Ever heard or read the book Shantaram by Gregory David Robert? It’s about an Australian bank robber who flees to Mumbai, India and the experience changes his life forever. Throughout the book he hangs out at an Iranian café called Leopold Café. The café is mentioned a number of time as it was a typical “Bombay” thing to do by people back in the days.
How old is it you ask? Well it was opened in the year 1871 by Zoroastrian Iranians who moved to Mumbai (The modern day term for them is Iranis and the places they run are called Irani café’s). The place starts at 7.30 am and runs all the way till midnight and is located at Colaba Cosway right opposite the Colaba Police Station. The place reverberates with a bygone era and brings back nostalgic memories of old Mumbai. It has been able to retain the loyalty of customers of all age groups and is mostly visited by foreigners.
On the 26th of November 2008, this iconic site became the first target of the city – wide terrorist attack that shook the nation. During their peak hours between 9.30pm to 9.45 pm, grenades were thrown in and bullets were fired. This led to the death of 10 people and injured many others. The café was opened four days after the attack, but due to the huge flock of people trying to get a peek at the damage and pay their respect, the police had to close it fearing serious security threats. They opened the café again after about a month of renovation. They did however retain the bullet riddled walls and mirrors, unlike The Taj and Trident hotel that repaired all the damage caused by the attack.
Despite being famous before the 26/11 attack, the café saw a huge wave of locals walking in after the attack. It made the café more famous and on the wish list of many. It is a cliché tourist spot to visit and is thus crowded throughout the day. The best time to visit would be the mornings to avoid crowd. If you are not the kind to sit with your parents sipping a mug of beer then this isn’t the place to go with family as it has a more resto bar vibe to it. Be ready to sit with strangers when its crowded, meet new people and share experiences.