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Published: Monday March 3, 2014 MYT 11:40:00 AM
Updated: Monday March 3, 2014 MYT 12:52:31 PM

Mumbai's iconic Irani cafes dwindle

Indian customers buy mawa cakes and bread at the B. Merwan & Co. Irani cafe in Mumbai. – Photo AFP

Indian customers buy mawa cakes and bread at the B. Merwan & Co. Irani cafe in Mumbai. – Photo AFP

Eateries losing their appeal to competition from modern chains.

IN the late 19th and early 20th centuries, hundreds of eateries known as Irani cafés sprouted up in Mumbai due to a wave of Persian immigration.

One of the most famous of the remaining few is now set to close.

Employees of B. Merwan & Co prepare freshly baked mawa cakes (butter muffins). – AFP

B. Merwan & Co, captured in a series of AFP photos, has served up sweet milky tea and bread buns to busy workers in the bustling seaside city for a hundred years but is set to close its doors for the last time in March.

In their heyday, the street-corner, high-ceilinged Irani cafés served businessmen, labourers and prostitutes alike with their omelettes, cardamom-spiced mawa cakes and the “brun maska” bread-and-butter rolls.

Favourites like paani kum chai (milk tea) are served at the B. Merwan & Co. Irani cafe in Mumbai. – AFP

Today, fewer than 30 of them remain in India’s financial capital as they struggle with competition from modern chains, high real estate prices and the reluctance of younger family members to continue in the café tradition.

Loyal patrons of B. Merwan, which sits opposite Mumbai’s busy Grant Road station, are saddened at the thought of no longer queuing for its celebrated cakes, which are often sold straight from the oven.

Indian customers eat breakfast at the B. Merwan & Co. Irani cafe in Mumbai. – AFP

“I have been coming here for 20 years,” said Karsi Mehta, a local businessman, as he tucked into a vegetable puff and a cup of tea.

“Sadly it seems we will have to adjust to whatever hotel is nearby once Merwan closes.” – AFP Relaxnews

Indian customers buy mawa cakes and bread at the B. Merwan & Co. Irani cafe in Mumbai. – Photo AFP

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Mumbai, Irani cafes, Persians

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