Cafe de la Paix is a heritage Irani café in Mumbai that is known for its Iranian cuisine and pleasant ambiance. Located in the heart of the city, the café is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
The cafe was built in 1935 and is tucked inside Villa Bellevue – a charming art deco building. Cafe de la Paix is one of the few surviving Irani cafes in the city and is situated opposite to the The Royal Opera House in Mumbai.
The French word ‘de la paix’ means ‘of peace’ so I assumed that the name of the cafe must be a general message due to the tensions between countries during war times. But no. The story goes like this that the landlord of the cafe had returned from France and there he had seen the Cafe de la Paix which is situated in Place de ‘Opera. Hence, he agreed to let the space to Gustad’s grandfather on the condition that he names it after the iconic Cafe de la Paix in Paris.
On a Saturday morning, I met Gustad Irani, the 3rd generation owner of the Irani family who is running the cafe. He is a humble man, polite and full of simplicity and his personality seamless fits in to the great reputation of the place. He gave me a brief tour of the cafe and cooked breakfast for me.
The cafe’s menu features a modest and compact menu, with a selection of French-inspired dishes. It serves a variety of dishes made of eggs with breads, tea and coffee. Its open from 8 am in the morning to 9pm in the evening for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The cafe’s chief chef Gustad Irani pays attention to the presentation of dishes, and the food is always served hot and flavorful.
The cafe’s decor is reminiscent of a traditional French bistro, with warm colors and vintage decor. The cafe has indoor seating only, and customers can enjoy their meal while listening to music, typically classic songs played on radio. The cafe also has a small corner, that offers limited books for guests to read in the peaceful ambiance.
Café de la Paix is a great place to relax and enjoy a meal with friends and family, or to celebrate a special occasion. For large groups, one is required to book the seats and food in advance.
I appreciate the well preserved original teak wood furniture, cabinets, photo frames, signages, and hand paintings on the pillars. There are ceiling fans in the café with good natural light and ventilation with its three entry doors opened for customers.
The cafe’s staff is friendly and attentive, and they are always happy to help with menu recommendations or to accommodate special requests. The cafe’s owner Gustad Irani is also known for its commitment to customer service and friendly nature.
The cafe is one of the thirty odd Irani cafe’s left in the city today. Once upon a time the city was a host to hundreds of them at every nook and corner of south Mumbai. They were frequented by patrons on whose loyalty the cafe businesses had flourished. With changing times, the numbers dwindled and now face stiff competition with multi-national chains like Starbucks who appeal to the young demography. I hope these last few Irani cafes continue to remain in business and stand as the cultural heritage of the city’s glorious past.
Overall, Cafe de la Paix is a great destination for those looking for a taste of Iranian cuisine in Mumbai. The cafes delicious food, charming ambiance, and friendly staff makes it a great place to relax and enjoy a meal. The cafe is also conveniently located and is easy to reach by public transportation. I preferred to visit it on a bicycle, so I didn’t have to worry about finding a parking spot in the narrow lanes. Whether you’re looking for a casual lunch or a special dinner, Cafe de la Paix is a great place to visit.
I recommend this place for all cyclists, runners, morning walkers who can hang-out at this cafe post their rides or for a quick snacking break. The 88-year-old cafe is good place to connect with the cities history and relive the old-world charm of the bygone era.
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai