Kurush Dalal tells us about one of Bombay's last standing cold drink houses.

enthuWriter Kurush Dalal tells us about an octogenarian establishment. This is “the last of the old cold drink houses of Bombay”, but also a place that’s hardly known for mass-market bottled fizzy drinks…

Image Credit: Mehar

Bombay used to have a fascinating series of refreshment spots known as cold drink houses. They served China grass, sharbat, falooda, milkshakes, chhaas, and bottled cold drinks…One of them was Jai Hind at Nana Chowk, but that’s no longer around, so that’s not what we’re talking about today.

Meher Cold Drink House, on Gunbow Street in Fort’s Bora Bazaar, is the laaaaast of the standing cold drink houses. In its heyday, it was one of the first places to have glass freezers, and they were filled with all manner of lurid chilled treats. It occupies a rounded corner plot, like many of the old Parsi eateries. It was owned and run by an elderly Parsi gentleman who had a long beard that went down to his navel, a cheerful, smiling, cherubic fellow who was always pleased to see you – not like the other surly Parsi bakery owners. His son, who is a pilot, runs it now.

There is a gallawala in the front and narrow tables and benches around the periphery of the room. Just above head level, the walls were once lined with bottles of Rogers, Sosyo, and Dukes. Now it’s mostly all Thums Up. But these cold drinks are merely incidental. What Mehar is (still) incredibly famous for is its amazing chhaas and lassi, and its sweet dahi which is set and served in cutting glasses.

Image Credit: Mehar

Nobody makes their lassi – set overnight with a small layer of malai foam on top – like Meher does. This is not like the Punjabi lassi which is a meal in itself. It’s thin, light, not too sweet, and very refreshing.

The chhaas comes by the glass or the bottle (which turns out to be slightly more economical per glass), and every table has salt and pepper shakers which contain not S&P but Meher’s proprietary chhaas masala. All these are made on the premises, the dahi is made at the end of the day and left to set overnight, so when an item is over, it’s over.

Before Bombay had cafes, it had cold drink houses. Meher is a major slice of the city’s history.

Mehar Cold Drink House: 7E, Rustom Sidhwa Marg, Bora Bazar Precinct, Ballard Estate, Fort, Mumbai, 400001. Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm.