Monday 21st December 2015

By mira

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It’s a mouthful but the name does stick, as does the colourful cosy décor with so much going on it’s hard to know where to look. That’s the charm and beauty of this bustling Irani café, a quirky and wonderfully chaotic place with a feast of aromas and constant activity.

There were no empty tables in the restaurant so I ended up sitting at the bar and chatting to the bar tender Prashant in between his orders, who made such a plethora of chais and drinks for me that it was hard to eat anything! Glancing through the menu, I thought I was missing out – not wanting anything cheesy and fried – but it’s worth coming here just to sip the drinks. I decided to start with a Staff Chai, not a soda bottle, and not that there’s any reason to call it a staff chai – milky chai boiled with fresh ginger and cardamom pods. With all my questions about the chai, Prashant made small cups of all the different types of chai on the Irani Chai Bar menu, from the Irani Special Chai which is plain milky kadak chai without any additions, then the Staff Chai which I loved with the ginger infusion, and lastly the Parsi Choy, black tea the way Parsis make it with mint and lemongrass, refreshing and moorish. There was also the Parsi version of a frothy cappuccino, which I said I’d try next time.

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He also passed me a small shot glass of their masala mix, which I ended up blowing in my eyes, and then added it to the tea to let me taste the difference. After overdosing on chai tastings and seeing the variety of dishes speeding quickly past me (I was stationed right next to the kitchen door) I needed a bite, and pondering on starters from Cheesy Masala Fries to Chilli Cheese Pav and Eggs Kejriwal, I settled on dhansak, simply because I love daal and was set on having something healthy – the lentils in this daal are smoothly blended so it’s rather like a thick soup served with brown rice and kachumbar, a tangy mix of tomatoes, onions and cucumber. I also tried a bite of the paneer bhurji, a little more jazzed up with juice and spice than the tofu scramble I make – and delicious in small portions. And while I don’t like having bread, there really is something so soft and white and fluffy about Mumbai pau that I just end up indulging in that pau, luckily not drenched in butter here.

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Then for the drinks, which for me, oddly enough, were the highlight. The Sekanje Bin, a bizarre but apparently traditional blend of chopped prunes which lie at the bottom of the bottle, a handful of jaggery muddled in there which gives the drink its brown colour, topped with Limca and lots of fresh mint leaves. If you’ve not heard of this tart fizzy lemonade-esque Indian soda, this might give you an idea.  I certainly would not have thought of chopped prunes in any, albeit an Indian drink. But while I sat at the bar, this one drink was being made over and over and over again. And I rather liked it!

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I was also passed a glass of Raspberry Soda, which I managed to have more than a few sips of despite being overly full on the liquids – the simple blend of frozen raspberries muddled with soda and a touch of sugar was incredibly tasty, a perfect balance of tart and sweet.

Finally, Prashant quietly left a shot glass taster of Bhijrao Mastani beside my laptop, a healthful blend of orange juice, pineapple juice, wild dill and lime juice. Again who would have thought of dill blended into a drink? I’ll definitely be trying my own versions of these drinks very soon. And had I stayed the whole day, I’m sure I would have worked my way through the entire drinks menu! Next time…

SodaBottleOpenerWala, G2, The Capital Building, BKC, Bandra

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