On a slightly muggy weekday morning, famished, I found myself in the general vicinity of Kayani and decided to roll back the years and take a walk down memory lane. Irani restaurants have always been a big part of the eateries that dotted the Mumbai landscape, and khadoos as most of them are by nature, I loved them. The food was never healthy, yet so immensely satisfying. The décor was never aesthetically pleasing, but something about them always drew you in. In fact, if I had to sum the essence of the quintessential Irani eatery in one line, it would be this. Mind you, this line only makes sense when you know it isnt mine and Im lifting it from one of my favorite childhood restaurants called Kooks. Their name always perplexed me, but their menu and business card always demystified. Dont judge us by the name, judge us by the food. Amen.
The usual junta were gathered around the tables at Kayani. A small smattering of hungry college-goers (it was quite early in the morning, good to see most of the kids werent bunking class. Well, at least not bunking and coming here!), guys looking for a cheap bite, guys that just looked like villains from a bad 70s hindi movie, some families here and there and of course the waiters that looked like theyd rather be anywhere else; anywhere else, but here. The tables were solid (as always) and it was like the place was stuck in something of a time warp. The world had moved on, but their prices, décor and feel were stuck in time 10 years ago, maybe more.
The missus wanted her bhurjee while I went with the Akoori, and I honestly couldnt tell the difference beyond the color. They were both essentially bhurjee, but the akoori had a slightly milder flavor made up for with the chillies and tomatoes while the bhurjee had a more consistent flavor you know is your classic bhurjee. With it, we called for Irani tea and some brun maska and the tea was the highlight of that meal for me. It was tea on steroids, the smattering of masala that was carelessly thrown into it adding so much flavor and character to the humble chai. I could pick up the hint of the normal masala youd see used in masala chai, but also cinnamon and by god, I do love the smell of cinnamon. I had 2 cups of the good stuff to wash things down and called for some mutton samosas as well since I was working up an appetite.
The mutton samosas were your usual patti samosas with minced mutton inside, nothing outstanding if Im being honest, but with the prices as they were they were excellent. The brun maska too was slathered generously with butter and made for a lovely accompaniment to the bhurjee/akoori.
Sadly, eateries like Kayani are not de rigeur anymore and I can promise you that if I had stayed anywhere nearby Id be popping in a lot more often, if only for the nostalgic value and the hoenst-to-goodness prices. A hearty breakfast for 2 set us back a whopping Rs. 165 and my wallet and I left Kayanis quite happy on the whole.
P.S: If 12 bucks cant buy you anything like a meal here, you know itd be hard for any other place to match up. Im looking at you for help, Mr. Babbar.