[Channelling Karan Johar for that title, clearly.]
There is this Irani cafe in King’s Circle, which is about hop skip and jump away from home. It is a famous one, called Koolar Cafe, and has featured in several Bollywood movies. [It was even in Sense8, the Netflix series I LOVED, as Kala’s father’s “restaurant”.] It is famous, is what I am saying.
The place has, um, character. It is the very definition of eclectic, with tacky movie posters, hung alongside motivational posters, and the odd plasticky chandelier, hanging above gorgeous vintage wooden cafe furniture. It is a sight to behold, no doubt, but for us it was just our neighbouring Irani cafe. And because we are in the heart of Matunga East, the only place that used to serve non-vegetarian food for the longest time.
Koolar Cafe is a great place to meet up for an omelette, pav, and coffee. [The coffee is all kinds of disgusting, but it sort of goes with the experience.] And since the place is clearly a rejected Alice in Wonderland set, it stands to reason that the owner is missing several screws himself.
I had a run in with this guy when my aunt wanted to meet up with a self-publisher. We suggested the cafe, and since it was the middle of the day, it was quiet but most of the tables were full. There was one table in the prow of the restaurant – it sort of narrows to a point at one end – which has a view of King’s Circle, and the generous pavement. It is a nice spot. The owner happened to be at the cash counter that afternoon. Hooooooboy.
First of all, dude is LOUD. Like really really REALLY loud. He shouts all his words all the time. Forget the concept of an indoor voice, this man would give Foghorn Leghorn a run for his money.
Then, you remember this is a cafe right? Cafes don’t usually [usually!] have their servers seat guests. Right? Wrong! That table, the one in the prow, requires ushering to. Not the other tables mind you; nope, just the big one. The other tables? Pshaw.
So then this human klaxon booms at us from behind the counter: “That’s my SPECIAL table! Indira Gandhi sat at that table! I expect a bill of Rs. 10,000 from you today!”
There were 5 of us. We had gone to have tea or coffee and biscuits, and to discuss a publishing contract. And this is entirely disregarding the fact that his phrasing means that he is expecting us to present him with a bill for 10k. The man is looney tunes.
Finally, we get through the meeting, and are preparing to leave. Since the single waiter hasn’t deigned to glance in our direction the whole time, let alone actually approach us, I have been placing our orders at the counter. This is how to make Rs. 10,000 off your customers, guys! Customer service at its very finest!
I try and talk to this crazy lunatic while I am there, making small talk. He used to raise German shepherds, but has since stopped. I asked him about the dogs, and he then told me he now raises birds instead. Parrots, macaws, etc. I can hear them upstairs, I say. [The man owns the whole building, and lives upstairs.] Oh those are the sick ones. The other ones are on our farm outside Mumbai. Oh ok, I say, and prepare to leave.
He then actually looks up, and sees me. Yes, all this time he wasn’t looking at me at all. I was speaking to the top of his head. And then he does a double take. And then says this:
“Oh! You have light eyes! And you’re fair! Are you Irani?”
*I shake my head, because he doesn’t give me time to respond.*
“You LOOK Irani! Not Parsi also? Very beautiful you are.”
*I try to say thank you and stem this tide, but no.*
“Are you married?”
Finally: “No, but I am engaged to be.” [I was with the ex that time.]
“Arrrrrrrrreeyyyy! Such a shame! Shouldn’t get married!” *My mother comes up to me, to see what the heck is going on, and..*
“Arrey mummy, don’t marry her off men.”
My mother says something, which I don’t actually recall in response, but I was hell bent in getting out of there, so I tugged her away as politely as possible.
Go to Koolar Cafe for the kheema, omelette-pav, decor, old-world charm, and the absolute lunacy of the proprietor. Good luck.