The Paradise restaurant in Colaba has shut down. We woke up to this news on Sunday morning. It was inevitable. We had been meaning to visit it one last time these past few months. But couldn’t. Now, Paradise has downed shutters, and we will miss it.
My entry into Mumbai fourteen years ago, was through Colaba. We rented a spacious apartment in the rather run-down Geetanjali building, behind Radio Club. And one of the first restaurants, Sachin, a Mumbai boy took me to, was Paradise on Colaba Causeway, which served mainly Parsi food. Parsi cuisine was alien to me and I was intrigued at his description of the food. When we arrived at Paradise, I wasn’t very impressed. It was a narrow space, though the decor was quirky. I found Jimmy, the owner, slightly testy and irascible. He barely looked up when we entered, though just another table was occupied at that time. We ordered the food. When the signature Scotch Broth arrived, I tasted it and found it slightly underwhelming after the eulogy I had just heard. But I instantly fell in love with the salli murghi and salli boti. That was enough, and it signalled the beginning of my love affair with Paradise and Parsi food.
Till we lived in Colaba, which was for a little more than two years, we visited Paradise every week, sometimes even twice a week. We were footloose and fancy-free and fancied Paradise food all the time! I not only started liking Scotch Broth, but started craving it, especially during my pregnancy. In fact the waiters would see us walking in and disappear inside to emerge with two bowls of the broth. It was a thick, mutton broth, with slivers of chicken, accompanied by a quarter plate of crisp, butter-soaked croutons. Yum! Paradise’s chicken rolls, salli boti and salli murgh with thin chapatis, the dhansak and rice, and a cutlet called Temptation, were our top of the charts dishes. Of course, we experimented with almost everything else on their menu, including some of the continental and Chinese dishes on offer.
We had become regulars. Jimmy, whom I soon discovered to be a warm person, would always do a pit stop at our table and chat away, wishing me well for my delivery, describing the visits abroad to his kids. Jimmy didn’t have a liquor licence, in fact, never got it, which kept the foreigners away, who preferred Leopold and Cafe Mondeagar at the other end of Colaba Causeway. But we didn’t mind, and Paradise became our ritual.
After Ishaan was born, we didn’t waste much time in visiting Paradise, with the baby in tow. Though he couldn’t taste the Scotch Broth yet, Sachin felt it imperative that he breathe in the air of Paradise! Jimmy was pleased, and responded by gifting the baby ₹ 51. I was very touched. Before Ishaan turned two, we took him to Paradise for his first taste of Scotch Broth. He absolutely loved it! Till two years ago, even after we shifted residences several times, and out of Colaba too, we often made it to Paradise.
I tried to take my love of Parsi food beyond Paradise. We visited Jimmy Boy and Ideal in Fort, and a few other places. But nothing could match Paradise for us. Jimmy’s wife Mehrooo was the brain in the kitchen. We hardly met her, as we tended to visit the restaurant mostly for dinners. On the rare occasions we went in the day, she would be presiding over the kitchen and the cash counter with much dexterity. We learnt that she fussed and supervised over everything, including the cleaning of the meat. No wonder the food tasted and smelled so good.
About two years ago, we noticed some changes. One or two of the familiar waiters were missing. The new, young waiters didn’t know us and we felt it strange to have to ask for our staples. There was some small, but noticeable decline in things like the chapatis, which didn’t seem like they were freshly made, anymore. Jimmy too looked tired, more detached.
Our visits slowly wound up. Caught up as we were in the rigmarole of daily life, Colaba and Paradise seemed too far from Lower Parel, where we now lived. Restaurants like SodaBottleOpenerWallah opened up a new wave of Parsi food for us. We had replaced Paradise.
And now, Paradise has downed shutters. But the taste of that Scotch Broth will linger in my mouth forever, and I wish, I could taste it just once more…for old times’ sake!