If you’ve ever lived in Mumbai, you’d know the special place Iranian cafés occupy in the city’s cultural landscape. And so I embarked on a personal mission to go café hopping and stumbled upon a cheerful bond between the quaint old cafes and the biker gangs of the city.
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If you’ve ever lived in Mumbai, you’d know the special place Iranian cafés occupy in the city’s cultural landscape. And so I embarked on a personal mission to go café hopping and stumbled upon a cheerful bond between the quaint old cafes and the biker gangs of the city.

The Discovery
At 8 am on a Sunday morning, as I sauntered into Kayani & Co. in Fountain, South Mumbai, for an early morning Iranian breakfast, I spotted a posse of six bullet bikers, who entered the café with casual familiarity, hi-fiving the owner. I watched them chow down Bun Maska and Chai, and my interest was piqued when I overheard them discussing the next Iranian café on their itinerary for the following Sunday. Pretty soon, another group of superbikers walked in, men as old as 20 and as young as 75! Surely there was some special connection here.

Passion on Wheels

Dipen Loomba, an entrepreneur and biker who was part of Mumbai bike gangs a couple of decades ago recalls how their Bullet and Avenger biker groups would hit the roads before sunrise, and Iranian cafes won most of the votes for a breakfast pit stop, in part because these were the only places that opened their doors in the wee hours. Perhaps a convenience evolved into a habit, snowballing into a trend. Mumbai biker Behzad Gazder adds that most Parsi bikers prefer the Iranian cafes post ride.

Today, there are two sets of bikers in the city; those that prefer taking shorter trips within the city, to ride the roads and build communities. The other clan prefers to plan longer voyages for the love of travel, thrill and speed. Such groups often ride out of town, discovering great places to eat and experience.

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Argho Mukherji, co-founder and managing partner at Iron Wheels, a Bullet bike group, agrees that every biker in Mumbai and Pune has special memories of Iranian Cafes. Mukherjee owns three bikes, and the 40 member Iron Wheels gang loves to head to Irani addas for a celebratory chai after charity rides. “From Ahura on NH8, to places like Café Mondegar, Café Madras and even Datta Vada Pav, you’ll find bikers stopping here for their warm hospitality and authentic delicacies.”

Café Stories

To explore this special relationship, we stopped at Good Luck Café, located in Bandra and known for their keema pav. The café has several connoisseurs in the city and beyond, including bikers who stop here for Sunday brekkie. “Not huge gangs, but yes, they do come by on weekends,” the manager tells us. Sharing a similar sentiment, Adi Mazkoori, of the 97-year-old landmark Café Excelsior in XX, adds that biker gangs do walk in, but now not as regularly as the families and office goers munching on chicken rolls and mutton cutlets.

But vroom to the outskirts, and you find Parsi da Dhaba, a pit stop for bikers travelling on the busy NH8 at Nariman Nagar. On weekends and public holidays, they are usually booked in advance with special tables reserved for their patrons on wheels. Parsi da Dhaba has served groups ranging from 10 to 500 bikers at one go, of which nearly 30 percent are women. They bikers stop here on their journeys from as far as Ahmedabad, Goa, Surat, Pune Delhi, and even Jammu! The dhaba makes special arrangement for the travelling bikers, putting out charpoys for them to rest on before continuing the journey. Vipin Yadav, senior manager at Parsi da Dhaba adds, “This is a usual sight at our dhaba. Last week we had 150 KTM bikers and we customised meals for our biker patrons.” Traditional dishes like Baruch akuri, keema, salli doodh, salli boti and Parsi omelette are the popular items on the menu. “We make sure we serve authentic food in a comfortable ambience. Bikers just happen to find their joy in the food and location.”

Agrees Mukherji, “For us bikers, the journey is as important as the destination, and refuelling ourselves with their unique food makes the cafes a memorable part of the ride.” In the end, it is the simplicity and appeal of these quaint old cafes that makes them a clear winner.

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