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A tribute to the dying legacy of the Bombay Irani Cafes

"With SodaBottleOpenerWala, we give you a concept that is unique to India; the dying legacy of the wonderful chaotic, crowded, bustling, colorful, quirky, cluttered, eccentric and so real world of an Irani café. Our way of reviving the love for the edu and the disappearing race behind the cafes". - AD and Sabina Singh

 

Hyderabad May 2015: SodaBottleOpenerWala is your quintessential Bombay Irani Café with all its idiosyncrasies in place. After Bengaluru, SodaBottleOpenerWala opens its doors at Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad, to pay tribute to the dying legacy of a Bombay Irani cafe bringing with it typical Parsi cuisine, some Irani specialties and Bombay street food, a well-stocked bar - in a fun, quirky and contemporary avatar.

The Irani’s have had such a tremendous influence on the Bombay seascape and among their many contributions, the most resilient has been the Irani café. The Irani Café culture has been an important and integral part of Bombay history. These cafés are pretty much an India specific phenomenon which acquired cult status in the city of Bombay. They've been instrumental in the evolution of our chai drinking culture and have changed our lives in more ways than one. The Irani Café culture came to India with the Persians back in the early 1900s and today Bombay boasts of the largest number of Irani cafes serving traditional Irani Chai along with a slew of other specialties. Gradually, due to the foray of fast food concepts that flooded the country, the tradition of such cafes died down. Only 25 such cafes are now still in existence.

Irani Cafes were famous for their inexpensive food, eccentric owners and distinctive menus incorporating dishes like the stick chai (extremely sweet), bun maska (crusty bread with butter), kheema pao (mince curry with bread) and typical Parsi cutlets, patties, rolls, fruitcakes, and confectionery. Today, however, Irani Cafes serve a wide range of cuisine.

Says AD Singh from The Olive Group, “SodaBottleOpenerWala is a concept restaurant with a bar. For my wife Sabina and me, Mumbai is an integral part of the journey of our lives. The Bombay Irani cafe is a rich part of the Mumbai tapestry and, sadly, a dying legacy. We delved deep within its unique world to bring alive the nuances - both for cuisine and its atmosphere. The familiarity of an Irani café is key to the experience. Architect Clement and Sabina brought that canvass to life.”

He further adds, ‘I am delighted to announce that the fourth SodaBottleOpenerWala finds a home in Hyderabad with my partners Shaaz Mehmood and Shiraz Mirza at Jubilee Hills, which is the heart of this city. I’m very happy to bring on board partners who share my vision and endeavor to help resuscitate the dying legacy of the Bombay Irani cafe".

Says Shaaz Mehmood, "It is exciting to bring to Hyderabad an experience I fondly remember growing up with during the course of my travels to Bombay. That and the vibrant, eccentric and chaotic world of an Irani cafe is a much needed affordable casual dine-out and bar experience in Hyderabad.’

Adds Shiraz Mirza, "I am delighted that the fourth SodaBottleOpenerWala finds a home in Hyderabad in the vibrant neighbourhood of Jubilee Hills which is the beating heart of this city. As such it is a perfect spot for this concept. We hope Hyderabad will grow to love it as much as we do.”

THE LOOK OF SODABOTTLEOPENERWALA

The design is old world, colonial and humorous. As you walk into the restaurant, immediately feel the unmistakable slice of Bombay at its Parsi best. In the open courtyard at the entrance the old world Bombay Irani cafe look has a nostalgic charm. Barni glass jars filled with nankatais and typical bakery items are sold by the piece at the cash counter and bric-a-brac complete the quirky look.

Black and White checkered tiles on the floor, Irani chairs and chai glasses, red checkered and crochet table cloths, colored glass lamps and dome lights from chor bazaar, cuckoo clocks, brass tea kettles and dabbas, tin boxes, locks, old paraphernalia and much more are a delight to discover and enjoy as you settle down to take your pick from the menu. Every item seen on the walls and the menu is typical of Bombay and of what you may find in a Parsi home and kitchen.

A jumble of Parsi portraits, with framed images of life in Irani cafes and the bustling Bombay street life on the walls, all tell the story of a Bombay Irani café .

Keeping most original elements of a typical Irani cafe in place, architect Clement and fashion and interior designer Sabina Singh, added a few contemporary touches. Their take on Parsi-style Freddie Mercury meets Monty Python on the large mirrors, juxtaposes with a play of graphics all around that bring out the Parsi spirit and idiosyncrasies.

No Laughing Loudly. No Singing. No Childish Tantrums. No Talking to Cashier. No Asking for Recipes. No Feet on Chair. No Flirting. No Flatulence . No Pata Hai Main Kaun Hoon. The eccentricity and mirth evokes spontaneous laughter over the signature large blackboard touting the ‘Rules of the Establishment’ and is a constant feature in all the SodaBottleOpenerWala properties.

