Travel back in time with Cafe Samovar

17 Aug

Ever wondered what would it be like to somehow travel in time and experience what Mumbai of the 70’s would be like? Well, you don’t need any time travel devices or creative dreams. All you need is to visit the Café Samovar in the Jehangir Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda, Fort.

Located in the creative hub of Mumbai, this Cafe is a small, intimate and a cozy affair. The entire café is a long narrow corridor with two lines of chairs and tables arranged on either side, the wall of the gallery on one side and the views of the sprawling green lawns of the Prince of Wales Museum (through a steel mesh) on the other side. Cozy cane lamps dangle on the ceilings and seasonal decorations (kites around the kite festival, rubber boots for monsoons etc) complete the ensemble. One thing that really strikes you is that time has stood still and nothing has changed here. The mode of payment here is still cash, there are no air conditioners, they still have those old style fans and the seating is like the restaurants in the olden days.

The Jehangir Art Gallery

The Jehangir Art Gallery

In terms of its history – in 1964, Mrs. Usha Khanna wanted to set up a place where creative minds could meet and chat over cup of tea. Her inspiration was the Left Bank Cafes of Paris, and she, along with Soli Baltivala, the then Secretary of Jehangir Art Gallery started the place with just enough money for a stove and a few cups & saucers. Today it has come a long way and boasts of an elite clientele to include R. K. Laxman, Anjoli Ela Menon, M. F. Husain, Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan and Shobhaa De to just name a few. Mrs Khanna and her daughters Devieka Bhojwani and Malvika Sangghvi have also compiled its history in a coffee table book titled, Samovar: How A Mumbai Cafe Became A Metaphor for A Generation. At the book release, Jaya Bachchan reportedly said it was the venue for her first date with the Amitabh Bachchan.

The Cafe Samovar

The Cafe Samovar

This café is also a survivor. In 2010, Samovar started receiving eviction notices from the Trust which runs the Jehangir Art Gallery over the legality of its existence. The trustees wanted to evict the cafe and use the 600 sq ft space to store files and canvasses. However the Café fought back with many petitions filed by the loyal lawyers, writers, artists etc and a battle through multiple Indian courts. It finally received respite from the apex court in India, the Supreme Court.

Fishes on the roof, Cafe Samovar

Fishes on the roof, Cafe Samovar

Even today this café is the favorite haunt of many artists, writers, intellectuals, executives, young lovers and students. Even for me, a visit to Kala Ghoda or any neighboring galleries is never complete without a stopover here. This is one of my favorite places and every time I visit, I still feel the nostalgia / timelessness and can imagine myself in an Amol Palekar movie. Though it’s not cheap, it’s not expensive either and I love their cutting chai (half glass tea) and a club sandwich. They also have a quite few other options for a light meal or tea time snacks.

So the next time you are in this area and in a mood of some nostalgia or a cozy chat, do visit the Café Samovar and travel back in time.


12 Responses to “Travel back in time with Cafe Samovar”

  1. whichwaynow101 August 18, 2013 at 02:17 #

    Looks and sounds amazing. Would love to be there.


  2. corneliaweberphotography August 18, 2013 at 07:29 #

    What a lovely place to have some delights.


  3. raazaa August 19, 2013 at 11:30 #

    Looks absolutely amazing!

    PS. Like your new dp too! 🙂


  4. Puru August 21, 2013 at 00:03 #

    You have the eye. I love the photographs that you take. Look at the one with people eating while a waiter walks. It is such a beautiful photograph 🙂


    • getsetandgo August 21, 2013 at 20:52 #

      Thanks Puru. You made my day 🙂


      • Puru August 22, 2013 at 23:56 #

        You are welcome 🙂


  5. c_in_b March 13, 2015 at 19:12 #

    Our path crosses yours as we just had tea and samosas at the Samovar Café.


    • getsetandgo April 10, 2015 at 20:44 #

      That it did though sadly this historic cafe closed down after 50 years on April 1 this year…


      • c_in_b April 11, 2015 at 12:46 #

        Sad, glad I made it, and thank you for the news.


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