A flavour of vanilla lingers as the rich, soft and evenly-browned buttery dough melts in your mouth. It also leaves your hands and the sides of your mouth slightly greasy. Almost everyone who eats it would want to eat more. This is not a gourmet delicacy served at a swanky restaurant. It is a simple Mawa cake — perhaps the best of its kind that the city has to offer — at B Merwan, one of the oldest bakeries in Mumbai.
Dessert lovers, however, have just a little more than two months to relish the Mawa cake and other delicacies of Merwan such as its kaju cake, coconut biscuits, pudding and puffs. On March 31, Merwan, an unassuming Iranian bakery located outside Grant Road station, will open its doors for its loyal customers for the last time.
The bakery, which completed hundred years this year, will join many other Iranian cafes that have shut either due to competition from slick eateries or re-development in the fast-changing city.
Murari, who runs small errands at the bakery, said the bakery is going to close because the building in which it is — in a rundown old structure with wooden turquoise windows and balconies — is going in for redevelopment.
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A frail and aged Murari, while carrying a container out of the shop, said, “I have been with this bakery for so long now that I really have trouble believing it will shut down. I asked memsaab once why don’t they open it somewhere else. She said it will not be possible to get this kind of a place anywhere else.”
It perhaps may not be possible to find a place resembling the café-cum-bakery, started in 1914 by one Boman Merwan Nasrabadi, in any modern building. Besides the mouthwatering food, what makes the bakery special is its old world charm. It has a white wooden ceiling with rusty fans. The walls are mirrored in long tiles. Throughout the day Mawa samosa, omlettes, bun maska, brun and tea fill the marble-topped tables in the small café-cum-bakery. The old wooden chairs are always occupied. The bakery opens around 5-5.30 am and closes by 6.30-7 pm. Irani’s grandchildren, who are in their golden years, run the café now and handle the accounts.
Nutan Hatankar, who comes to the bakery every week from Andheri to replenish her stock of cakes, biscuits, bread and puffs, says, “It is sad that this bakery will close down. It is the best bakery that Mumbai has. Their products are fresh. Anywhere else you order a bun maska it feels like the bun is a day old. At this bakery, when they serve bun it feels like it has just come out of the oven. And the flavour is also amazing.”
Around 1 pm, a man steps into the bakery and jostle with others in the queue in an attempt to make his order heard. “One Mawa cake,” he says. The other customers immediately chip in, “You should have come at 7 am if you wanted a Mawa cake.” As he stubbornly waits, a Merwan employee says, “Nahi hai. Mawa cake chahiye toh 8 baje se pehle aao (If you want a Mawa cake, come before 8 am).” By then the kaju cakes, too, were fast disappearing from the shelves. Left with no option, the man finally left the shop with a kaju cake.