Mumbai's Cafe Samovar Rolls Down Shutters After Five Decades

Surrounded by heritage structures, this cafe was a favourite hangout of celebrities such as MF Hussain and Amitabh Bachchan.

Published: 01st April 2015 12:53 PM  |   Last Updated: 01st April 2015 12:53 PM   |  A+A-


The Paratha Fest (Pic: D Sampath Kumar| Express Photo)


MUMBAI: Cafe Samovar, a favourite haunt of intellectuals and celebs including Amitabh Bachchan, M.F. Husain and V.S. Naipaul, students and commoners, finally downed shutters on Tuesday after over five decades as loyal clients, some in tears, thronged it for one last time.

Located inside the Jehangir Art Gallery, surrounded by heritage buildings like Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum, the Kala Ghoda square, David Sassoon Library, Lion Gate and Hornbill House, the cafe was opened over 50 years ago by a young Usha Khanna, the niece of Bollywood legend Balraj Sahni.

"Living in Juhu, she had three children under 12, had never run a restaurant, knew no one who did, had no financial backing of any kind, had never seen a balance sheet but Samovar became a landmark because of her grit and integrity, love, fresh air and good intent," Malavika Sanghvi, daughter of Usha Khanna, told IANS on the last day Tuesday.

Such was the food quality that the three children's school tiffins had a daily selection from Cafe Samovar, and Usha Khanna relished the food there till the last day, Sanghvi added.

Like the cafes in many museums, art precincts and other public places worldwide, Samovar proved an instant hit with artistes, theatre and movie actors, intellectuals, mediapersons and celebs besides students and common folk for its homely and healthy menus priced reasonably.

People relished the mutton chops, vegetarian and kheema parathas, pulaos and biryanis, lassis and dahi vadas, varieties of tea and coffee -- with guaranteed free replacement if anything was cold or got spilled in the 700-foot eatery.

Malavika said that as news of the impending closure of Samovar spread in the past few weeks, "we were overwhelmed by the public support and pleas to revive it".

Ready to bid a graceful goodbye to her creation, the 90-year-old Usha Khanna suddenly became enthusiastic and wondered whether it could be revived on the terrace of the Jehangir Art Gallery.

Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Shaina N.C. organised a meeting with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis where Malavika and her sister Devieka Bhojwani appealed to the government to help preserve an important slice of the city's cultural heritage.

"Fadnavis gave us a patient hearing but made no commitments. We have approached the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corp for a suitable place in that area," Malavika said.

The Jehangir Art Gallery, which owns the space where Samovar was located, has been wanting it back for its expansion plans.

The matter was fought out in courts for nearly three decades. The cafe won extensions on lease, until the final one which ended on Tuesday, leading to its closure.

More from Lifestyle.


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp