We will always have Paris Bakery. This one's for Jamshed Uncle

Paris Bakery, Marine Lines, Mumbai

If you have been reading my blog for a while then you would know about our Jamshed Uncle.

He was a friend of my wife who became like a family member for all of us. Jamshed Adrianvala was a gem of a person, a great host and someone who was very fond of us.

The thing about Jamshed Uncle was that if he knew you liked something, he would move heaven and earth to get it for you, and repeatedly so.

If he knew you were interested in something, he would carefully cut articles on it from newspapers and put them into an envelope and mail them to you. He did not believe in Googling. Sometimes it felt as if we kept a letter box only to receive his letters as the only other mails we receive are bills and bank statements.

Once Jamshed Uncle learnt of my interest in food, he would carefully cut out every article that came out on food in the newspapers - reviews, restaurant stories, recipes - and courier them to me. He later discovered email, once he learnt how to use the iPad or his Apple as he called it. From then on he would diligently forward the articles to me on mail.

I didn't have the heart to tell him that I would come across social media links to these way before he sent them to me.

Being loved so much is very rare and very precious.

Jamshed uncle would also like to tell me about why the food of today didn't taste the same as before. That tomatoes and capsicum or even the rice are no longer the same as before. He'd deliver this depressing message with a smile.

He also wanted to tell me restaurant industry 'secrets' - how beef fat was used in tomato soup, veal served in restaurant mutton curries, and much worse - but I'd gently push him away.

Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Jamshed would also tell me fondly about his favourites restaurants and eateries - Kokwa, Frederick, Nanking - most of which no longer existed.

With Jamshed uncle at the RBYC

There was the RBYC where he would host us as he did for the 16 odd years that I have had the privilege to know him.

There were some places in Mumbai that he still liked and was very keen to take me to. One was the CCI for the corn curd at the club restaurant. The other was Ripon Club for the Wednesday dhansak to which we had gone together years back and he always offered to take us there again.

I had introduced him to Soam and Aaswad and he grew fond of both.

Paris Bakery: a date I didn't keep

One place Jamshed spoke about a lot was the Paris Bakery.

One day, while dining at the club a few years back, he told me about Paris Bakery for the first time. He said that they serve the best biscuits in town. That I must go there. That he would love to take me there. 

He brought this up every time we met and occasionally when we spoke on the phone. Once he excitedly showed me a clipping from a newspaper where the Paris Bakery was featured.

The idea of travelling from Bandra to South Mumbai to go to a biscuit shop during the day didn't appeal to me. It would eat into my writing time at home I thought. His insistent entreaties fell on deaf ears.

Jamshed uncle kept politely asking me if I would like to go to Paris Bakery with him. I would keep politely declining.

Then he stopped bringing up Paris Bakery in our conversations. His CCI corn curd and Ripon Club dhansak offers remained.

Our visits to the RBYC continued whenever I told him that I would like to go there. He would lovingly host us there even though age and cancer had limited his movements. He would hardly eat on those evenings. Chemo had done away with his appetite. Yet, being a host seemed to bring back some life into him and those were the evening he looked his happiest. He loved giving people a good time.

When he hospitalised for the last time, I would go to visit him and tell him to get well soon so that we could go to Paris Bakery together. This would make him smile.

Then one day Jamshed Uncle left for the great club in the sky. Thankfully he had managed to come home just before that. After more than a month in the hospital, that's all that he wanted to do.

The next day he was gone.

We never made it to Paris Bakery together.

Update: J's sister, Perin Aunty, later told me that they got to know about Paris Bakery through someone who had come to visit them. Perin then bought biscuits from there and took them to work and they became a big hit and a family favourite too.

Keeping a promise, even if late

I felt a bit guilty about not going to Paris cafe with Jamshed uncle. I wished I had not said no so many times.

Then I realised that I either could mope up about it or do something about it. Something told me that J wouldn't like to see me racked with regret. He liked to see us smile after all.

The Dhobi Talao Parsi Food Trail

Then an opportunity to go to the Paris Bakery then came up. I was organising my second Parsi Food Trail for the SodaBottleOpenerwala restaurant. I proposed to anchor it at the area around Kyani Restaurant, my new found love.

I spoke to Mumbai pro Kunal Viajayakar to bounce off names for the walk. Should I call it the Metro Walk after the Metro Cinema or Marine Lines Walk. Each lane had a different name so I was trying to figure out what would tie it up the best. Kunal suggested naming the walk the 'Dhobi Talao parsi Food Trail' and that made sense to me.

I then asked him what else was nearby and one of the names that came up was the Paris Bakery!

That was it. I got the opportunity I was looking for. Paris Bakery became our first stop in the trail.

We started off with a lovely breakfast at SodaBottleOpenerWala on Saturday and then headed off in the bus organised by them to town. 

Bun maska, poro and puff for our breakfast at SodaBottleOpenerWala
In the newspaper is my oped column for the Indian Express that came out on Sunday
The topic was: the need for portion control! A food walk encourages that as you get to share
and try out a lot of food than if by yourself
Paris Bakery finally

We were on tenterhooks as the Paris Bakery shuts in the afternoon at around 1.30 pm till it opens in the evening again.

