I used to visit Bombay or Mumbai regularly during the 90s, frequenting the Fort area where my business contacts had their offices. My hosts would regularly take me to Irani cafés famed for their signature ‘Irani Chai’ (tea).
We’d become regulars at one such café and so, once a friendly waiter egged me to try out ‘bun-maska’ ( warm buns with generous dollops of butter) as an excellent accompaniment to chai.
Since then, ‘bun-maska-chai’ has become my staple evening snack or just-about-my-anytime snack. Whenever I’d have a day off, I would go exploring the city for other Irani cafés serving this iconic combo.
Once, in 2014, I was jolted to read a news item in the Times of India about B.MERWAN & Co., a bakery, a restaurant and a 100 year old institution, famous all over erstwhile-Bombay for its ‘bun-maska- chai’, mava cakes and other mouth-watering delicacies, downing their shutters within a month.
I hopped on onto the next local and de-boarded at Grant Road railway station, an iconic monument by itself. On the east end of the station, bang outside the station building, stood the legendary B. MERWAN & Co.
An unlikely name for an eatery, I thought.
But this edifice has been tickling the ‘Bambaiya’ palate for over 100 years. Mr. Boman Merwan established it in 1914 and the family continues to runs it without diluting the ambience or the quality of delicacies, it is famed for.
Every bit of the musty interior reeks of a bygone era, from chairs to the tea boiler to the waiters that serve you exuding an old-world rustic charm, that’s hard to come by even in well-heeled restaurants, today.
I could not lay my hands on their signature Mava cakes but managed to grab some of my favourite grub: bun-maska, scrambled eggs, veg puffs all washed down with two cups of that famous, sweet as honey, ‘Irani-chai’.
Mava cakes, one of their best sellers are always the first to fly off the shelves. You need to make the trek by around 10.30 am to be able to feast on this prized offering.
I found myself in good company with many DSLR wielding enthusiasts and B. Merwan loyalists, both men and women clicking away to capture these iconic environs for posterity.
We needn’t have been worried! The place is very much alive and kicking even today, much to the relief and delight of its loyal brood of customers.
If you ever visit Mumbai (Bombay has reinvented itself since), don’t forget to visit B. Merwan & Co. Go relish an extra ‘bun-maska- chai’ on me! 😎😜
And if you find yourself in Pune, the place to head is Good Luck Cafe (est. 1935). Couldn’t manage any pics inside the cafe but here are two pics of the exterior of the building.