Introduction to an Irani style of eating
Whether at Naishapur or Babylon,
Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run,
The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,
The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one.
(from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by Edward FitzGerald (Fifth Edition))
This was an experience of firsts—first time I was going to experience Parsi food, first time I was visiting the famed Cyber Hub, first time I went for a review alone and I was remembering all the Persian poets I had recently been introduced to. A slight drizzle sat on my shoulders and hair as I walked through the open-air decked up Cyber Hub food city.
The brainchild of AD Singh, Sabina and Rustom of Olives fame, SodaBottleOpenerWala is a way to keep the dying legacy of Irani cafes alive. All I could vaguely recall about this culture was the Ashok Kumar starrer Bollywood film, Khatta Meetha, with him sporting a cap and a kurta and a wide table to accommodate a huge family. The Irani café culture entered the city of Mumbai way back in the 1950s but for Delhi SodaBottleOpenerWala is the introduction.
The erstwhile Irani cafes offered inexpensive food, had eccentric owners and their distinctive menus had dishes such as the stick chai (extremely sweet); bun maska (crusty bread with butter); kheema pao (mince curry with bread) and typical Parsi cutlets, patties, rolls, fruitcakes, and confectionary. And SodaBottleOpenerWala offers these and more.
It has a nice cozy old-world, historical, yet modern ambience. And there is a blackboard of restaurant manners. The café has a range of drinks and considering it was winter I was intrigued to see an offering of Rum and Sugarcane. It wasn’t the season for sugarcane, but what came was a fresh, frothy heady mix, a unique drink. I loved it. What a group would love though is the Beer Tower.
Deciding what to eat or not to eat, I let the restaurant manager choose a starter fish and main course of seekh with paratha. The dishes are served in traditional Parsi platter style. Tareli Machhi is deep fried fish and went down well with my rum-laced sugarcane. The main course was a Bhendi Bazar Sheekh Paratha inspired by the paratha offered in Bhendi Bazar, Bombay. And the best thing that I liked was that you can get the leftover food packed to take home. The café also has a bakery where you get fresh cookies and cakes.
Though it was a rush day for Chef Anahita, as a Parsi festival was also ongoing, she did manage to enlighten me that Parsis loved eggs and mawa cake. So my dessert was a Mawa cake and Irani Special Chai. The cake was soft and crumbled easily. She also told me that Delhi has a strong Parsi community and there were at least 30 Parsis in the cafe that day.
For me, SodaBottleOpenerWala was an introduction to another culture. And maybe the next time, I would take my book of Rumi to enjoy with a plate of eggs and Parsi Choy. There’s still the bun maska and maybe a Bawa peg to experience too.
But if you are in a hurry, you could go there on New Year’s Eve to say goodbye to 2014 Parsi style. Listen to some bindaas music, enjoy a plate of Keema Ghotala, Parsi Duck Masala Roast, Rice with Curry and keep the memories alive with Chef’s giveaways and pictures.
Address: CyberHub, Shop no. 3, Near Building no. 8, DLF Cyber City, Phase II,
Gurgaon, Haryana; Phone nos: +91-0124-6518801, 8527636633;
Timings: 11.30 am to 11.30pm
New Year celebration reservations at 73, Khan Market, New Delhi;
Contact no: +91-011-43504778, 011-453504878 and 9810877701
Average meal for two: Rs. 1,500 ++ (excluding alcohol); Credit cards: Accepted