Tag Archives: irani cafe in Mumbai

Cafe Excelsior: An Irani Cafe which is older than what my Grandad would have been

26 Apr

Our discovery of Cafe Excelsior was quite a story. We had been to Kashid Beach over a weekend with my cousin’s family, on our journey back home, we happened to be at gateway of India just past lunch time. All of us being foodies, everyone wanted to go to different places. Finally we gave my cousin, Nachiket, the right of way and let him choose a place for lunch. He took us to a place which used to be called ‘Kelkar Vishranti Gruh’, opp. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus- but to our dismay, it had been closed down. Next he suggested going to cafe excelsior, where he used to go in his college days. When, even after a walk for about 25 minutes in the hot sun, we were not able to find it- his wife and son (3 year old) just gave up. We then ended up going to Kayani & Co., near Metro Cinema (which for the record is no longer the great food place that it used to be, so I regret I wont be able to do a post on it!). All through the snacking at Kayani & Co., I could sense that Nachiket was still disgruntled about not having found Excelsior (So much so that he actually declared that he really is from a completely different generation than ours and all his foodie hangouts have now closed down :(). A few days later, I was in Fort again and happened to drive by Cafe Excelsior- and immediately told Nachiket that his favorite place is still standing tall and proud, opp. Excelsior Cinema (It’s in the Sterling Cinema lane). Being me, I had to try out the food at this place at the earliest.

The Friday of that week, I was going to be travelling with M to Baroda and we were looking for a place to grab some wholesome no fuss dinner before taking the train. From the options available, Cafe Excelsior seemed the best one. But I was not sure about how good the food would be. So I went back to Kalyan Karmakar of Finely Chopped (who happens to be an authority on Irani Cafes) and asked his thoughts about this Cafe on Twitter. This was his reply ‘@amitagadre: I went to excelsior often in the late 90s. Cutlets. Slice bread. U can rarely go wrong in a place run by a grumpy Irani’.

So with renewed confidence, I guided M to Excelsior. First impressions- roomy, clean, empty but good food smells invitingly wafting out. It soon got filled up with regular patrons as we sat munching at the Shawarma, the salli boti, the warm and soft chapatis, the chicken masala and hummus and pita. As I started clicking pictures as soon as I entered, the owner Mr. Adi Mazkoori (who was not at all grumpy) , gave me an indulgent smile as if to say ‘go ahead and click to your hearts content. Many have clicked this place before you’. Even before I saw the menu, I knew what were the bestsellers at this place, as their names were very charmingly hand painted on a mirror and the walls. I did not know whether I should have the chicken cutlet gravy or the Farcha or the mutton biryani or the bread pudding! Oh!! So much good food!

The menu on the mirror

Oooh that yoghurt dip was to die for!

The service was prompt. All the dishes and cutlery and the tables were very clean (unlike in some of the fancier restaurants where not only are the dishes unclean but the waiters seem like in need of a day off in the shower and laundry! Ugh!). The chicken masala had an unusual gravy with coconut, onion, tamarind, tomato undertones. But it was not overly spicy (the kind which gives you acidity) and was just perfectly cooked to a medium thick consistency. The chicken though could have been better off had it been a little tender. The salli boti was classic! Must try! The salli is typical Irani cafe lingo, which means batons of potatoes deep fried (similar to french fries). This salli gets added to egg bhurji, egg ghotala, kheema, kheema ghotala and other meat gravy dishes. Differently good! The chicken shawarma came with vinegar steeped radish and beet root and some really delish greek yoghurt dip/dressing. The pita bread of the shawarma was way too thick (almost like a pizza base) for my liking, while the chicken and the salad filling was oh-so-scrumptious. M, had no time to keep analyzing food the way I was, and was happily gorging on the Shawarma.

Finally came the piece de resistance. Caramel Custard. To me, this is the real test of a true Irani Cafe. I dare say, no one makes caramel custard better than an Irani cafe. Be it Cafe Goodluck or Lucky at Pune, Piccadilly at Colaba, Mumbai or Cafe Excelsior. When I saw the caramel custard, it made me remember Nigella Lawson’s comment about a panna cotta : ‘A perfect panna cotta is one which quivers like a 17th Century courtesan’s inner thigh’. I would say the same applies to the perfect caramel custard. Atleast in my book. 🙂 It was better than it looked. If I had not been a Nutritionist, I would have had atleast three of these custards. Just as we were about to leave, Mr. Mazkoori came asking whether I had tried their bread pudding. Unfortunately, I had to tell him with a guilty face, that we will definitely have it when we are here the next time!

One with the perfect quiver

Cafe Excelsior, Kitab Mahal, Opp. Excelsior Cinema, 23, A K Nayak Marg, Mumbai-1.
For takeaways: 022 22074543
Open on Sundays. Timings: 8.00 am to 11.00 pm

Rating: 6.5/10 Average Meal for two: Rs. 300


The following is the tweet-discussion that I and Kalyan had about grumpy irani cafe owners after he read this post. Thought it might be interesting to all you food lovers too!

@amitagadre my pleasure 🙂 you omitted ‘grumpy’ 🙂

amitagadre :
@Finelychopped I did.. coz firstly he was not grumpy at all.. but very genial and secondly, he has the link to the blog. Can’t be rude!

@amitagadre ‘grumpy irani cafe owners’ are part of folklore. But the folks at Britannia, Ideal Corner, Yazdaani debunk this 🙂

amitagadre :
@Finelychopped Oh yes, the owner at Yazdaani was especially sweet to show me the bakery and the baking in progress.

@amitagadre you probably mean Mr Tirandaz Irani at Yazadani. Yes he is indeed very helpful and warm.

@amitagadre Have you come across the grand old Mr Boman Kohinoor at Britannia? Or Parvez Irani the owner of Ideal Cafe. Lovely folks

@amitagadre I think the deal at Irani Cafes was focus on consistency and price rather than marketing. Hence ‘grumpy’

@Finelychopped: Yes Kalyan. I completely agree with you. I think I will do an edit considering that you are insisting so much on the adjectv

Finelychopped :
@amitagadre no no don’t. I was generally discussing this with you

amitagadre :
@Finelychopped : LOL! that’s ok. It was anyway quoting you, so might as well keep it as it is. 🙂 Been to cafe goodluck pune? Grumpy and how!

Have you come across ‘grumpy old Irani cafe owners’? Do share your story with us here.

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