, as an extension of Pritam Restaurant
1988: The launch of the four-star Hotel Midtown Pritam, starting with room rates of Rs 300 per night.
2015: The fourth-generation Abhayraj Singh Kohli launches Grandmama’s Café in Dadar and expands to Lower Parel.
2016: He launched MRP (My Regular Place), a drink-and-play pub offering modern Asian fare in the Midtown Pritam premises.
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