“This is a bribe so that you come back,” says the old man while handing over a Mango Bite to a smiling girl. He places one in her sister’s outstretched hand before reaching into a glass jar to remove a few more. “These are so that you come back after that. Keep coming back so that one day, this uncle can get rich and buy a Porsche. I can then take your family for a ride in it.”
Bribing (or witnessing someone do it) has never been this much fun.
Mansoor Showghi Yezdi is a filmmaker, better known for his award-winning documentary Cafe Irani Chai (find them, here). This last year, he has been moonlighting as the owner of the city’s newest Irani café, simply titled Cafe Irani Chaii, bribing customers with sweets from the many jars on the counter.
Cafe Irani Chaii doesn’t really need the owner to bribe you to return. The food is good enough. On the menu is Irani chai, bun/ brun maska, kheema pav, akuri, white biryani, kheema, toast and eggs (fried, omelette or scrambled), mutton paya and Pallonji’s cold drinks.
At a time when others are opening delivery services, molecular gastronomy ice-cream parlours, and other fine dining establishments, Yezdi decided to stick to his roots (including putting up old pictures of his family tree).
Yezdi may be the owner but that doesn’t stop him from coming over to our table repeatedly to ask us about the food or to ‘forgive him if there’s anything wrong’. If you show an inclination to talk, he will sit down and point out how his family eats food that’s cooked in the kitchen (he takes a parcel home every night), or show you wooden chairs that were made in 1930 and got from Poland or how customers consider his akuri the best in the city. He will share stories of how his grandfather, Haji Mohammed Showghi Yezdi, sold Irani chai on the streets of Apollo Bunder when he first arrived here in the 1890s. Nudge him a bit and he will show you his pride – a 30 year old traditional Persian samovar – and explain how to make kadak Irani chai in it.
If you like cats, this place has them swarming around. Be careful though –they’re distracting and very demanding.
Cafe Irani Chaii is located at Rosary Building, Geeta Nagar, New Dinkar Co Operative Housing Society, opposite Paramount, Mahim; open from 7 am to 11 pm; they also do delivery.