a self-guided walk through mumbai’s iconic business district: ballard estate

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Though an avid proponent for guided walks, I love self-guided walks just that tad bit more. They are like a treasure hunt filled with the thrill of discovery! Don’t you agree? As one decodes a route and identifies details, a place takes on an added meaning. From then on, it is never just another precinct, another site, discovered and rapidly forgotten. You start to recognise its finer nuances, unveil layers, and imbibe a bit of its soul. Such was how I explored Ballard Estate a few days ago.

To many in Bombay aka Mumbai, Ballard Estate is just another business district, the chief differentiator being “London-like.” London-like? Yes, that’s the catch word!

Whilst the rest of the city, and in particular, the adjoining Fort area is Victorian-Gothic in style, with its associated chaos, Ballard Estate is serene and uniform. A meticulously planned, purpose-built district by Bombay Port Trust, Ballard Estate is the coming together of two urbanisation concepts in the period between 1914 to 1918. These are: 1) Twenty-two acres of reclaimed land using excavated rock and soil from the creation of Alexandra Dock, and 2) the aesthetic design sense of architect George Wittet. Continue reading

britannia and company : parsi food at its best : south bombay

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[This post is not a food or restaurant review, and has not been commissioned either. It is a place I have eaten at and fallen in love with, at times for the food, at times for the ambience, and often for both. And like me, countless others have been smitten by it too. Such, that it is today part of the very fabric of Bombay’s history and culture.]

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Ninety-three year old Boman Kohinoor comes to our table to take our order. Charming, suave and gentle, he is the owner of Britannia and Company, a Parsi restaurant founded by his father, Rashid Kohinoor, in 1923. His son, Romin, is the chef.

Britannia and Company has remained virtually unchanged from when it was set up 92 years ago. The peeling paint, crystal chandeliers and Polish Bentwood furniture within are evocative of another era; the Iranian flag draped across the side wall a proud acknowledgement of the restaurant’s heritage.

It would be fair to say that the restaurant is driven by emotion rather than profit. The nominally priced meals could easily go for small fortunes apiece, taking the restaurant’s global repute and heritage into consideration, but the Kohinoors are happy selling them for a few hundred Rupees instead.

The family-owned eatery on a quiet street in colonial Ballard Estate opens only for fours every day to a packed house and long queues. If you are not eating you have to leave. Its patrons come from far and wide, from the office crowd in the Fort District to Parsi NRIs on holiday yearning for a taste of home.

I am charmed, to say the least. 🙂

Notes:
Address: Britannia and Company, Wakefield House 11, Opposite New Custom House, Near Grand Hotel, Sprott Road 16, Ballard Estate, Mumbai
Timings: 11:30 am – 15:30 pm; Closed on Sundays
Payment: Cash only
My favourites: Berry Pulav, Britannia and Company’s signature dish (Rs. 300 – Rs. 450), Caramel Custard (Rs. 120), Rosy Raspberry. The barberries are to date imported from Iran.

Home delivery service is available, but eating sit-in is an experience you don’t want to miss.

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Britannia and Company was set up in 1923 by Rashid Kohinoor, a Zoroastrian immigrant from Iran. Now run by the founder’s third generation, nothing much has changed since then
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The eatery’s chicken berry pulav—to die for! with barberries imported from Iran
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The caramel custard—to fall in love with life all over again for 🙂