What is a fun day made up of? Well, good food for one. Good company for another. Some shopping doesn’t hurt either–everyone needs retail therapy once in a while!
Christmas day last year was surely one such fun day. We decided on a whim that the day was as good as any to explore the famed Irani cafes of Mumbai. Some furious googling led us to zero in upon Brittania cafe in the Wakefield House, Ballard Estate. Within half an hour we were on the local train to VT–err okay CST (One cannot be too careful after the trouble those two girls got into over a facebook status update last year)
Anyway, the cafe is a ten minutes walk from the CST and we found it easily enough. And what a quaint little place, brim-full of old-world-charm! High ceilings held vintage fans that whirred gently overhead. The turquoise plaster on the walls could do with a fresh coat of paint.
A huge painting of Queen Elizabeth II hung alongside an equally huge painting of Mahatma Gandhi. Above both of them was a painting of the Parsi prophet Zarathustra. The unlikely trio serve as a pointer to the Cafe’s Parsi heritage, it’s origins at a time when the Raj was at it’s peak, and ultimately it’s Indian-ness.
We were waiting for the food that we had ordered to arrive when the owner of the cafe, a ninety-something, ramrod-straight, chatty old man, who makes it a point to go to every table and talk to the customers, came to us. (Maybe that is the reason why the cafe is open only four hours from 12 to 4 PM–how much walking and talking can you expect a man his age to do?) He greeted us with much warmth, inquired about our order and fished out several laminated photographs and letters to show us. His most prized possessions appeared to be a letter from Prince Charles and another with the Windsor Castle letterhead from the Queen’s chief of staff . I found his fixation with all things British amusing and suitably anachronistic.
The food, on its part, was just fabulous. We ordered for dessert the caramel custard this cafe is much famous for. The husband and I loved it but the kids didn’t, which suited us just fine because we both got an extra bowl to tuck into 😉
On our way out, we ran into Soli Sorabjee, the former attorney general of India. We went up to him and shook hands with him, and he seemed pleasantly surprised at being recognized. I told him he was on TV every other night, at which he only smiled .
Next on our agenda was the Girgaon Chowpatty, just ahead of the Marine Drive. It is not really a great beach but any combination of sun, sea and sand does fine for the kids, apparently. Watching kids have fun is a lot of fun by itself 🙂
An hour later, we took a cab to the Flora Fountain, which really is my favourite place in Mumbai, not just because of the awesome colonial-style buildings all around it but also because of the booksellers that line the pavements! After a lot of haggling, I managed to buy The Zoya Factor by Anuja Chouhan, The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri and A Feast of Roses by Indu Sunderesan for all of Rs. 500! How wonderful is that! Meanwhile the husband and elder daughter combed through the piles of children’s books and picked a couple of them, which prompted younger daughter to grumble,” When will I be able to read these books?” In no time at all, we assured her.
I was grinning from ear to ear as we walked to the CST to go back home. If you’re happy and you know it then your face should surely show it, as the song goes!