Thursday, December 30, 2010

Irani Cafes In Hyderabad

There were few places that were more fun than Irani cafes in the days when we were in college. And even later on as well, until the ubiquitous corner Irani cafes started disappearing under the pressure of a rapidly changing demographic of the city, under the pressure of real estate. For college students in the 80s and even the 90s, Irani cafes provided the perfect getaway as they allowed us to hang in there long enough, served delicious tea, samosas and biscuits and most of them served biryanis as well. We could survive on shoe string budgets and be out of trouble on the roads. Most youngsters were known by their addas, the Irani cafes then and one could easily find them there, smoking sipping tea, dreaming, talking of their futures etc. We did that too for years ad I still go to the highly modified ones close to my home even now, though one can make out that the flavour has totally gone. Let me list my favourite Irani cafes in Hyderabad, some names that I cannot remember, some that have sopped existing as well. But those who knew them in those days will know what I am talking of.

1) Sitara Cafe, Erragadda: I spent most of my time here in this little highway kind of a cafe that no one visited in the early years. In fact even we - Madhav, Vardha, Koni, Ranjan, Ram - would visit the ESI Hospital cafes instead of this place. But Sitara had a tranquil ambience, a quiet place that offered a peep out on to the road from its high perch. Being away from the regular crowd in those years Sitara was less populated. Tea was great and it was here that we discovered the joy of tie biscuits. Now a shadow of its former self, Sitara cafe, still exists and we still go once in a while.

2) Heera Moti, ESI Hospital: It barely exists now but in its hey day Heera Moti was a well appointed Irani cafe with lots of space and even partitioned cabins for private affairs like families etc. Spent much time here as well especially in the bus travel days because the stop was right in front. Also because Vardha and Madhav frequented it late nights.

3) Jugnu Hotel, ESI Hospital: Fabled as the only Hotel or cafe that would be kept open all night Jugnu was stuff of which stories were told. How no cop could shut it down, how it is open no matter what and how much music it had. Jugu had a jukebox and hundreds of records that the owner played for free. His tea was special, just as his other items on the menu were - starting with biscuits all the way to biryani.

4) Hilton Hotel, Osmania University: No one who studied in Osmania University specially the Engineering College in the 80s will ever forget Hilton. It was the adda for tea every break, for a leisurely saunter cross the Andhra Mahila Sabha gates hoping to catch a glimpse of a pretty face somewhere or the other.  

5) Good Luck, Cafe, SR Nagar Police Station: This was another one of those cafes that was wonderfully situated - right on the corner of the Balkampet road and offered a leisurely stop in those  days. Now of course it is a very busy road but it still holds its space, not being threatened by road widening yet. Another tranquil space for a late evening chai or even a morning chai to catch the slanting golden rays of the sun. Wonderful space.

6) Industrial Cafe, Sanatnagar: This was frequented by the workers of Allwan in those days and we stopped there when we went to pick up Madhav who worked in Allwyn. After Allwyn shut down the cafe also lost most business but it retained  its space and charm. Makes terrible tea and has little else these days.

7) Banjara Cafe, Road No 1, Banjara Hills: In those days when this road was a quiet ride, this cafe was wonderful to sit at. Many a times we preferred this place when we would meet Mama at his Road No 3 house. I don't know if it is still around - probably not with so much development in that area. Great tea and biscuits and samosas.

8) Cafe xxx, Lower Tank Bund: One of the best in terms of location, this cafe was situated on lower tank bund and had such a lovely quiet air that I always preferred to sit there and sip chai in those twilight moments when we would be returning home after college, mostly with Koni. I think it is still there, let me check its name.

9) Cafe Almas, SR Nagar: I saw this cafe since it was opened and though i did not go there often, I remember it clearly as it stuck through all the days, its ups and downs. Somehow it never became a popular haunt despite its closeness to our house probably because we did prefer the quiet places and Almas was in the centre of all activity at the SR Nagar chowk. But it does have some nice snacks and cakes as well as good tea.

10) Cafe Reliance, Prakash Nagar: I do not think that is the right name for this cafe that stands right outside Prakash Nagar on the Main Road. Nice and high it always had an inviting look to it and we would always stop there for a quick tea and samosa while taking this route back.

11) Bombay Cafe, Abids: My first Irani cafe experience since we used to go there during school. On Sundays when the school cricket team had  league matches we would go to Bombay cafe where Abdul Rub the master at Irani cafes would order for us Tandoor mutton and tea which was heavenly. Later when Vinod and I would sometimes go there for tea as well. It is still there very much.

Other cafes that come to mind where I have spent time are Cafe Paradise, Paradise, Cafe Imroze, Ameerpet (now no more), Cafe A, Secunderabad Station, Garden Cafe, Secunderabad and a few more that I will try and recollect. For chai, samosa, biscuit you cannot beat the Irani cafe experience ever!


Hmmm said...

You write about cafes, and there are no comments to follow it up??? whats wrong with Hyderabadis.

Hilton remains in the top for me though I'm sure I'm 10-12 years younger to you! I have to mention the one (gosh I forgot the name) at Masab Tank, and then the one at Erramanzil (guess both of these two run still). You didn't mention BLUE SEA? How come? Just for info - Hilton Cafe has been replaced by CAFE COFFEE DAY!(they say they have more than 1000 in the country!!! :-|)

While the one by twos, do mein teens, or teen mein panch and the never ending 'useful' conversations are unforgettable, the best part for me was having a biscuit - (wonder why it is called so) - OSMANIA!!!

