The Cheesy Choice of Pune - Vohuman Cafe
On The Independence Day of India, in 1978, A parsee gentleman started a small hotel in a nondescript location near the compound of Jehangir Nursing Home. His name was Hormuz Irani. Never would he have thought that his less than modest eatery serving bun maska, omelettes, and other egg preparations,would turn into a posh and thriving restaurant.
Hormuz was born in Mumbai in Colaba area, in modest family to Sarosh Irani.
He was a young boy and loved his cricket, and went on to play up to club level. In Evergreen cricket club, he was an opening batsman, as Hormuz reminisced. But unable to clear his graduation barrier, he was forced to look for something to earn his bread. He exactly did that and started a small restaurant in Colaba serving bread butter, omelettes etc. This hotel was known as "New Light Of Asia".
However, it wasn't a great success and he was already married, so he moved to Dahanu on insistence of his father in law. There he sold fruits and coconuts. But was frustrated becoming a fruit vendor in small time town, so his father in law once again suggested him to move to Pune and start something. Pune was developing fast in those years. And that's how Vohuman Cafe was started.
It was 15th August 1978 when Vohuman Cafe started. Once again, the name was suggested by his father in law. 'Vohuman' means the good mind in farsi. Hormuz always credited his success appropriately to his father in law. Initially the business was very slow and he would get 4-5 customers in an hour. But he stuck on and served hot toasts slathered with liberal portion of butter. Right from single fry to Masala omelette, he offered different egg preparations. And of course the signature Irani chai.
Initially rickshaw drivers ,coming to Jehangir hospital, some students, and staff of Jehangir Nursing Home constituted his clientele. Being an all day joint, it prospered and became a hangout of the younger crowd. By 2000 he introduced Cheese Omelette, with chunks of cheese in it. It was an instant hit.
Hormuz sourced his soft luscious breads from Imperial Bakery, one of the oldest bakery of Pune (founded in about 1920). His bun maska, toast omelettes, made his modest hotel an all day breakfast / brunch joint. His egg bhurji was popular too. Of course the main taste was imparted by slabs of maska that he slathered and chunks of cheese that coated the mouth with gratifying sensation.
His restaurant wore a very austere look,and furniture was very old fashioned and strictly functional, with no frills. Neither did his menu change to include Udipi items ,nor did lunch items, and he persisted with the same items. His neighbouring restaurant Amba Bhuvan offering udipi dishes, was never a big competition.
Ultimately they got themselves a larger place in a modern building and shifted Vohuman Cafe to a new building opposite their old joint in November 2015. The old Hormuz died in 2016, of old age. He will always be remembered as the ever smiling face, engaged in animated chats with his customers. Occasionally he would advice an obese customer to restrain from visiting his hotel. With humour, tapping on pouting belly of customer with a jolly face he would say "bahut badh gaya hai!"
Sarosh Irani, the son and present proprietor, is a Chartered Accountant by education.
He says that he knew nothing about his father's business, and everything just works automatically as a well oiled machine.
This small write up is not written as food blog,centering around food ,aromas and taste of Vohuman. It only touches a spirit of typical jovial Bawaji who persevered and succeeded without making any alterations and compromising on his traditional Irani menu.
Disclaimer: Photos are not taken by me. Copyrights to the photos belong to the original photographers.