A Taste of Nostalgia: 24 of India’s Most Famous Pre-Independence Eateries
This Independence day, take a step back in time with these iconic eateries that take you on a gastronomic journey through pre-independence India.
The past can never be outdated as it has our existence rooted in it. The same is true for Indian eateries that have been around since pre-Independence days as well. While restaurants have begun experimenting and embracing global cuisines across the country, these time-tested eateries carry with them a whiff of nostalgia that never fails to charm their loyal diners. Though many of them have evolved with time,these quaint eateries make for an interesting stop for every traveler looking to get a taste of history and local culture along with lip smacking food.
This Independence day, take a step back in time with these 24 eateries that take you on a gastronomic journey through pre-independence India.
1. Tunday Kababi, Lucknow
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Globally famous for its exquisite Galouti kebabs, kormas and biryanis, Lucknow’s Tunday Kababi is believed to be established in 1905 by Haji Murad Ali, the one-armed star cook of the Nawab of Lucknow. Tucked away in the narrow gullies in the old area of Lucknow, the eatery still uses the same age-old intricate blends of spices to make its sensational non-vegetarian gourmet preparations.
2. Indian Coffee House, Kolkata
Tucked away amidst the dingy bylanes of College Street (Kolkata’s academic hub), Indian Coffee House has long been an intellectual hangout and meeting place for students (and ex-students) of the Presidency College and other institutions. Great personalities like Rabindranath Tagore, Amartya Sen, Manna Dey, Satyajit Ray, Ravi Shankar and several others frequented this place. Mutton cutlet and chicken kabirazi are the must haves on the still-very-cheap menu.
3. Britannia and Co, Mumbai
One of the Mumbai’s most loved restaurants, Britannia first opened its doors to British officers stationed in the Fort area in 1923. A cult restaurant, Britannia is where Mumbaikars head to when they are need for some seriously traditional Parsi fare. The place still retains its age-old charm and heritage furniture with the added bonus being the personal touch of the current owner, the immensely charming Boman Kohinoor, who hangs around making small talk and personally taking orders. Must-trys include their outstanding Mutton and Chicken Berry Pulav.
4. Mavalli Tiffin Room, Bengaluru
Founded by Parampalli Yajnanarayana Maiya and his brothers in the year 1924, MTR is a culinary landmark in Bengaluru. Serving wholesome fare that has its origins in the Udupi cuisine of the coastal Karnataka, MTR has quite a reputation for its high standards of hygiene and cleanliness. During World War II, a significant shortage of rice supply resulted in MTR inventing the Rava Idli, a much-loved breakfast dish of south India.
5. Delhi Misthan Bhandaar, Shillong
Located in downtown Shillong’s bustling Police Bazaar, Delhi Misthan Bhandaar has been serving the locals with mouthwatering sweets, savouries and a lot more since 1930. The dedicated sweets section serves arguably the best jalebis and gulab jamuns one can get in town. The shop entered its name into the Guinness Book of World Records in the year 2008 for frying the world’s largest jalebi ever that was 75 inches in diameter and 15 kgs in weight.
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6. Leopold’s Cafe, Mumbai
Established in 1871, Leopold’s (popularly known as Leo’s) is one of Mumbai’s most iconic cafes and a must visit for anyone who visits the maximum city. A symbol of the old world charm of Bombay, Leopold’s also plays a central role in the 2003 novel by Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram. The restaurant is always abuzz with people indulging in scrumptious meals that include everything from burgers with beer to decadent desserts.
7. Glenary’s, Darjeeling
Opened by an Italian named Vado, Glenary’s was later brought by the family of a local worker who became the manager here. The quaint bakery cum restaurant is over a 100 years old and is a hit with both locals and tourists alike. Known for its baking, the desserts at Glenary’s are par excellence. Do not miss their yummy apple pies, sticky cinnamon buns, fresh meat pies and Darjeeling tea.