Irani Chai I guess is dead...even if it is alive somewhere... Wonder what/who changed but now I think I am more used to ALLAM Chais or Cappuccino and what not! What's interesting for me is to notice ONE common trait in Irani Cafes or CCDs - the loudness... reminds me of Nirad C. Chowdary's article INDIAN CROWDS - you should write something on HYDERABAD crowds...of course I would love to see the KBR Park episode in it;)

Harimohan said...

Hi Hmmm,
The Erramanzil one is Red Rose is it? Hilton becoming a CCD was the final nail in the coffin - completed the transformation of the Hyderabadi. But more on Irani cafes surely as we remember more names. Maybe some pics as well before they completely disappear!

Asr said...

Completely agree with Hmmm. Blue Sea deserves a place. In my commuting days every day chai at Blue sea was routine. Still get nostalgic whenever I think of those days. Yep Erramanzil one is Red Rose. I love th names as well Red Rose & Blue Sea. AHaa..

Gustav said...

AFAIK,Red Rose is located near NIMS/Punjagutta beside a petrol bunk.It is shown in the telugu movie "Anukokunda Oka Roju".
Also,I randomly stumbled upon this blog and I would like to complement on your writing style!


Harimohan said...

Thanks Harsha.

Harimohan said...

Thanks Asr,
Blue Sea then. A chai at Blue Sea this week.

Jasmine said...

Dear Harimohan, Can you please tell me how to go to the Garden Cafe in Secunderabad? I am in Hyderabad for a few days and I'm looking forward to going there but I can' unfortunately find out where it is!

Harimohan said...

Hi Jasmine,
Garden restaurant is easy to find in Secunderabad. Get to the Clock Tower in Sec'bad (most people will know the place, any auto rickshaw guy who has been around a couple of months will know - its probably the most significant landmark in Secunderabad). Garden is right opposite the Clock Tower on the corner almost adjacent to the Deccan Chronicle office.
Funny you should be asking about Garden - today there was a picture of M.F. Hussain standing at the counter in Garden. Apparently he'd stop by for chai and kheema and stuff like that - sometimes with Madhuri Dixit, (who would sit in the car of course) while Hussain would get her chai and tie biscuits (you have to dip them in the tea before eating to get the full effect).

Jasmine said...

That's exactly where i picked up Garden Cafe from. But what attracted my eye was a mention of paintings inspired by Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyyat there.And of course, Irani Chai is always a crowd puller, isn't it?

Harimohan said...

Hi Jasmine,
Yes. Irani chai is always worth going the extra mile. I have been to Garden many times before but did not notice the paintings - maybe I was too focused on my chai and biryani. Next time I will check it out.

Jasmine said...

i'm headed there now, hope my driver can find it, i'm going to come about 50kms so i hope i find the paintings!

Harimohan said...

50 kms! That is a few more extra miles than I had in mind for an Irani chai but if you throw in a biryani, it might be worth the trouble!

But jokes apart, I think you will enjoy the experience. Garden still has that old world charm, being in the place it is, on the corner of a not-too-busy road, lots of space and lots of history. You won't regret the visit. I always liked my Irani cafes to give me those moments where I could sit quietly and sip my chai as the world went by.

And I am sure you'd have found it. Can't miss it in Secunderabad - it's like not finding Cafe Mondegar in Colaba.

Jasmine said...

Hello, I just thought that I'll come back to tell you that I did find the place, it is very easy to locate at the busy corner. Most of the staff I met there couldn't understand what I was talking about. But I met the owner eventually who directed me to the restaurant. The restaurant is where the paintings are. There are two paintings on the mezzanine floor and a life-sized,well, 3D image on the ground floor. The place is so quaint, I wanted to stay there longer.. And yes, I was offered some free tea too.
Thanks for your help, you should probably go to the restaurant with a copy of the rubaiyyat whenever you go there next and sit and let your mind wander in front of the imagery. I'll post some pictures from the place soon, if you tell me your email address, I'll send you a link.

Harimohan said...

Glad you found what you wanted. I never really thought of checking the paintings closely but now I will. Maybe with a copy of the Rubaiyyat like you said. A 3D image? That sounds interesting. Do send me a link to my email - - I'd love to see the pictures.

Anonymous said...

presidency cafe cross roads hyderabad

Food Nomad said...

Hi Harimohan,
Cafe Liberty too closed just recently after decades of serving delicious chai and samosa. It was one of the lovely little joint on Himayathnagar main road. Garden restaurant & Blue Sea remain my favourite though

Anonymous said...

An amazing recap of the golden list, a sure shot place, where every true hyderabadi, might have spent some time.
In addition to your list, I would like to add a new, the astoria cafe near nizams club, cafe madeena near charminar, cafe capri near saidabad, cafe ganga jamuna near ayodhya junction, cafe melli near erragadda. That come atop my mind, in addition to the list you told above, these are some of the popular joints. I have been to most of these places, popular being ek mein do, saath emin empty. Love hyderabad!

Harimohan said...

Astoria - I remember it from its early days in the early 80s as a student of Osmania University. Piping hot biryani and chai. Thanks for dropping in.

Running Commentary,
Sad to hear about Café Liberty. A part of that Hyderabad dies when you hear that Irani cafes are closing down. Was just recollecting with a friend today. Thanks.

Thanks for adding to the list. I've been to Astoria, Café Madeena, Ganga Jamuna and Melli. Missed Capri - might visit it sometime. Melli still continues to do roaring business, despite road widening and losing much of its old charm with the new structure. All new cafes are meant for brisk turnovers which defeats the very idea of an Irani café - a place of leisurely exchange over hours and hours of chai, smoke, friends...