Lunch at Britannia
May 30, 2008
I went for lunch to Britannia today and do what I always do at Britannia – talk about how it could improve itself. Im no snob and wouldn’t stop eating at Britannia no matter what but I truly believe that it needs a lot of things changed, the paint peels off the walls, the roof leaks in the monsoon, the lighting is hardly enough and there are cartons kept on the window sill. In my opinion a little tidying up here and there and Britannia could appeal to a much wider audience. The restaurant isn’t open for dinner or breakfast and is closed on Sunday. My mother once asked the owner why he doesn’t open for dinner and he exclaimed
“Why Ma’am!! My wife will divorce me!!”.
As he usually does 85 year old Mr Boman Kohinoor took my order . He enthusiastically takes your order down and makes reccomendations. Its amazing to see the spirit he has in him and doensn’t let his age slow him down one bit. I asked for my usual – Chicken Berry Pulao and he told me about how there was such a huge rush today and I could only get Mutton Berry Pulao. I wanted the chicken but Berry Pulao is Berry Pulao and so I decided to get whatever was available. I told him how this had never happened and he told me there was an unusually large demand for Chicken Berry Pulao and had I come a little earler I would have got my Chicken Berry Pulao.
“You’ve come so late” , “Before 3 it is your choice and after 3 it’s mine” he said.
I nodded quitely accepting my mistake. He then asked us what we wanted to drink. I told him how I loved their raspberry drink but wanted the one made by Pallonji’s and not Rogers.
” We used to first get it from Duke’s, but then they stopped making it, then we got Pallonji’s but then they stopped making it, so now we have Roger’s, why don;t you have a fresh lime soda instead”
Once again I quietly agreed. My friend ordered a fresh lime water and while he asked her whether she wanted it made with regular water or mineral water I decided to settle with Roger’s – afterall you don’t get it at too many places.I asked him to change the order and he scribbled out the entire drinks order and carefully rewrote the order confirming each item with us. The order for the parcel was wirtten down at the bottom right corner of the page. I don’t know if he uses a code or not and I couldn’t really understand what he scribbled down. He uses the table as support when he writes and so you can read what is being written unlike other places where you have no clue what the waiter is writing Just as he finished writing the order down he looked at my friend and asked her
“Is he Parsi?”
My friend shook her head .
“Oh thats because Raspberry means Parsi and Parsi means Raspberry”
This was one of the biggest compliments I have ever gotten. I am a huge wannabe Parsi and this meant the world to me. I was grinning from ear to ear. As he turned away I turned to my friend
“Did you hear that? He thinks I’m Parsi!!”
I again started talking about ways to improve Britannia. I pointed towards a window to show my friend a cobweb. She spoke about how there is no excuse for that and though I tried defending Britannia, I just couldn’t. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to climb a chair and sweep it away. I didn’t want to hurt the owner’s feelings and so I decided to talk to his son about it on my way out. Mr Irani thought I was Parsi and I didn’t want him to think otherwise over a stupid cobweb. On the way out I mentioned the cobweb to his son. I’m not usually slow to point out faults in restaurants but I really didn’t know what to expect, would he cover it up with a story of how they are too busy and didn’t want to clean it when customers are around? They are only open for Lunch so that wasn’t a possible excuse. Would he tell me to eat somewhere else if I had a problem with his restaurant? As you can imagine Britannia isn’t a regular restaurant and the managment isn’t usually quick with change. He looked at the cobweb, made a face and looked at me.
” Yea I know that needs to be cleaned up”
I thought that perhaps he didn’t know about it and would thank me for pointing out something he didn’t know about and recognize my great service to the restaurant. He then sighed and said
“This whole place needs to be done up”
I was happy thinking that Britannia would finally get the rennovation it deserves but then the owner continued
“Im actually selling this place”
I thought to myself – No this can’t be happening, is this some sort of cruel joke? My face fell. He spoke about how some shipping company had made him an offer and he wanted more money and would sell the place as soon as he gets what he wants for it, he suddenly looked at me
“You want it? They are giving me 7.5 but I want 9.”
I didn’t know what hit me, These numbers were being thrown at me when I wasn’t out of the shock of Britannia closing down,I didn’t even compute the fact that he was talking in crores and asked him
“Do the recipes come with it?” He smirked ” No No, The recipes are 1 million each!!!”
I guess he was joking and by now could see how much this meant to me. Just as I was about to say something, as if she was reading my mind my friend looked at him
“He’s going to be very sad about this” I cut in “I’m going to go home and cry”
He began to understand how much Britannia meant to me and gave me his card –
“Call me and come over to my house to eat Chicken Berry Pulao – I may not be in Bombay but take my card”
Although I would love to, I just can’t imagine myself going to anyone’s house like that, Would he be cool about it? I said goodbye and began calculating how much it would cost to run the place. What a perfect location !! Adhish, the owner of the new Britannia, Id change everything about it that I wanted to. Instant fame, everyone loves Britannia and Id do it up and make everyone want to eat there – it was all so perfect. But then the more I thought about it, the less sense it made to me and I guess my head finally took over from my heart and I realized that I needed to complete my education atleast before taking over a restaurant like that. It wasn’t the money I was worried about, Im sure I could earn enough to pay off a loan to buy the place – What I was really afraid of is being unworthy of a place like Britannia. I’m sure I would screw up it’s legacy somehow and wanted to make sure that I am ready before taking a step like that. Anyways I don’t really feel like writing more – Get as much Chicken Berry Pulao as you can – you never know, it might just be your last. The shipping company has been negotiating with Britannia for the past 14 months and once the owner gets what he wants, he will be going back to Persia where he says banks give him 22% interest on his money as opposed to the 17% he earns in the restaurant.