A foodie’s soulful experience of eating at one of Mumbai’s oldest Parsi bakeries. Jamva chalo ji!
My soulful experience of eating at one of Mumbai’s oldest Parsi bakeries. Jamva chalo ji!
When you come to Mumbai as a tourist or a settler, one of the most essential things to experience is eating at an Iranian or a Parsi joint. The southern part of the city, which is better known as town, is where these age-old cafes, some of which are historic, are located, charming visitors with their balmy wooden interiors, a modest display of savouries, a nonchalant air and an old staff with a friendly demeanour. In this city, which is bursting at its seams with a plethora of restaurants, often the identity of a restaurant blends into the other and then you really can’t differentiate one from the other, and this holds true for the food they serve. And when you need a welcome change, you step into an Iranian or a Parsi eatery.
Yazdani Restaurant and Bakery in Fort was opened by a Parsi baker, Meherwan Zend in 1953, and has been delighting the palate of its patrons ever since. I had discovered it on my way back from college one evening in 2009. I used to walk from St Xavier’s College, which is very close to the famous erstwhile Victoria Terminus (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus), every evening after classes to my PG in Colaba, crossing the area of Fort, which is a buzzing business district of the city. I was amused with the ancient Gothic architecture of the buildings in Fort and that was the main reason behind my walk, and I would click random things which caught my attention.
Once I was crossing a bylane in Fort and a strong enticing whiff of freshly baked bread greeted me and I found myself standing in front of Yazdani. Its unique ocean blue facade with a hint of deep red on the roof added to my pleasure and I stepped it. I called for a muffin, a bun maska (butter) and chai. The muffin was a steal in 12 bucks. It was soft and well baked, and the peculiar flavour of cardamom that it was infused with just added to the taste. The bun was fresh and was smeared properly with a generous amount of butter and chai was just up to the mark. I was happily satiated with everything I consumed and I didn’t have to pay a fortune for that happiness. The next time I visited the bakery, I ordered an apple pie, which becomes one of those special things in your life that you want to keep coming back to after you consume in once. I have.
Last Sunday I took a friend along with me to the bakery. It was sometime in the evening and since all the offices in Fort are shut on a Sunday, there was hardly a soul eating at Yazdani. I was carrying my camera. We called for two cups of chai, brun maska (crisp bun with butter) and muffins, but we were told that muffin was not available as not many people turn up at the bakery on a Sunday. Since whatever you eat at the bakery is hand baked that very day, you can be rest assured that you will never be served anything stale. The decor is nondescript, the seating is very basic and the temperature inside the bakery is slightly higher than outside because of the running of diesel ovens. Nonetheless, the aroma of fresh bakes overpowers everything else. There is a framed certificate from Burrp on one of the walls, a menu written with chalk on a blackboard, a wooden cabinet to store the bread, pictures of the famous wrestler King Kong who was a regular here, an interesting looking apparatus for slicing the bread, glass cabinets displaying savouries, butter and more bread. As soon as we were served our order, my friend Sohrab dug into his plate of brun maska and even though I was tempted to do the same, I first took a few pictures. One of the owners, an elderly man in his late eighties I am assuming, saw me clicking and he wanted to take a picture too, so I suitably complied. For four cups of tea and two plates of brun maska, all that we paid were 80 bucks.
The muffin which I couldn’t eat that Sunday brought me back to the bakery yesterday morning and I treated myself to two muffins, a brun maska and a cup of chai. I also called for an apple pie, but was informed that it was available after 3 pm when it would be served fresh from the oven. The beckoning call of that delectable apple pie will soon have me at the bakery once again.