Says Sabina Singh, “We have also introduced a juke box in the bar area so people can have a great selection of retro music to choose from.”

THE MENU AT SODABOTTLEOPENERWALA: They say Iranis don’t feast with their eyes but with their nose!

Nostalgia warms your heart as you navigate through the menu, bringing a smile to your face as you choose from an All Day Menu - bringing forth a comprehensive selection.

SodaBottleOpenerWala serves a mix of classic Parsi dishes and Bombay street food. The menu has evolved after a lot of research on Parsi flavours and food gems that sparkle on the streets of Mumbai. Our specialities include Dhansak (classic Parsi dish of mutton with lentils and served with caramelized rice and kachumber), Paatra Ni Macchi (chutney steamed pomfret), our version of the Berry Pulao (veg, chicken and mutton), Prawn Patio (a tangy prawn preparation, sweet, sour and mildly spicy) and other old time favourites like Sali Mutton and Chicken, Goan Fish Curry, Chicken Baida Roti inspired from the hugely successful one at Bade Miya, Bohri Keema Pav and the Bhendi Bazaar Sheekh Paratha (a wonderful combination of a juicy sheekh and crispy fried paratha that originated in the gulli behind the ‘Bartan Market’).

The vegetarian section has a multitude of delightful options. There are cutlets and there’s the Aloo Aunty’s Vegetable Cutlet which is really quite special, Breach Candy Awesome Okra (inspired from the the famous okra dish made at Breach Candy Club), Tardeo A/c Market Mamaji’s Grilled Sandwich and the Bombay Raasta Sandwich (our take on these two very popular street food items), Bharuchi Paneer Akuri (Scrambled cottage cheese made in the way how they do in Bharuch in Gujarat; with dry fruits) and Brinjal Patio (a wonderful sweet ’n sour brinjal dish- if you don’t like brinjal, there’s a good chance you’ll like this) to name a few.

The Irani Bakery Menu serves everything freshly baked in the morning and sold by the piece. The selection includes delights likeGinger Biscuit, Berry and Badam Nan Khatai, Shrewsbury Biscuit, Mawa Cake, Lagan nu Custard, Toblerone Mousse, 5 Star Brownie and Apple Pie with Custard.

A selection of drinks from the Irani chai bar leave you spoilt for choice. Irani Special chai, Pheteli Coffee (coffee and sugar beaten to a delightful frothy consistency) onto tempting coolers of Mrs. SodaBottleOpenerWala’s Special Cold Coffee (there ain’t too many who make cold coffee like this one), Sekanje bin (a Persian-inspired drink made from dried plums, mint and jaggery), Raspberry Soda (our version of this wonderful Parsi concept, which we make in-house with frozen raspberry) , Irani Falooda (A super tasty combination of ice cream, saffron, strawberry flavour and milk) and Parsi Choy (Straight from inside a Parsi home, tea flavoured with lemongrass and mint).

The bar at SodaBottleOpenerWala with a range of delicious cocktails will be operational from July 2015

THE KITCHEN TEAM AT SODABOTTLEOPENERWALA

Mohit Balachandran (Head Masalchi) Not a Parsi by birth, but Mohit knows enough about their customs and food to warrant a Navjote. He has a superb understanding of Parsi flavours and an extensive knowledge of Indian street food that’s second to none. His responsibility at SodaBottleOpenerWala is to ensure that the flavours remain true to their Parsi and Bambayyia roots at all the SodaBottleOpenerWala restaurants across the country. His strength is also in sourcing ingredients that make an impact on the final taste of the dishes. Like the use of vinegar from EF instead of EH Kolah, getting the right quality Sali and other ingredients from Bombay and sourcing classic Parsi homemade ingredients like Bhakra, Doodhi nu Murrabba, Lagan nu Achar and other typical items from Parsi homemakers and to introduce these to the menu.

Anahita N. Dhondy (Chef) A proper bawi who looks the part, Anahita learnt cooking from her mom, whose a superb Parsi cook and caterer in Delhi. She has grown up with good food and has access to some delicious family recipes-some of which date to more than 200 years old. Her energy levels are infectious and her commitment to work is always 100%. You’ll always find her in the kitchen, making sure each dish goes out perfectly to every customer.

Says Anahita laughingly, “We Parsis are a hard lot to get. I’ve been confused most of the time as I’m still pretty young, but they are complex characters, with highly developed senses, from humor to food! Parsi cuisine is simple as its complex. I could go on and on, but simply it comes down to “say a small thank you every day’ and ChaloJumwaChaloJi! –(come let’s have a meal). It has become the most important and popular chant at any Parsi celebration–we look forward to serving you”. CCI Newswire

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