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When one talks of ‘Irani cafés’, one always thinks of places serving Parsi food run by Zoroastrians.
Yes, all the famous Irani cafés and bakeries of Mumbai – Britannia & Company, Jimmy Boy, Yazdani Bakery, Leopold Café, B Merwan & Co. – are run by Irani Zoroastrians. They came to India a century back from Iran and are considered to be different from Parsis, who came to India well before that. Both originated from Iran and follow the Zoroastrian faith. The Iranis are the ones who came and set up restaurants in Mumbai in the late 1800s, when the city did not really have much of an eating-out culture.
However, they are not the only ‘Iranis’ in Mumbai. There are also people who came to Mumbai from Iran who belong to the Muslim community. Some of them run restaurants too! Hyderabad also has quite a few Muslim Irani restaurants. Café Bahar, with its lovely biryani, is one of them.
One of the most iconic Irani Muslim restaurants in Mumbai is Lucky in Bandra. It is literally a landmark and people often mention ‘Lucky biryani’ when giving directions in Bandra.
Lucky was opened in 1938 by a gentleman who came to India from Yazdan in Iran. He initially opened a place at Bandra’s Bazar Road before taking up the current property, which was earlier a car showroom. He used to open his restaurant at 4 am in the morning and sell kheema pav and Irani chai.
The restaurant has grown since then, opens at 9 am now, and serves kheema throughout the day and Chinese too!
Chinese is an addition made by his proud grandson, Mohsin, who runs the family business now.
They have an air-conditioned section too in Lucky, but the central, non-air-conditioned one has more character.
While they have a range of Mughlai and tandoori dishes, what you must try is the Iran-originated, very Mumbaiiya biryani served here, which takes close to three hours to cook every day.
You can ask them to put less masala in your biryani if you want, like I do, and, like me, ask for an extra aloo (potato) too.
Follow Kalyan Karmakar @ Finelychopped
Photo Credits: Kalyan Karmakar
Kalyan Karmakar authors the popular award winning blog, Finely Chopped and is an authority on the food of Mumbai. His extensive knowledge of the city's food scene has been featured in publications such as Femina, Mumbai Mirror and BCC Good Food. He was one of the founding critics of EazyDiner's Mumbai team.