Mumbai is a diverse city that mixes modernity with tradition. Around the downtown Fort and Colaba neighborhoods, there is a unique community. The Parsis came from Persia and follow the Zoroastrian religion. If you keep your eyes open in south Mumbai, you will notice their fire temples and the iconic Parsi cafes.
Although the fire temples are open to Parsis only, the cafes welcome everyone, and each one looks like something out of an “Accidentally Wes Anderson” Instagram post.
Before going to Mumbai, I read a lot about these cafes and planned parts of my trip with chai and lunch stops in many of these locations. Some of the places are very famous, others are hidden away from the tourist path. You won’t find any wifi here (and chances are no website either), and some don’t even have a toilet, but you will find decades of tradition, delicious baked good and even food, as well as plenty of charm. Here are a few of my favorite Parsi cafes in Mumbai.
B Merwan & Co.
This was my first stop after checking into my Mumbai boarding house. A friend had moved to Mumbai recently and I picked this cafe as a half way meeting point. The outside looks like a vintage chocolate box, and the inside has retro appeal.
There is a corner stuffed with pastries you can buy to go and in the back, there is a family room for women and families. I sat here for an hour (despite the “no time pass” rule in many of these cafes, I subverted this by ordering my body weight in chai, bun maska – a delicious buttered bun – and omelets made with fresh green chilies) while I waited for a friend.
Shop No. 1, Station East, 2, Alibhai Premji Rd, Opposite, Grant Road East, Bharat Nagar, Mumbai
This cafe in the downtown Fort area wins for the most beautiful facade. Its turquoise wooden entrance is a showstopper and makes the perfect photo op, so it’s definitely worth crossing the street to get a view of the cafe from the outside. Inside, it’s basic but charming.
The chai here is fantastic, and if you want to try their famous marwa cake, come before noon. It’s a good place to sip some tea and people watch before heading out into the Mumbai sun.
11, 1, Horniman Circle, 11A, Cawasji Patel Rd, Fort, Mumbai
Kyani & Co.
This place was just next to my boarding house and serves the best Egg Bhurjee, a spicy and aromatic scrambled egg dish. I loved their Iranian tea tray, which let you add as much milk and sugar you wished (for those of you avoiding sugar but want chai, this is a great compromise). The cafe is a hub, and like other Parsi cafes, you’ll have to share your table with others and then get promptly kicked out when you’re done. But if you’re looking for a tasty snack and some really good tea, pop into this historic cafe that’s more than 110 years old!
Jermahal Estate, 657, Jss Rd, Marine Lines East, Tak Wadi, Lohar Chawl, Kalbadevi, Mumbai
Tucked in the Fort area, Jimmy Boy is a bright and breezy cafe with white painted wood and crystal chandeliers. It has the feel of a historic cafe with an updated look. This is more like a traditional restaurant, and worth coming for the Dhansak, a sweet-sour-spicy Parsi dish made with lentils and vegetables (available with different meat or just veg). This is a little more relaxed than the other cafes, you’re not rushed and you can enjoy a nice meal here. There is even a bathroom you can use.
11, Vikas Building, Bank Street, Near, Horniman Circle, Fort, Mumbai
Britannia & Co.
I feel no list on Parsi cafes is complete without Britannia & Co, however, I never actually made it to this one and I still have FOMO about missing out on their berry pulao. The odd opening hours and my busy schedule meant I didn’t get the chance to visit.
Also, friends in Mumbai warned me it’s an expensive and overrated tourist trap. Perhaps it’s become a victim of its own success, but I am sure there is a reason people will queue up to come here for their food, and the decor is just charming. I’m adding this to the list for my next visit to Mumbai.
Wakefield House, 11, Sport Rd, 16 Ballard Estate, Opp New Custom House, Mumbai