8. Karim’s, Delhi
Established in 1913 by Hazi Kareemudin, Karim’s has won multiple awards and many accolades for its lip-smacking non-vegetarian fair. Bang in the middle of Chandni Chowk, with the beautiful Jama Masjid just around the corner, Karim’s has an arsenal of recipes carried forward from the days of the Mughal empire. The flagship items on the menu are the mouthwatering Mutton Nihari and Chicken Jahangiri.
9. Favourite Cabin, Kolkata
Best known as the haunt of the freedom fighters such as S C Bose and poets such as Kazi Nazrul Islam, the Favourite Cabin at 69B Surya Sen Street was founded in 1918 by Nutan Chandra Barua and his elder brother Gaur Chandra Barua. This unassuming tea cabin is north Kolkata’s oldest tea stall and has been quenching Bengalis’ thirst for chai and adda for over 94 years. The staple here is still the same even after all these years – hot tea, complemented by biscuits, cakes and different toasts.
10. Joshi Budhakaka Mahim Halwawala, Mumbai
Joshi Budhakaka Mahim Halwawala is a little sweet shop, nestled in the bylanes of Mahim, that was started nearly 200 years back! The founder, Giridhar Mavji, used to sell a special halwa that gradually became extremely popular across Mumbai. Today, people from all over the country visit the shop to buy the famous Mahim Halwa. Unlike the traditional halwa, Mahim halwa is prepared by rolling out a cooked mixture of wheat, sugar and ghee in the form of sheets that is cooled and cut into delicate squares.
11. Rayars Mess, Chennai
Located in a cramped nook in Mylapore, Rayars Mess was established in the 1940s by Srivivasa Rao (called the Rayar by the locals) and has been spinning a delicious tale for over 70 years. The mess serves fluffy idlis, crisp vadas(with ghetti chutney), and scalding-hot degree coffee to its loyal customers as well as to many foodie visitors for just a few hours every day. Despite this, the unbeatable hygiene and exceptional taste of food at this tiny eatery is why people don’t mind travelling long distances to eat here.
12. Hari Ram and Sons, Allahabad
Tracing its origins to the year 1890, Hari Ram and Sons is one of the oldest street food shops in Allahabad. The more-than-a-century old shop has a fan following that includes many eminent personalities and is only growing bigger with every passing day. The shop is famed for its delicious snacks made in pure ghee and lip-smacking chaat, palak ki namkeen, masala samosas, and khasta kachauri.
13. Flury’s, Kolkata
Situated on Park Street in the heart of Kolkata, Flurys was founded in the year 1927 by Mr and Mrs J Flury. This pre-independence tea room of the British has a beautiful old world charm and is famous for its rum balls, meringues with cream and a delicious English breakfast. Satyajit Ray used to visit Flury’s every Sunday morning for breakfast and is rumoured to have maintained a credit account at the eatery.
14. Dorabjee and Sons, Pune
A charming, old restaurant in Pune, Dorabjee and Sons was started by Dorabjee Sorabjee back in 1878. Initially a humble little tea stall, the eatery soon started serving traditional lunches that quickly became popular. A little restaurant with a simple exterior, Dorabjee and Sons uses time-tested recipes handed down through generations to create signature Parsi specialties such as Dhansak, Patrani Machchi and Salli Boti.
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15. United Coffee House, Delhi
Established in the year 1942, United Coffee House holds an important place in the hearts of food lovers in Delhi. Located in Connaught place, it was one of the first few restaurants that offered fine-dining in the capital city. The place has retained its pre-independence antiquity and is still frequented by diplomats, bureaucrats and tourists. The indulgent menu, though, has evolved over the years and today offers a plethora of options – from international and Indian classics to the recently added Oriental cuisine.
