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!