Against the bustling city, that’s forever in a hurry to be somewhere or the other and in contrast to this ever evolving city sits tiny restaurants and cafes. These restaurants/ cafes offer a moment against flying time. With their red checked table cloths, chipped tiled floors and their rickety wooden chairs, they become a sort of watering hole for people returning from work for college students and old couples.
These heritage cafes were opened by India’s Irani Zoroastrians, Irani Zoroastrians that fled Iran during the Islamic rule in their country. Most of these Cafes are about a hundred years old, it’s pretty evident from the cafes ambience and furniture that gives you a mellow feel to the place. Iranian restaurants that are littered around the city make century old landmarks. Everything about them gives you the vibes of what was Poona and now Pune. These are an essential part of Pune, and to most Punekars that have at some point stopped for a bun maska and chai (bread butter and tea) while they sit there for an extra hour just to revel in their thoughts.
They are known for their baked cakes and biscuits, apart from their all day breakfast snacks, whether it’s just plain scrambled eggs or chicken cheese scrambled eggs. Still their baked products like Shrewsbury biscuits or their Mawa cakes/puffs raisin cakes, rum cakes and macaroons are a specialty. The unmistakable whiff of baked brilliance fills you’re your senses while just passing these cafes/ restaurants.
They still manage to moderate their prices in the rising economy and have kept their fares standard. Another special feature of these cafes/ restaurants is their unique little signs with instructions on behavior. Signs that read “Do not sit for too long” “Do not argue with waiters” or “Please do not argue with the management”. One feature of these cafes that catch my attention are the old advertisements that adorn their walls, it essentially gives you an idea of how long that little café cum restaurant has actually been there.
Sadly these cafes/restaurants have diminished in number at a very large scale, from an estimated 350 of these cafes barely 30 exist now in Pune. With the rapid “modernization” of the city these cafes are threatened by the growing popularity of fast food joints or Chinese restaurants (which has boasts some major popularity in this country). In order to keep up with the city’s evolution some of these cafes have changed their menu’s to cater to newer crowd. But drastic changes to the menu or their décor means losing what they essentially stand for.
Losing these vintage eateries to another Café Coffee day or a Subway would just be tragic. These cafes remain iconic to Pune, as iconic as the pyramids to Egypt and the Taj Mahal to India. They provide something of soul to this city, like proof to what it was as compared to what it is.