On a warm on Saturday afternoon in the city of dreams - Mumbai, when masses rejoice their weekend, a Parsi family gears up to welcome their customers at their iconic eatery Britannia & Co. The restaurant that has been up and running since 1923 is one of Mumbai's most popular joints.
Those who have been to the south side of the city make sure to gorge on the mouth-watering Berry Pulao served with a side of raita or the newly introduced Chicken Farcha. On one such weekend, Republic TV exclusively caught up with the present owner of Britannia & Co - Boman Kohinoor, where he spoke profoundly about the history of the restaurant, his bond with the Queen Of United Kingdom Elizabeth II and chronicles of an old Parsi outlet.
Sitting quietly on one of the tables, with a warm smile, Kohinoor made sure to put his best foot forward. Even at the age of 96, the man is bound to make your heart melt with his gracious ways. He made sure to make everyone at the restaurant comfortable and leave with their stomachs and hearts full. As we started with the interview, he took us back to 1923 when his father started the eatery during the British Raj.
"My father started this place which is also the same year I was born. After he passed away, I look after the people. When I pass away, my son will look after this and then my granddaughter. This shop is 96-years-old as old as me," he shared.
Taking us back the memory lane, Kohinoor shared how during his father's tenure, things were different. "When this place started. That time my father used to get English and American customers. He was serving continental food and few Indian dishes which were not spicy. That was that time till Independence." He shared how it was only after Independence that he started serving Indian cuisine for his customers.
"After Independence, I took over and slowly introduced Indian side by side. So this went till 1982. My wife, who was a lawyer, was also a good cook. She introduced the specials that we have on the menu right now like Berry Pulao, Salli Botti etc. My wife is no more but we are going on with the same menu since 1982."
Talking about the iconic name that is now a monumental visit in itself for domestic and international tourist, he said, "It was British time when my father started this restaurant and he needed a license from the Municipal Corporation then. At that point of time, the Municipal Corporation officer was an English man and he wanted an English name. My father thought to give this name Britannia for registration so the officer gives him the permission to open the restaurant otherwise he would have delayed it by two-three months or so." There was no other name that came to their mind prior to Britannia making it one-of-its-kind outlet.
For the uninitiated ones, Kohinoor's much-talked-about Royals connect stems from the time he was serving Britishers. A lot has been reported about his age-old bond with the Royals that piques the interests of the people who have been a regular at the outlet. Talking about his association, Kohinoor said, "When the British people used to come for lunch or dinner, I would talk to them and send message for the Queen (Elizabeth II). That is how my connection with the Royals started. She sent me letters and photos. Few years back when the Duke And Dutchess William and Kate came to Mumbai, they came on a wrong day here. It was a Sunday and our shop was closed. They then went to the Taj Mahal Palace but they sent people to my house to take me to them. If I tell you, the Queen has been a very lucky lady. She's the longest reigning queen now." He then went on to show pictures and a few letters from the Queen that he has kept safe for memories.
Britannia & Co that is managed by Kohinoor's son at the moment, has a unique policy of keeping the shutters down on Sunday, which for many of the food outlets is the time to rake in the moolah. Ask him about why he still chooses to keep the outlet closed on a day that is good for the business, he quips, "You see my granddaughter my son if they keep the shop open for 12 hours then the staff has to come here 6 hours in advance. There are double shifts with people working for 15 to 16 hours and then they get tired. So they said they can't do more. My younger son also did it for 27 years but now he says he's really tired."
So no planforof expanding the family business to new outlets in other cities? "No, because one outlet we can hardly manage, how can we open other outlets. Not possible." Tourists can count on Britannia & Co to maintain its heritage in the years to come as they continue the same menu with the old world's charm. "This will continue. The same menu will continue," he concludes.
The next time you visit the restaurant, make sure to enter with a warm smile and give their Raspberry Soda and Berry Pulao a try.