Britannia & Co | Berry Pulao | Parsi Cafe | Mumbai
My first visit to the famous Parsi Café – Britannia & Company, which gave us the wonderful Berry Pulao!
It’s been 35 years since the first ever plate of Berry Pulao was served at Britannia & Company restaurant located at Mumbai’s Ballard Estate. And even today, the restaurant boasts of customers who come from different parts of the country just to have their share of their exquisite Berry Pulao.
Sitting in a taxi, braving through the heavy downpour, while also soaking in the colonial vibe of the buildings lining the streets, Gurjas and I reached the restaurant. Much like many other food lovers, we yearned to be one of those, who have traveled to the café just to savour this famous Parsi delicacy.
Though, I have had the Berry Pulao at Sodabottleopenerwala (I feel they do a fine job with it) in Delhi and therefore, wasn’t completely unaware of it, however it’s always more special to eat a dish at its place of origin. Strangely, I was feeling too excited as I had heard a lot of reverential testimonies for the Berry Pulao from Britannia & Company.
Rashid Kohinoor started the café in 1923, which served continental food, as the English officials frequently dined here. However, soon after Independence, Boman Kohinoor (then owner) started serving Parsi Food. And in the year 1982, his wife, Mrs Bachan Kohinoor introduced Mumbai to Berry Pulao. Although, she came across this dish in Iran, however, she adapted it according to the Indian palate, by cooking it in ghee and by adding a bit of spice and cooked tomato puree. They imported tangy zereshk (dried Iranian barberries) from Iran and used it generously in the pulao, made with fine saffron rice with mildly spiced meat, kebabs and fried cashew nuts. There was no looking back as it soon acquired a legendary status. Today it’s available in Chicken, Mutton, Prawn, Egg, Kheema and even Paneer.
As my Chicken Berry Pulao arrived on our table, I was completely dazzled by the variety of textures and flavours present in this celebrated dish. The dish looked pretty on the onset, with rice sitting on a bed of delicious sweet-spicy puree and pieces of juicy chicken, garnished on top, with tangy berries, fried nuts and rich kebabs. Meaty, Tangy, Nutty, Sweet, saffron-y with richness in the Rice, this required no daal or any other curry to be paired with. It was a meal in itself with generous portion for two people to eat. The chicken pieces were succulent and even the rice carried a nice hint of chicken flavour.
I could finally comprehend the brouhaha around this dish and why so many people consider this to be so remarkable. Also, not every Parsi/Irani café in Mumbai serves Berry Pulao, thus, compelling people to visit Britannia & Co.
Perhaps, not just the dish, I was actually quite pleased to see this side of Mumbai. As it’s located away from the rush of this buzzing city, going here is like travelling back in time, to a prettier version of it. The café is remnant of the simpler times, when Mumbai was ‘Bombay’. And we must thank, these Parsi Cafes for holding on and adding onto the wide canvas of this city for years which have gone by and also for the years to come.
In a nutshell:
Location: Wakefield House, 11, Sport Rd, 16 Ballard Estate, Mumbai, Maharashtra
Atmosphere: A quintessential Zoroastrian Irani Café with chequered tablecloth, Thonet Chairs, Quirky signboards and a fridge stocked with Pallonji. The flags of United Kingdom, Iran and India adorn the weathered walls of the café and don’t miss out a huge cut out of Will & Kate (Duke & Duchess of Cambridge).
Service: The service is good and the staff is efficient.
Food: Salli Boti, Dhansak, Berry Pulao, Caramel Custard and Pallonji, they have all the dishes one would like to eat at a Parsi Café. Although the food is more expensive compared to the other Parsi Cafes in the city, the portions are good.
Timings: 11:30 AM – 4 PM (Monday – Friday)
11:30 AM – 10:30 PM (Saturday)
CLOSED on Sundays.
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