Darius Ferzandi (in black cap) at his Irani cafe
Darius Ferzandi (in black cap) at his Irani cafe | Twitter @BombaywallaBlog
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Mumbai: Among the Parsi residents of Rustom Bagh in Mumbai, Darius Ferzandi, 85, was a household name. A senior partner at the popular Byculla Restaurant and Bakery, located just across the road, Ferzandi understood his customers. He knew exactly what his frequent patrons wanted, and how they wanted it.

So, when Ferzandi, a restaurateur since the early days of Independent India, passed away Thursday at the age of 85, it was a personal loss for Rustom Bagh, where generations have grown up relishing the delicious chicken “patice” (same as patties), Byculla syrup (a raspberry drink), and bun maska offered by the restaurant.   

For Parvez Karkaria, an octogenarian resident of Rustom Bagh, Ferzandi’s death signals the end of an era. 

“I started going to the restaurant in 1953 when I was 15 years old. My college was in south Mumbai, so a group of us travelled by train. The Byculla Restaurant and Bakery (also in south Mumbai) was our favourite place after college,” said Karkaria. 

“Our pocket money would be about Rs 10 back then. We would sit around in the restaurant, drinking the pink-coloured Byculla syrup. If we could afford it, then we would have chicken patice too,” she added.


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‘An elder brother’

Byculla Restaurant and Bakery is 105 years old. It was started by Ferzandi’s father, a Parsi who travelled from Iran and settled in what was then Bombay. Ferzandi joined the restaurant when he was 18 years old.

Like the whole of her generation, Karkaria came from a Parsi family that was orthodox in many ways. Every minute had to be accounted for. However, when she told her parents that the afternoon was spent with friends at the Byculla Restaurant and Bakery, their stern gaze softened and the angry words died on their lips, she said. 

“Such was the respect they had for Darius. Our parents would not scold us for going there. He was like an elder brother to all of us,” she added. 

In respecting Ferzandi, Karkaria’s family wasn’t alone. Around Rustom Bagh, families respected and loved him, and never thought twice when their children stepped out alone to visit the Byculla Restaurant and Bakery. 

The bakery culture was brought to Mumbai by the Parsis. Until the late 1990s, the Irani cafes thrived on their cuisine, the Irani chai, the bun maska, etc. However, as the mall culture crept into Mumbai, the old-world charm of Bombay started fading, and the Irani cafes began to close down

The Byculla Restaurant and Bakery, like its peers, struggled to keep up operations with their low-priced menu. Despite attrition, however, many of Ferzandi’s employees have been with him for over 45 years.  

“Darius kept the prices low but delivered high-quality food. Despite the competition around him, the quality of food was never compromised,” said Vikram Balsara, a Colaba resident who visits the restaurant every weekend. 

Others agree. Many patrons contacted by ThePrint for this report said they had never tasted better sliced bread, sali (a Parsi dish) or vegetable patice than the ones served by Ferzandi. 

“He used to have a thriving business. Despite the escalating costs in the later years, the prices at the Byculla Restaurant and Bakery continued to remain low,” said a Rustom Bagh resident who preferred not to be named. 

“Darius was not bothered about money. He had a golden heart. Whatever money we gave him he put it in the gallah.” 

The Covid-19 lockdown means patrons of the restaurant have not been able to visit it for the milky, sweetened Irani chai they so love, a frequent jaunt that almost qualifies as a tradition in many local households. 

They will surely return when the restaurant reopens, but Ferzandi’s absence at the gallah (counter) — his pride of place for the past 67 years — will be a bitter truth to swallow.

“For me and my husband, the sliced bread will never taste the same again,” said Karkaria.

It is yet unclear who will take over the reins of the restaurant in Ferzandi’s absence.    


Also Read: A decade-long legal battle for permission to attend Parsi parents’ last rites


 

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15 Comments Share Your Views

15 COMMENTS

  1. RIP Darius uncle.
    I think the restaurant had already closed down in 2020 before lockdown, as, I wanted to visit it sometime in Jan- Feb 2020 and found it closed.

  2. I was a regular customer of this restaurant & bakery from 1955 to 1968 my school years. Loved the mawa cake, mutton pattice and the buns with a cross on top. Picked up these items off & on after that last being a few years ago when I went to buy some gardening supplies from a store opposite it. I have plenty of childhood memories of the shops around the Gloria Church in the vicinity. The Garment Laundry, Up to Date Hair cutting saloon to name a few.
    The friendly Mr Darius would be at the Galla always ready to assist.
    One more of the childhood memories is gone.
    RIP Darius

  3. Reading about Darius Ferzandi and his restaurant first time.
    I realize he was gentle man and respected by his customers and community.

    May God bless Darius Ferzandi soul.
    RIP Bro

  4. I used to get down from the bus at that point just to buy Pattice, bread pudding and bibbic. Not forgetting the fresh mawa cakes. Mr Darius was a gentleman,I remember him once telling me the recipe for bread pudding. God help his soul rest in peace.

  5. INCORRECT REPORTING:

    The restaurant was closed down a few months before COVID19. Hence the below paragraphs are incorrect reporting

    “The Covid-19 lockdown means patrons of the restaurant have not been able to visit it for the milky, sweetened Irani chai they so love, a frequent jaunt that almost qualifies as a tradition in many local households.

    They will surely return when the restaurant reopens, but Ferzandi’s absence at the gallah (counter) — his pride of place for the past 67 years — will be a bitter truth to swallow.

    It is yet unclear who will take over the reins of the restaurant in Ferzandi’s absence.”

  6. Sure,it always has it’s klass apart,n very pocket friendly, I pray da tradition continues, thru generations , Remain blessed,

  7. Irani restaurants in Kings Circle, one at each turn of the Maheswari Udyaan were also similar to the Byculla joint. Cafe Olympia in Flora Fountain, where the booty was adorable food, Aromatic omelette, kheema Pau, was the star. Broom maska is unforgettable. The culture was so very unique… Nasser was my class mate in Don Bosco and his touch and smiles was so affectionate. Oh yes… the Parsis were very community conscious….. not anymore. They are drifting and vada pau is now hallmark of amchi Mumbai.

  8. The restaurant is supposed to have closed down permanently a few weeks before the Covid pandemic lockdown started. Sali is not a Parsi dish but just fried crispy finely grated potato slivers that are added to Parsi dishes like sali boti or sali par edu. The Rogers or Pallonjis raspberry flavoured aerated drink is the most popular drink besides ice cream soda and ginger lemon at most Parsi wedding feasts or Irani restaurants. Most dishes were not very cheap but definitely reasonably priced and the quality of food was really good for the price. Will miss their cakes and biscuits as well as the Parsi snacks and dishes.

  9. I know about the restaurant but never had a chance to enter.
    Handed it to the Manager until you find the eligible/appropriate family to run it.
    Trust is also one good option.
    RIP🙏

  10. I used to study in Gloria convent school Byculla. While returning home most of the time with friends we used to go to Byculla resturant to eat our favourite samosa. We used to enjoy even bum maska . Only memories remain.

  11. He was a wonderful personality. I know him for the last 20 years. He would always greet everyone with love. Will miss seeing your smiling face every morning.. may your soul RIP.

  12. Yes all of us who used to visit his bakery will miss him dearly. He was a gentleman first and a businessman next. May his soul rest in peace.

  13. My kids used to enjoy the Bun Maska. While returning from VT will stop the car, buy Bun Maska and fruits from the vendors nearby. Best quality.

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