At 5.30 am in the morning, few places can boast of such bustling crowds as the Irani cafe near Jehangir Hospital, Vohuman Cafe, where getting a seat over weekend mornings is a feat in itself. But there is some sad news for the bun maska-chai-cheese omelette loving Puneites, the cafe is downing its shutters in its original form by the end of this month. Only temporarily though.
Sarosh Irani, son of owner Hormaz Irani, confirmed that October 28 will be the last working day at the original location. “My father worked at this shop for 39 years and made it into a landmark. He spent more time here than anywhere else,” he says.
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Asked what prompted the move almost four decades later, Irani says that the cafe was running in a rented location and they had to move when the owner decided to take it back for the construction of a hospital. “My parents didn’t want to fight or be an obstruction so we decided to move,” he adds.
However, the good news is that the Iranis have been able to find a new location for the cafe only a few metres away near Ruby Hall Clinic on Dhole Patil road.
“We are currently in the process of renovating the place and hopefully there shouldn’t be more than a couple of weeks break between this place shutting down and the new place opening up. Unfortunately, we didn’t get too much time or we would have put up the new place before shutting down,” said Irani.
Architects Khushru Irani and Jehangir Vakil are working on the new location which although in a commercial complex is broken down from floor to ceiling to give it the Irani cafe feel. “We will get similar flooring, have the same tables and chairs and even the same old cash counter. The only state of the art thing is the kitchen,” says Vakil.
Meanwhile, the relocation of the iconic cafe has led foodies across the city to take to social media forums and post their memories about the place while others are busy planning meet-ups for one last time at the original location in its remaining days.
Varun Pandya , a regular at the cafe, says he rushed there Friday afternoon as soon as he learned from a friend that the cafe is shutting down. “I was relieved to meet uncle (Hormaz Irani) at the counter who told me that they will be reopening at the new location. But yes, the relocation does pinch us because we have many memories of our school, college and even adult life in this place. I hope this place isn’t lost to us,” he said.
Founder member Aniruddha Patil’s post on Facebook group Pune Eat Outs about the relocation garnered hundreds of comments within a few hours with people posting comments like ‘End of an era’, ‘Real Shocker’ and many more.
“Places like Vohuman can’t be recreated easily; they happen when the owners, food, persona and patronage intermingle but still keep it very simple. I personally have a lot memories of this place for the last 25 years. While I will miss the rustic aura of the place, I at least have the consolation that I can have my cheese omelette and meet the amazing Bawa at the new place,” said Patil.
Meenal Patil, another foodie, recalled how her first relationship started at the cafe. “My boyfriend then knew it was easy to impress me with a Vohuman cheese omelette. For many years, it was the highlight of my nightlife. I wouldn’t go to a party if there was no plan to stay awake till 5am and end up at the cafe later. It had its rustic charm of uncomfortable seating, waiters bustling with orders and barely listening and the like. I have so many memories here; I wish they didn’t have to move,” she says.