Rule Britannia

Kainaz and I rushed to Britannia, the legendary restaurant at Ballad Esate in South Mumbai, as we heard rumours about its shutting down.

We ordered cutlets, chicken dhansaak, raspberry, caramel custard, rotlis and then realised that we needn't have gone overboard and ordered everything on the menu.

We found out that Britannia is not shutting down. Not for the moment at least.

So for those who are interested, Britannia is still alive and buzzing. It is still open only in afternoons and not on Sundays. The mutton cutlets (Rs 150 for 2 versus Rs 110 earlier) are still as soft as Cupid's cheeks and still redolent with lovely pieces of fat. The dhansak is still as sleep inducing. The dhansak rice is still enough to feed a teenage elephant. The trademark beri pulao and mutton dhansak are still to be seen most tables. The caramel custard is still a chilled oasis within the heat and dust of Mumbai.

And most importantly the eighty seven year old, genial owner , Mr Boman Kohinoor, is still there ambling from table to table, politely asking you if you are ready to order, taking your order down meticulously and then, if the order meets his approval, giving his thumbs up by saying 'good boy', 'good girl'.

Britannia is a quaint restaurant as you would expect an Irani restaurant to be. But what creates the magic is the owner's personal and sincere interest in this. You can sense his passion when you you speak to Mr Irani. And that's why the restaurant is always full despite the rising prices, the peeling paint and the lack of air conditioning. None of this matters if you love food. For this is a place run by a man whose heart is in the right place.

So Britannia still lives.

Mumbai is not an easy city to run a business in. Costs are high. Lucre and reality often take precedence over heritage. There is little governmental support . We recently had the Municipal Commissioner lament about the fact that he has to maintain lovely, landmark heritage buildings such as CST and Crawford Market. Why suffer for what someone's father built was what he said. History be damned

Britannia occupies a prime locality in a city where real estate costs the earth and the moon. I don't know how long the family will be able to hold its own before Britannia turns the way of the grand movie theatres which have given way to malls and multiplexes and the quaint Irani Cafes which have become part of faceless fast food chains.

So go and enjoy your sali boti and berry pulao while you can. After all, as they say at Britannia, "there is no love greater than the love of eating".

And don't forget to wash it down with a chilled Raspberry drink.