I first stepped foot in Britannia & Co. in Mumbai’s historical and beautiful Fort area with two Parsi friends the very first time I visited India. Back then, I had no idea what Parsi food was, but I was about to find out.

Read on to find out what makes this my favourite restaurant in all of India.

Outside Britannia & Co. Restaurant. Photo © Karl Rock.
Outside rustic Britannia & Co. Restaurant. Photo © Karl Rock.

The Parsis & Their Cafes

The Parsi people came to India from Iran over 300 years ago. They initially settled in the little-visited, but incredibly charming, Portuguese Union Territory of Daman & Diu at the bottom of Gujarat. Hence why Parsis around India and the world still speak Gujarati.

Many continued onto Mumbai, settled there, and some started Parsi cafes. Mumbai was once buzzing with 500 Parsi cafes, but the majority have now closed due to increasing rent.

These days, Parsi food is hard to come by but has been rejuvenated recently by the very good, but not as good as Brittania & Co., SodaBottleopenerWala chain in India. If you can’t get to Mumbai, go there for a similar experience.

Parsi Trivia: The most famous Parsi outside of India is… Freddy Mercury from Queen. He studied in Mumbai, before moving to England.

Britannia’s Owner

The rustic old-school Parsi cafe style of Britannia & Co. Photo © Karl Rock.
The rustic old-school Parsi cafe style of Britannia & Co. Photo © Karl Rock.

When you dine at Britannia, the charismatic owner Boman Kohinoor will likely introduce himself to your table. When I first met him he was 91 years old, now, on my latest trip, he’s 96 and telling me he’s going to beat the current record holder to 150 years.

His secret? Not retiring! You’ll find him there during their opening hours (only Mon-Sat 12-4pm) telling stories to customers about his food, life, and long relationship with the Royal Family of England – photo evidence included. Chatting with him is a treat.

The Food

Chicken Berry Palau. Photo © Karl Rock.
Chicken Berry Palau. Photo © Karl Rock.

Parsi food is closer to Iranian food than Indian. Parsi cooking doesn’t require 10 different spices, they use more straightforward flavours but pair them with original accompaniments. Like Palau and berries, chicken curry and fried potatoes, or rose syrup, vermicelli, and sweet basil seeds.

These are three Parsi delicacies you cannot leave Britannia without devouring:

  1. Chicken or Mutton Berry Palau: Fragrant saffron rice with a large helping of thick and sweet chicken curry in the middle, topped with dried sweet berries, fried onion, and cashews. If you’re thinking “why berries?” You just have to trust me and try it, the combination is something special.
  2. Sali Chicken: A light meaty flavoured chicken curry topped with a ton of fried potato sticks.
  3. Bombay Duck: It has nothing to do with duck! It’s a small local lizardfish that is crumbed then deep fried. They’re cooked bone-in, but the bones are soft and edible.

You’re going to need to take 2 friends to finish all that food.

Price wise it’s expensive for India, but for the quality, taste, and quantity you will not be disappointed. The service and the unique food will have to return every time you visit Mumbai, I guarantee it!

If you’re craving to make Sali Chicken at home, the good news is Boman Kohinoor has shared the recipe.

Britannia & Co. Menu. Photo © Karl Rock.
Britannia & Co. Menu. Photo © Karl Rock.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: The Irani Cafe, Pune Review - India Survival Guide Blog

Leave a Reply