16. Shri Sagar (CTR), Bengaluru
Established in 1940s, Shri Sagar, better known as CTR, is one of the most famous restaurants in Bengaluru. Known for the filter coffee and its unparalleled masala dosas, Shri Sagar is Malleshwaram’s landmark thindi joint, the local lingo for small eating places that offer quick South Indian bites. Must-trys include the benne masala dosa and the feather light idlis.
17. Chafekar Dughdha Mandir, Nagpur
Set up by Vasudev Govind Chafekar and his friend Narayan Sakharam Palkar in 1931, Chafekar Dugdha Mandir was a meeting point for freedom fighters of Nagpur. A functional eatery with a simple decor, the restaurant has a steady and loyal stream of customers which keeps it bustling with activity all day. The eatery is famous for items like dahi misal, sabudana vada, shrikhand, khichdi, masala milk and the local favourite, piyush.
18. Shaikh Brothers Bakery, Guwahati
Established by Shaikh Ghulam Ibrahim way back in the late 1800s , Shaikh Brothers Bakery rapidly became one of the most preferred bakeries in Guwahati, not only for the locals but also for the British administrators. It was also a favourite of Jawahar Lal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. According to a report in The Telegraph, cheese sippers from this bakery were regularly served on Nehru’s breakfast table (he was extremely fond of it) when he visited Guwahati.
19. Mitra Samaj, Udupi
Believed to be almost 100years old, Mitra Samaj is an authentic Udupi restaurant famous for its delicious dosas, bullet idlis and Goli Baje, also known as Mangalore Bajji. The eatery follows the Udupi tradition of temple cooking under which the use of onion, garlic and radish is prohibited. For those visiting this simple eatery for the very first time, the must-try items should also include Mangalorean Bun, Masala Dosa, Dakshin Kannada-style Khasta Kachori and badam milk.
20. Nizam’s Restaurant, Kolkata
The pioneers of making the first Kolkata Kati Rolls, Nizam’s was set up in 1932 by Raza Hassan Saheb who named the place after his only son. The story goes that one day a customer, a foreigner, was in a big hurry and he asked for something light, dry and minimally messy that he could take away quickly. Thus was born the Nizam’s kebab roll. The tender flavours of meat entwine in a freshly fried parantha to create these rolls that truly deserve their iconic status!
21. Bademiyan, Mumbai
Opened in 1942, the Bademiyan Stall moved several locations during the tense pre-Independence years before finally settling down at Colaba in Mumbai. It was started by Mohammed Yasin who came to be known as Bademiya for his long flowing beard. The shop is famous for its spicy succulent kebabs and biryani, and is always jam-packed till late in the evening.
22. Kesar Da Dhaba, Amritsar
An iconic dhaba of Amritsar, Kesar Da Dhaba was established by Lala Kesar Mal and his wife in 1916 in Sheikhupura, Pakistan. It moved to Amritsar after the partition of India in 1947 where it was frequently visited by Lala Lajpat Rai and Jawaharlal Nehru. The dhaba’s velvety dal makhani, slow-cooked overnight and garnished with fresh creambefore being served, is legendary. The creamy palak paneer, stuffed parathas and the sinfully rich phirni are also a must-try.
23. Confeitaria 31 De Janeiro, Panaji
Located in the gorgeous old Latin Quarter of Panaji, Fontainhas, the 80-year-old Confeitaria 31 De Janeiro is one of the oldest bakeries in Goa. The cozy little shop serves traditional Goan sweets and savouries like the moist date and walnut cake, the scrumptious bebinca, the creamy sweet rolls, the crumbly prawn risois and other teatime treats.
24. Pancham Puriwala, Mumbai
Pancham Puriwala was set up over 150 years ago when its founder, Pancham came from Agra to Bombay to try his luck selling savouries. His crispy golden puris were so popular with the locals that his shop survived and expanded over seven generations. This tiny, two storeyed eatery is always crowded with eager clientele clamoring for mouth watering delicacies that include khichdi, kadhito (crispy bhindi curry), potato curry and truckloads of different types of puris.
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