Pot of Indian curry and rice with papadam and spices on the side
What You Should Know About Irani Cafes, An Indian Culinary Tradition
The Irani cafes of India combine bright Victorian-influenced décor and Indian, Irani, and British cuisine for a cultural mash-up that reflects the era in which they originated.
Irani cafes first began in India in the 19th century, originally catering to British colonists with English-style teas, cakes, and pastries served alongside English decor.
When the British left India, these cafes revamped their menus to cater to the preferences of local Indians and the Irani Zoroastrians who had established them to begin with.
The cafes’ offerings combine Indian, Irani, and 19th-century English culture, offering traditional Indian dishes and street food, trays of tea and toast, and various Parsi foods.
These include rice dishes like berry pulao, grilled meats like skewered paneer and chicken, chai drinks served with fluffy rolls called bun maska, and biscuits with butter and jam.
While Irani cafes were once a mainstay in India, their legacy is fading, and as of November 2022, Mumbai’s number of Irani cafes had dwindled from 300 to fewer than 25.
However, the cafes are making headway in the United States. Cafe chain Botiwalla has stores in cities such as Asheville and Charlotte, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia.