Irani Cafés had that distinct, comfortable look of faded elegance that welcomed all. Britannia and Leopolds are good examples that still exist. Café Naaz and Bastani were others that were much-loved but now closed. Bastani was well known for its quirky restaurant instructions written on a blackboard: "No Spitting. No Sitting Long. No Combing. No Leg On Chair..."
Saloni Shukla, a Bombay filmmaker, has talked about these cafés:
"The Irani cafés have been the familiar abode of wealthy businessmen, lawyers, struggling rickshaw pullers in need of a quick refreshment to whole families for whom the local Irani could be a place for lovely lunches or dinners. For the hooker who worked the street it was a place of refuge, too...anyone, irrespective of religion, caste or creed could wander in and find comfort in the energy of the place. A place where friends would chill, couples would court, business deals were signed and reforms were made by the great leaders of the past. A place where artists would get inspired, writers would find their characters and your old uncle could just sit back, drink a cup of chai and read the Sunday Times. A place where kids would lie to their parents and go eat and hang out with their mates. A place where stories began. Now, these places that have survived in our city for well over 100 years are close to the lines of extinction."
There were around four hundred of these cafés in Bombay at their peak. Now, sadly, less than thirty remain. We'd really like to capture some part of this disappearing tradition in Dishoom, and share it with Londoners.