Irani café

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Irani cafes are Iranian-style cafes in South Asia. They were originally opened by Zoroastrian Irani immigrants to modern India and Pakistan in the 19th century.[1] Today, Hyderabad boasts the largest number of Irani cafés,[citation needed] which are very popular for Irani chai (tea).[2] Mumbai also has many Irani cafes.

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.[3] 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; today, only 25 remain.[4] One of the most popular eating places is the 102-year-old Kyani Café, a heritage landmark in south Mumbai.[citation needed]


Britannia cafe another Irani cafe at Ballard Estate

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, 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” [1] 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."

Cultural references[edit]

Kayani and Company, interior

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.[5]


  1. ^ Noorani, Asif (10 September 2016). "Looking back at Karachi's Irani cafe culture". Dawn. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  2. ^ "Quintessentially Hyderabadi—Irani Tea". Retrieved 2016-09-23. 
  3. ^ Naomi Lobo (May 20, 2007). "Irani cafés: Inheritance of loss". India Express. Retrieved 2007-12-25. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ "Sunanda Sudhir". Retrieved 2007-12-25. 

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