The traffic on the road, even on a Saturday was horrific and I was not sure if we would make it in time. We finally got off the bus when we reached Marine Lines and walked towards the Paris Bakery with a song and a prayer hoping that it would still be open.

My wife's mama, Freddy Kerawala, had joined us. He had regaled us with tales from Iran cafes in the bus. 

Freddy Kerawala who gave my lot of insider tips
and had told me about the Kerawala stores before
we landed there. They are not related though the owner
greeted him warmly

If Freddy mama had his Kerawalla stores then
Next to that was Kalyandas. Dagli are tunics worn on
Special occasions
He led the way to Paris Bakery as we rushed on following the scent of cheese biscuits past impressive Parsi Atash Behram temples, a shop which sold provisions for Parsi ceremonies and loads of Parsi homeopathic doctor clinics.

You get everything from chess pieces to sandalwood used in Parsi prayers,
lamps, images of the prophet and so on. Parsis use the Gujarati script

Atash Behram, are the most special of fire temples
from what I understand,and the biggest.
Non-Parsis can't enter these 

We reached the Paris Bakery shop at 1.20 pm or so and much to my relief it was still open! I saw that some from our food trail group, led by Anil of SodaBottleOpenerWala, had already reached it while we had ambled more slowly taking in the sights.

The SodaBottle team had done a recce the previous day to discover the best route and did a great job of organising the trail. This was important as the area around Dhobi Talao is not something that people like me, who had come to Mumbai as professionals, were that familiar with. Places such as Fort, Nariman Point and Colaba were closer to the CBDs of yore and we spent more time there than in the area near Metro.

That's why the inputs of folks like Kunal Vijayakar and Freddy mama were so helpful.

Tastings at the Paris Bakery during the Parsi food trail
That's Mr Danesh of Paris Bakery in a sadra.
Adult Parsis of both genders wear the sadra under their clothes
Check the footnote for more on sadra and kusti

The shop is a tiny one but our gang had formed a big crowd at the entrance. The owner of Paris Bakery, Mr Danesh, was doling out biscuits and mawa cakes and cookies to our group like Father Christmas on a good day. I had earlier read in a Conde Naste article online that they give biscuits to customers to sample here.

Jamshed uncle's favourite cheese batashe (butter biscuits)

I made a beeline for the cheese batase. These are the round crunchy butter biscuits that Jamshed uncle adored. I took a bite of its buttery cheddary goodness and looked at the skies as if to say, this one's for you Jamshed Uncle. They tasted truly incredible. Our family are fans of the butter biscuits from Merwans of Andheri but this was of another level of culinary brilliance and indulgence.

Batase is not to be confused with the sugary batasha of Bengal which folks like my granny would offer in pujas.

Mr Danesh fed us more treats. Khari biscuits, mava cakes. Sweet sugary French palmiers. Garlic cheese soup sticks. A range of biscuits and bakes.

Khari Biscuits

Mava cakes

There were rusks too. Made with condensed milk as Mr Danesh proudly said. 

Yes, true love cant be low fat or gluten free.

Danesh cuts out biscuits for us to taste

The smiling Mr Danesh was unfazed by the crowd at the shop. His products were amazing. Prices unreal in today's day of ages. I am sure he is used to this fan following.

Folks in our trail bought bagful of bakes to take back home as did I.

Mr Danish told me that the biscuits at his shop were of the sort one got at bakeries in Gujarat. Not necessarily in just Irani bakeries.

He told me that his family hailed from Taft in Iran. An internet search later showed me that Taft is in Yezd in Iran. Lot of the Iranis that I know of in Mumbai, starting with the Yedani Bakery  and the Lucky restaurant families, trace their roots to Yezd.

Danesh hasn't been to Iran himself yet and smiled when I told him that I had lived there as a kid. When I told him about Rasht where we lived, he said that he had heard it is very beautiful.

I noticed that Mr Danesh smiled a lot in general. It was a very kind and benevolent sort of smile. Perhaps something to do with the Bengali guru whose philosophy he followed. A fact that Freddy mama pointed out to me basis the pictures that were on display.

Mr Danesh told me that the Paris Bakery dates back to the 1950s and that his family took it over in the 1960s.

I didn't get to find out why the Paris Bakery is called so. Or why the hotel opposite it is called Hotel Vienna!

What I can tell you is that I did feel incredibly happy that I finally made it to Paris Bakery and that I am sure so was Jamshed uncle.

Note: Paris Bakery is in the lane down the Parsi Dairy Farm outlet at Marine Lines. You cross  the Kerawalla and Kalayandas shops and the Vienna Hotel and the start of the Fish Market Lane on the way. It is shut from around 1.30 pm to 4 pm but do check of exact timings and dates on phone. You can stand and eat there or buy stuff take home. Hardly anything costs more than Rs 150 a bag.

Address from Google:

Address278, Dr Cawasji Hormusji Street, Our Lady Of Dolours Church Lane, Marine Lines, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400002
Phone022 2208 6619

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