Brittania & Company, Mumbai
“There is no love greater than the love of eating”, proclaims Robin the rooster from his perch on the restaurant’s publicity material, as you walk into the dingy yet bustling environs of Brittania & Company at Ballard Estate. Need I add…? A place after my own stomach.
Mahima and I were led to our lunch table way, way back in the cavernous cafe by the charming and friendly owner Mr Boman Kohinoor: avuncular figure in pic above. With table seating at a premium, he was none to pleased to learn that we required a table for three, as we were being joined by Mahima’s husband shortly. That seemed to get his goat even more, chiding us ‘girls’ for arriving unescorted and before the gentleman in question. Flattering as his old-world manner was, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that that kind of a gentleman was way past his sell-by date. And DV, when he did finally manage to get away from work, got himself a good natured earful on etiquette from the old man. Yet another, for eating his food cold and hence losing, in the bargain, the true essence of wholesome Parsi food.
My point really is that the true epicurean in all his glory will soon be extinct, just like the fast disappearing Irani cafes of Bombay. And I am mighty glad, as are my taste-buds, to have made a pleasurable acquaintance with Brittania’s famed fare. Before they decide to call it curtains, which could possibly be sooner rather than later. Starting with a refreshing lemonade recommended by the owner through a ditty accompanied by flapping arms. Lyrics are really not my thing but I caught the last bit. It went something like this, ‘….to beat the mumbai heat’. It’s a clever ploy given the absence of modern day cooling appliances. But these things, along side peeling paint, cracked ceiling, exposed wiring, noisy refrigerators in close proximity, sluggish service, and such like usually don’t bother me unless the establishment claims to provide a fine dining experience. It’s the food I’m after. Always.
Feted for their large portions of Berry Pulaos – the mutton won hands down – Sali Boti (Mutton with potato crisps served with Parsi Roti), Patra ni Machchi (steamed pomfret wrapped in banana leaf), Dhansak (lentil preparation) and Chicken Cutlets with gravy. Got to try them all over the couple of weeks I was devouring Mumbai cuisine. That day we ordered a vegetarian and mutton berry pulao (tiny and tart, the deep-red barberries garnishing the pulaos are imported from Iran, a throwback to ancestral roots), sali boti with chapati and the very English of all puddings: caramel custard.
I would imagine a great time (and meal) would have been had by all. But nay…’twas only me. Reason being, Mahima subscribes to vegetarianism and DV to tardiness. Both detrimental to relishing a carnivorous Parsi meal served fresh and steaming. What a shame. Ergo, I have just the one tip for visitors. Heed it, if you will, to assure yourself an indelible gourmet memory. Go really hungry, and never with vegetarians.