For Irani chai, recreating fine dining with a difference

V Rishi Kumar Hyderabad | Updated on February 13, 2014

If you are one of those who have grown enjoying the Irani restaurant as a social hub and missing it now, you could soon have one near your home or office in a slightly different avatar.

Originally set up by the Parsis in the 19th century, Irani Cafés are popular joints in metropolis of Mumbai, Pune and the Nizami city of Hyderabad in particular where people frequent when they have nothing to do, a lot to do or simply chat or just catch up with their favourite chai. But these cafes have distinct flavour in various locations.

Gossiping over a cup of chai, savouring local biscuits or that lovely little samosa (Irani type) over a juke box, people have enjoyed them over generations. These social hubs have probably given space to pubs. People still prefer Irani tea for that authentic taste and ‘one-by-two.’

But if AD Singh, Managing Director of boutique fine dining hospitality chain Olive Bar & Kitchen, with clutch of brands under its fold, has his way, soon you may have one of these cafes near your home, albeit in a new avatar.

“We have started one in Gurgaon and plan to have more of them in other major cities. This could be by way of partnering exiting restaurants or finding a new one to offer the Irani Cafe concept, that has the leisurely and laid back culture in its very theme,” he told Business Line.

One such café, Soda Bottle Openerwala, has been set up in Gurgaon and similar ones will come up in other major cities, he says.

Started as a small boutique chain about 14 summers ago, Olive has grown and developed several brands across six cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune and Gurgaon. In the course of its journey, it has had infusion of two private equity tranches, including one by the Aditya Birla Group.

It has a portfolio of brands, including Bristo, Monkey Bar, and Soda Bottle Opener Wala (read Irani Café).

After commissioning Bristo, a relaxed fine dining concept located adjacent the picturesque Durgam Cheruvu lake (in the IT hub of Hyderabad), he said most people tend to be formal as they walk into a restaurant. Our formats are designed to break all such rules, where it is all about relaxed ambience ideal for chatting.

Qasim Ali Himmati, proprietor of two Irani café’s Alfayete and Mother India in Hyderabad, says, “It is unfortunate to see so many cafes getting closed down. This is mainly due to paucity of parking place at these joints and also due to high taxes making them unviable. I have myself closed down two cafes. But for some generations, life centred around these cafes.”

Published on February 13, 2014

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