Last week I found myself wandering in the stifling middle lane of Khan Market at 5 PM, waiting for a friend who had promised to be on time. I am reluctant to sound like a middle-aged hag, but that is the time of the day when I just need my cup of tea. Having overdone green tea at Cafe Turtle on many previous occasions, I suddenly spotted the cute Parsi topi signboard of Sodabottleopenerwala.
Images of humid Bombay evenings spent enjoying Irani Chai at Fort drifted into my mind, as I mounted the stairs of this quaint. one-of-it’s kind restaurant in Delhi. I settled into a red checker cloth covered table, feeling excited as I ordered a cup of Irani Chai and a plate of Bun Maska, even before they could get me the menu.
The restaurant was quite empty at that time of the day, probably because Delhi still hasn’t discovered this delightful evening snack served here. The waiter was amused at the sight of a 22-year-old solo customer, trying to click photos of her Chai from various angles, shifting from one chair to another on the table which could seat four.
After I finally got the shot I wanted, I broke off a slice of the Bun Maska and dipped it into my tea-cup. Not many people would understand this, but a sip of tea is never an isolated action. It brings with itself a deluge of old memories, of people and places, sometimes long forgotten. My perfectly made Irani Chai, strong and flavoured with mawa, alongwith the eccentric decor of the restaurant – old, brass telephone sets, dark polished chairs, photographs of vintage cars and newspaper clippings from a time when Mumbai was Bombay – brought back memories of my time in the city of dreams. The charming bylanes of Fort and Kala Ghoda which have many an Iranian delight tucked away, seemed to beckon me from a distance, as I sat with my cup of tea that evening.
This acute romanticising of the most ordinary Indian beverage would seem rather comical to most and it is meant to. But, for those of us who like an adventure with our daily cup of tea, it is a commonly experienced emotion. The next time you find yourself near a Sodabottleopenerwala outlet in Delhi at the time of the day, when you need your cup of tea, you know what to order! (INR 150/-, inclusive of taxes)
As a parting note, here is a link to an article I found recently about a hidden gem in Hyderabad serving Irani Chai. Happy reading 🙂