Any foodie to Mumbai simply has to make a pilgrimage to Britannia & Co, one of the city’s culinary landmarks.
Established by Iranian emigre, Rashid Meherwan Kohinoor, in 1923, the eatery got its name from sheer pragmatism on the part of the founder then: a British licensing officer jokingly told Messr Kohinoor that if he gave his establishment a “British name”, he’ll obtain his license within 24 hours. Lo and behold - Britannia & Co was born!
Located then in Mumbai’s commercial and maritime hub near Ballard Pier, Rashid Kohinoor snapped up the corner lot of a building designed by Scottish architect, George Wittet - the same person who designed the iconic Gateway of India.
The late 2nd-generation owner was a larger-than-life Anglophile, Boman Kohinoor (Rashid Kohinoor’s son) who shared that, as the majority Hindu populace regarded corner establishments as unlucky, Rashid Kohinoor was basically able to buy the location at a bargain basement price.
I didn’t have the privilege to meet Boman Kohinoor, who passed away in Sep 2019 at a ripe of old age of 97. Today, Boman’s son, Afshin Kohinoor, steers the hallowed eatery as the owner-chef, churning out staples such as the eatery’s legendary Chicken Berry Pulao - fragrant basmati rice studded with subtly-spice marinated chicken pieces, and topped with sweet-sour barberries (tasting quite similar to dried cranberries), golden-fried caramelized onions, and toasted cashew nuts.
The dish was actually invented in 1982 by the late Boman Kohinoor’s wife, Bachan Kohinoor, when she returned from a holiday in Iran inspired by the Zereshk Polow (Persian Barberry Rice) she’d tasted there. She also brought back whole bagfuls of barberries, and Britannia & Co never looked back since.
We also had Lamb Dhansak - beautiful chunks of lamb smothered with thick lentil gravy. It’s served with scented rice topped with a brace of lamb meatballs.
We also ordered a Parsi Lagan Sara vegetable stew: potatoes, carrots, long beans in a tomatoey gravy.
Lagan Nu Custard - a Parsi wedding staple which is quite similar to creme caramel. Delicious version here:
Sweet Curd - topped with chopped pistachios, this was also a delight. In fact, if I do come back to Britannia & Co, it’s because of the sweets here.
Lovely meal - Parsi food in India can be described as Indianized Persian food: more gravies provided, as Indians love gravies on their food compared to Iranians. It was as if time stood still in there, amidst peeling paint on the walls, and a chandelier which looked like it hasn’t been cleaned for the past 100 years.
Britannia and Company Restaurant
Ballard Estate, Fort, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001
Tel: +9122 2261 5264
Opening hours: 11.30am to 4pm Mon-Fri, 11.30am to 6.30pm Saturday. Closed on Sundays.