After serving artists and art lovers for over 50 years, Cafe Samovar prepares to retire in style with a party at the end of the month, hosted by Devieka Bhojwani, daughter of Usha R Khanna. “We will be inviting old-timers, our regular Samovarians and allow them to take a piece of Samovar with them,” says Bhojwani. We talk to three artists about their favourite ‘Sams’ story.
Shireen Gandhy Jungalwala, director, Chemould Prescott Road
To me, eating at Samovar was like having ghar ka khana. I would troop down to Sams — alone on most days — for my staples: kheema roti roll, tandoori roti roll, and prawn curry rice. My earliest memory of Samovar is from my childhood. Not allowed to have it at home, Coca Cola was a special allowance my mother would permit me on my visits to Jehangir Gallery. I was devastated when the drink was taken off the market but the then-manager, Mr Shetty, had stocked away the last few bottles, which he secretly let me have.
Rekha Rodwittiya, artist
I have been coming here since 1976. When I joined the art college in Baroda, no trip to Bombay was complete without a dose of Samovar. Walking into Samovar was like getting on a train carriage where you will find a multitude of people from different walks of life — celebrated artists, writers, directors — and you were sure to engage into stimulating conversations with them. I would go to Sams knowing I would meet a friendly face — Navjot or Sudhir Patwardhan. The cafe has these little fans that hum away while I devoured the most delicious home-cooked meals. My favourites were the kebab rolls and the prawn curry. Whenever I went to Samovar, I knew I was in a safe space, where I knew I will be taken care of. I will mourn and grieve for my Samovar.
Parmesh Shahani, art collector and head, Godrej India Culture Lab
My exposure to the world of art began at Jehangir and Cafe Samovar. I started visiting it in my childhood, with my grandfather. I remember many afternoons spent with Mrs Usha Khanna, who had become a friend and confidante, discussing how the cultural environment in the city can be nurtured.
Samovar is also about its friendly staff, people like Murthy, who have watched me grow since I was a young boy. That affection and intimacy with a space is irreplaceable.