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Irani cafes are Iranian or Persian style cafes in India. They were originally opened by Persian immigrants to India in the 19th century. Today, Mumbai boasts the largest number of Irani cafés, which are very popular for Irani chai (tea).
Iranian cafés used to be numerous and popular but competition from modern cafés and fast food restaurants have left them behind. Many have closed down or are changing into pubs and restaurants or have moved to other cities in India. Younger Iranis with higher education and better skills have become interested in more lucrative vocations in India and abroad, and they do not wish to carry on with the legacy of the Irani cafés of their parents. In the 1950s, there were 350 Irani cafés and today, only 25. One of the most popular eating places is the 102-year-old Kyani Café, a heritage landmark in south Mumbai.
Mumbai cafés may serve ‘bun maska’ (bread and butter) and ‘paani kam chai’ (a strong Iranian tea), or khari chai (very strong tea), mutton samosas, and Kheema Pavs, akuri (a scrambled spicy egg preparation), berry pulao, vegetable puff, vegetarian/chicken Dhansak (a spicy broth with lentils, pulses) and Biryani, cherry cream custard, cheese khari biscuits, plain khari biscuits, coconut jam and milk biscuits and Dukes Raspberry drink. The Parsi Bhonu (meal) is available at most Irani restaurants.
Many Irani cafes offer sweet and salted biscuits like Rawa (semolina), Til Rawa Coconut, nan-khatai (sweet, crisp flaky Irani biscuits), Madeira-Cake (tutti-frutti biscuits).
Writing for the Hindu Business Line, on “Mumbai's Irani hotspots”  Sarika Mehta says: - “The classic format of these cafes is basic with a subtle colonial touch; high ceilings with black, bent wooden chairs (now cane in some cafes), wooden tables with marble tops and glass jars that allow a peek into the goodies they hold. With huge glass mirrors on the walls to create a feeling of space, visitors are greeted with eagerness and a whiff of baking. The speed of operations is impressive and service quite hassle-free."
Nissim Ezekiel wrote a poem based on instruction boards found in his favourite Irani café; the now defunct Bastani and Company, in Dhobi Talao, Mumbai. “No talking to cashier/No smoking/ No fighting/ No credit/ No outside food/ No sitting long/ No talking loud/ No spitting/ No bargaining/ No water to outsiders/ No change/ No telephone/ No match sticks/ No discussing gambling/ No newspaper/ No combing/ No beef/ No leg on chair/ No hard liquor allowed/ No address enquiry/ — By order.”
- Naomi Lobo (May 20, 2007). "Irani cafés: Inheritance of loss". India Express. Retrieved 2007-12-25.
- Jayshree Bajoria (April 27, 2005). "India's Iranian cafes fading out Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 April 2005, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-12-25.
- "Sunanda Sudhir". newsblog.aol. Retrieved 2007-12-25.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Irani cafe.|
- India's Iranian cafes fading out by Jayshree Bajoria for BBC News, Mumbai
- Mumbai's Irani hotspots – Sarika Mehta in Hindu Business line [dead link]
- Irani cafés: Inheritance of loss by Naomi Lobo for Expressindia.com
- AOL News Blog - Sunanda Sudhir
- Irani Chai,Mumbai - a research project on Mumbai's Irani cafes