Being one of the oldest Parsi restaurants in India, Dorabjee & Sons not only gave Indians a place to eat at and socialise during the British Raj, but also introduced them to Parsi food.
Established as a full-fledged restaurant in the year 1878, Dorabjee & Sons was initially a tea stall that sold bun maska and Irani chai. The restaurant was started by Sorabjee Dorabjee, who, on the demand of the locals, started selling full meals. Today, the place is owned by Darius Marazban Dorabjee, Sorabjee Dorabjee’s great grandson.
Back in 1878, the Pune Cantonment area had only one restaurant by the name of El Moretos, which prohibited Indians from entering. Being one of the oldest Parsi restaurants in India, Dorabjee & Sons not only gave Indians a place to eat at and socialise during the British Raj, but also introduced them to Parsi food. As the business became successful, British officers began to visit the restaurant as well, because the spice levels in the food were low and this suited their tastes. The Dorabjee family built a home across the street, where the women prepared masalas. The men ran the restaurant kitchen, where only meat-based dishes were cooked.
At the entrance to the restaurant, old menus from the 20th century—which show prices in annas—are still displayed. The recipes and cooking style used for dishes has been preserved over the years. Dorabjee & Sons does not use gas and instead, dishes are cooked over chulhas. Suppliers of meat have also remained the same for generations.
Punekars love the mutton dhansak, biryani, keema pav, bheja, cutlets and lagan nu custard. Weekend mornings allow customers to order chicken and mutton patties. Raspberry soda, the drink served at nearly every Parsi wedding, can also be found on the menu here.
Dorabjee & Sons has attained the status of an iconic, heritage eatery. Originally, the walls of the restaurant were made with mud but tiles were added over the years to make them more sturdy. Initially, there was hardly any furniture and patrons sat on the floor to eat. With time, foldable metal chairs and wooden tables were added. The restaurant is actually made up of three houses with three entrances.
Most of the staff at Dorabjee & Sons has been with the establishment for over 50 years. The oldest among these is a 79-year-old woman, who has been working since the time of Darius Dorabjee’s grandfather. Dorabjee doesn’t expect any of his staff to work for more than five hours a day, and also contributes to helping resolve their financial troubles, like children’s education and house loans.
Those who are regulars at the restaurant have established a rapport with the Dorabjee family. Most people visit because the taste of the dishes has remained consistent. The restaurant’s clientele includes industrialists and celebrities. Dorabjee & Sons has only one outlet and does not deliver. The brand does, however, operate as a catering business that specialises in Parsi thalis served in banana leaves, which can be found at Parsi weddings and parties.
Deemed Pune’s oldest restaurant, Dorabjee & Sons is also one of the few restaurants in India that’s over a century old. From a tea stall to Pune’s favourite place for Parsi food, it has endured a long but successful journey.