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Mumbai's last remaining 'Irani' cafes recall lost culture of Bombay

Iconic Britannia celebrates centenary as new saloons pay homage to fading legacy

Staff dressed in black and white livery serve customers at Britannia in Mumbai. The Irani cafe continues to draw diners despite its state of graceful dilapidation. (Photo by Anil Senior)

MUMBAI -- In 1923, a British officer told Rashid Kohinoor, a Zoroastrian immigrant from Iran's Yazd province, that he could have a license to open a restaurant within 24 hours if he gave his venture a British name. Just like that, Britannia & Co. was born at Ballard Pier, Mumbai's commercial and maritime hub.

Today, Britannia is one of the few remnants of Mumbai's once-thriving "Irani" cafe culture, which showcased the city's ethnic diversity and traditions of inclusivity.

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