This Week on IFN: Irani Chai at Cafe de la Paix
Miss Bombaywalla is a pint-sized powerhouse of Bombay knowledge. In addition to this addictive, frustrating and cinematic metropolis, we also have London, the Dishoom chain of restaurants, the search for a cleaner and a partiality to Irani cafes in common. After a few too many years away, Bombay is lucky to have her back. Miss Bombaywalla (aka Dr. Simin Patel) is author of popular blog, Bombaywalla, is writing a book on Bombay's Irani Cafes, and has recently started a new series of thematic city walks - Bombaywalla Historical Walks.
It was on one such walk that I was introduced to the most delightful of run down cafes in town - Cafe de la Paix in Girgaum. The bustle of Bombay is only a heartbeat away, and yet, this old Irani has managed to hold on to time. It is the last surviving cafe in the few hundred metres of bylanes around the Royal Opera House. The now famous sweet and chaat shop Tewari Brothers Mithaiwala used to be Regal Restaurant (you can still visit the Byculla branch for their mawa samosa); and Vihar used to be Allies Store & Restaurant. The slow death of these cafes that were born in the 1930s has come a bit too fast.
Since that first afternoon at Cafe de la Paix in November last year I have visited more times than I can remember. The best spot in the house is by the window that looks on to an old paan shop and the gentle bustle of Girgaum Road. I know it's Simin's favourite spot too. Clichéd as it may sound, there is no better time than this monsoon-y mood for a first visit to this 80 plus year old cafe. Their cheese omelette bun is the best in town and endless cups of their chai will be inspiration for much in your life.
I won't tell you what inspired the cafe's name. Please go. And ask the owners Dilshaw and Gustad Irani. They're always happy to share a story or ten... The only sign of modernity amidst the blinking tube lights and old wooden chairs is Maggi on the menu.
Speaking of Maggi, I can't imagine life without it. From an emergency tiffin filler in school to emergency comfort food when I lived abroad, Maggi has been an intrinsic part of too many people I know. One such person is Pritha Murdeshwar. She loved Maggi as much as any other Gen Xer, until she suddenly discovered that Maggi and all its other gluten-rich friends had caused an auto-immune disease. I am happy to report that after having to give up gluten she is happier and healthier than ever before. She's also managed quite a sense of humour about her gluten-free adventures, which she now shares on India Food Network, beginning with The Diet Made Me Bigger.
Continuing with my clichés (I just prefer to call it comfort of receiving what you expected to) our YouTube channel is chock-a-block with delicious, new monsoon food ideas, the IFN chefs have sent us a whole lotta chai love this monsoon, but my favourite playlist of the moment is the #31DaysofChai Special - tune in for a host of recipes from new ways to use chai (Chai Cookies anyone?) to tried and tested masala chai.
We are also back with a brand new edition of the IFN Food Safari. The latest episode is on the Story of Tea and how we owe a massive thanks to Portuguese princess and tea addict, Catherine of Braganza, for introducing us to the world of chai! Do follow our #31DaysofChai journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and share your chai stories with us.