History has all stories and tales of arts and cultures, numerous people, and their traditions. Food has been an integral part of this history of every place. Till date, there are quite a few historic food joints in India to carry forward their legacy with pride. Some of them are of even before independence. If you’re interested in smelling old school cafes or eateries of India to get a glimpse of that heritage, note down these restaurants for a nostalgic feel.
Britannia & Co, Mumbai
Being one of the eldest and historic food joints of Mumbai and India, Britannia & Co has been into the game since 1923. This iconic restaurant was established by immigrant Parsi Zoroastrian peoples who entered India through Gujarat in the 10th century to get away from Arab persecution of Persia. They have found many more food joints in India but this one is one of those monumental ones where Parsi delicacies are blended amazingly with some Persian and Gujarati tastes. The magnificent Renaissance style gothic building was built by Scott designed George Wittet, who was the master designer of the Gateway of India. Along with its vintage ambiance, look and fitting charm, the owner himself is a gem of a person. Absolutely eccentric with his 90 plus age, he loves to rejoice tales of foreign guests, especially anyone who’s British.
Address: Wakefield House, 11 Sprott Road, 16 Ballard Estate, Fort, Mumbai.
Timing: 11.30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed on Sundays.
Pocket pinch: Rs.1,200 rupees for two.
Must try: The famous berry pulao, full with meat, paneer or vegetables of your liking. The base of this recipe is owned by the owner’s late wife.
Delhi has been the birthplace of Mughlai cuisines in India. The Karim restaurant, situated at the south of Jama Masjid in Purana Dilli is another gem of the list of historic food joints in the country.
This legendary eatery has been “serving royal food to the common man” since 1913. While its origin dates back at the time of the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, this is an eyewitness of ups and downs. The forefathers worked in the royal kitchen in the Red Fort but had to flee when the Mughal dynasty was dethroned by the British. Haji Karimuddin came back to Delhi to sell food to those going to the 1911 Delhi Durbar, of King George V. After 2 years, he established his own food joint. It’s run by the fourth-generation of management as of now with ultimate north Indian cuisine in Delhi. There is no fancy décor except the great food and the Old ‘Dilli’ charm of its position.
Address: 16 Gali Kababian, Jama Masjid, Old Delhi.
Timing: 9 a.m. to midnight.
Pocket pinch: Rs. 800 for two people.
Must Try: Mutton korma, mutton stew, chicken Mughlai, and chicken jahangiri.
Indian Coffee House, Kolkata
The Indian Coffee Board established the first of its chains in Mumbai in 1936. There are several branches all over the country as a cradle of intellectuals, freedom fighters, social activists, revolutionaries, and bohemians. Although after 1950, business decreased and the board got dissolved. Employees formed a chain of co-operative societies and run the coffee houses themselves. Presently there are 13 societies manage 400 such outlets and the most famous one is in Kolkata. It was opened in 1942, just opposite of Presidency College on College Street. Not only Students of various colleges, people who are fond of culture and ideas, the coffee house is a temple. The famous song by Late Manna Dey echoes the reminiscent of this place “ coffee house er sei adda ta aj ar nei’’! It’s a vintage place hence, the service is also provided matching the relaxing mood!
Address: 15 Bankim Chatterjee Street (College Street), Kolkata.
Timing: 9 a.m- 9 p.m., Monday to Saturday. During Sundays, it’s 9 am to 1pm and 5pm to 9pm
Pocket pinch: Rs. 300 for two people.
Must try: Mutton kaviraji, chicken Afghani, mutton cutlet, veg cutlet, chicken sandwich.
In the list of historic food joints of the country, Leopold cafe of Mumbai is another jewel. It’s been a popular tourist destination and serving the city since 1871. It’s founded by Iranis, different from Persis who came to India during the 19th century. Like every other city, it’s a landmark than just a restaurant, which gets better with age. While being described in Gregory David Robert’s ‘Shantaram’ as his days in Mumbai (previously Bombay), this cafe is a torch bearer of the pre-independent times. Apart from the old-world charm, it’s one of those few structures to survive the 2008 terrorist attack. The bullet holes are still there on the walls, as a reminder and tribute to the victims. This cult restaurant always remains packed with people, relishing different cuisines of Indian, Chinese, as well as Continental. The servings are huge and both veg and nonveg foods are tasty. This place is a mixture of culture with a cozy upstairs area and DJ at night.
Address: Colaba Causeway, Colaba.
Timing: 7.30 a.m. to midnight.
Pocket pinch: Rs. 1,600 for two people.
Must Try: Leopold special chicken pasta, special veg pasta, chicken stroganoff, prawn chilies.
Mavalli Tiffin Room, Bangalore
MTR or Mavalli Tiffin Room of Bangalore is one of the best south Indian vegetarian restaurants. This legendary shop has been serving since 1924 and certainly the next addition to the list of historic food joints in the country! Being the oldest idli dosa joint in Bangalore, it has a name for its cleanliness apart from foods. The Rava idli is unique of this palace which was invented during Second World War when rich was scarcely available. Till date huge queues are found, lining up on the pavement outside. However, the restaurant was closed down in the 1970s, during emergency period and was compelled to lower down the price absurdly. At this moment the innovative owner prepared the ready-to-make packaged mixes for idlis and dosas. Now MTR Foods is one of India’s leading and most noteworthy packaged food franchises.
Address: 14 Lalbagh Road, Mavalli, Bangalore.
Timing: 6.30 am- 11a.m. for breakfast. 12.30 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. for lunch. 3.30 p.m. until 8.30 p.m. for snacks and dinner. Closed Mondays.
Pocket pinch: Rs. 300 for two people.
Must Try: Rava idli, masala dosa, and pure filter coffee. It has a unique dessert, Chandrahara, which is available only on Sundays.