Chaakoo Bombay Café is the newest addition to Lothian Road’s thriving food and drink scene, which has become a popular foodie hotspot in recent years.
It offers an authentic fusion of flavours inspired by Mumbai and Iranian cuisine serving street food and small plates. The popular restaurant first opened in Glasgow in 2016 and after a successful three years, its second premises in 2019 in Glasgow’s west end.
The Edinburgh restaurant is similar to its Glasgow counterpart in that it is located only a stone’s throw away from sister restaurant Topolabamba. The interior pays homage to the original bustling Irani cafes, set up by Iranian and Persian immigrants who came to India in the 19th century. These cafes were popular for Irani chai tea and a melting pot menu of classic Iranian grill dishes and classic Bombay (now Mumbai) dishes alike.
The Edinburgh restaurant’s exterior has large open windows, simple net curtains and is painted in Chaakoo’s exterior trademark – green and gold. It is when you enter that you are taken back in time to the atmosphere of a classic Iranian Café. Delightful dark wooden booths with smart brown leather seating are coupled with marble topped, brass trimmed tables creating a relaxed, but luxury feel. These tables hark back to the classic format of the Irani Cafes with a subtle colonial touch. Even the brown leather drinks menus that are trimmed in gold, match the interior, and bring everything together.
There are also window tables with a mix of Rattan and Bentwood bistro chairs which are a lovely location to sit at and watch the world go by.
The restaurant is vast with 2 long corridors of tables. There is also a raised level towards the back, which would provide a great location for more private dining. Perhaps this is a nod to the sections in the old Irani Mumbai cafes reserved for ‘upper-class’ patrons.
There is certainly plenty to look at, from the beautiful framed photographs of classic Bombay cafes and the people who frequented them, to the etched glass signage that separates the booths. The restaurant is also decorated with an abundance of framed blackboards that are a tongue-in-cheek take on some of the original features of the Mumbai cafes. These list the numerous rules that would have been laid out in the old cafes such as ‘No Gamblings’, ‘No Smoking or Spittings’ and ‘No Overnight Sleeping’. You can’t help but chuckle at some of the additions of ‘No Asking Recipe’ and ‘No Flirting with Customs’ where clearly Bombay tradition meets Scottish humour. Some of these signs are also written in Hindi giving it a real link to the culture from where it draws its inspiration.
A key feature of the Irani cafes was to have mirrors on the walls to make the space seem bigger and to create light. Chaakoo’s design is no exception and has mirrors lining the walls that are broken up by bright mosaic tiling and pale bare brick work. The ceiling has a more modern feel of east meets west, with metal beams that hold long gold pendant lights and overhead wicker fans that blend well with the 1950’s style.
The bar also has a luxurious white marble top and is surrounded by dark wood with a metal gantry. A beautiful brass tap provides a selection of beers including Raj Mahal, Chaakoo’s own brand lager, brewed by Belhaven. Other drinks highlights include a Bombay Café inspired Cocktail Menu, Ice Tea, Lassi and of course their famous Chai Tea. Even a visit to the toilets is a treat, as the corridor is lined with large, colourful Indian movie posters which have been pasted directly to the brickwork – something which was again a feature of the original Cafes.
The décor pays homage to the Irani Café’s roots but is as bold and creative as the food. A visit to Chaakoo is indeed both a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.