The Bombay Bakery has been treating our taste buds long before the creation of Pakistan, and its history can be found on the inside flap of cake boxes.
When we think of the word ‘celebration’, it is impossible to not imagine a cake. Whether it is a birthday, anniversary, wedding or any other festival, cakes are always there to satisfy our cultural love of sweet treats, and our desire to celebrate festivities with each other. Countless bakeries, both mainstream and local, can be found in cities. But none match the reputation of the historic Bombay Bakery in Hyderabad, Sindh, perhaps the oldest bakery in the entire country. “I can hardly ignore these fully-filled buttery cakes during my visits to Pakistan. It takes me to heaven when it floats into my mouth”, said Haider, who came all the way from Germany to eat these cakes. He added, “I have been requested by my friends to bring these cakes back.”
The Bombay Bakery has been treating our taste buds long before the creation of Pakistan, and its history can be found on the inside flap of cake boxes. The name was said to be inspired by the glittering metropolis of Bombay, India and everything it represented at the time. Owned by the Thadani family, the Bombay Bakery was built in 1911 by Mr. Pahlajrai Gangaram Thadani, as a modest bakery in the Saddar area of Hyderabad.
The present structure was arranged and planned by Mr. Thadani himself, and he chose the slogan, “Bakery in a Bungalow”. He moved into the premises with his three children, Shamdas, Kishinchand, and Gopichand. When the elder Thadani died in 1948, his children kept running the cake shop. By then, the bakery gained a reputation for using hygienic and good-quality ingredients in their products. Kishinchand Thadani expanded the business, and recorded many of the recipes of the different cakes made there.
After Kishinchand’s death in 1960, his son Kumar continued Kishinchand’s work. Kumar Thadani is remembered not only as a capable owner, but also a philanthropist in the local community. When he passed away in June 2010, many came to grieve. Currently, The Bombay Bakery belongs to his adopted son Salman Shaikh, who converted to Islam, and is the fourth generation of the Thadani family to own the bakery.
While talking about the Thadani family, Aziz the Manager at the Bombay Bakery disclosed that Shaikh resides within the premises of the bakery, evident by a sign board placed at the right corner inside the main gate. However, the elusive owner refuses to give public interviews.
What’s interesting about Bombay Bakery is that it denies all your expectations of a bakery. Bakeries are always considered to be fancy, with shelves of cakes neatly presented, urging customers to buy a cake. But Bombay Bakery’s unmatchable reputation is evident in the famously long queues, which stretch from the counter inside the cake shop, to the main cantonment street. Every time the line gradually moves forward, people can see a person coming back from the shop with a cake in his hands and a smile on his face. “I still remember that I used to come here with my father, and always wondered why we chose these “not so decorated cakes” for our festivals. Now, I come here with my 7-year-old, and I am happy that I relive my childhood every week,” Mohammad Ilyas, a 35-year-old, bank manager, who expressed his love for the bakery.
It is not easy to wait under the scorching heat of the sun, but the end result is worth the effort. At 4:00 pm, an employee named Saad yells out from a small window, asking the last 10 people in the line to come during the second slot, as the bakery is out of stock. “This wait annoys me, but I will definitely come in next slot to fulfill my daughter’s wish, as she always requests for a coffee cake on her birthday,” said a man second last in the queue.
Upon entering, the vintage black gate transports the customer into a world stuck in the early 1990s. The red bricked walls and the white arch shaped windows, take you back to a time even before the 90s, perhaps all the way to Partition. Everything in the bakery seems antique, except the plants.
The double-sided door opens the shop, and one is immediately hit by an aroma of the world-renowned cakes. This small room preserves post-colonial style with wall fans, timber glass shelves in which the baked items are beautifully settled. Along with cakes, they have biscuits, plain cakes, pastries and cupcakes.
No one can resist their cakes, but there is a strict rule which prohibits people from taking more than two cakes. Even regular, generations-old customers are not allowed to break this rule. It is not uncommon for people to come from faraway places and leave empty handed. “People can find our cakes in different shops at higher prices, sold by unauthorized owners who charge higher prices than us,” says Aziz, while talking about the reason for the restricted quantity of cakes.
The bakery is open every day except Friday, from 9:00am to 9:00pm, with three slots for purchasing in between. The four most popular flavors are macaroon filled with almond and fresh honey, coffee cake soft and sweet, center-filled chocolate cake for chocolate lovers and cream-layered cake topped with a little flower. The prices range from Rs.330 to Rs.4200.
The bakery uses original recipes, which are over a century old. And the numerous loyal customers can confirm this fact from their memories. These cakes are regarded as a keepsake and a special gift from Hyderabad. People come from other cities to buy these astounding cakes, for celebrations, sugar cravings or to relive their past experiences. To customers, Bombay Bakery’s timeless cakes are the epitome of perfection, and its history is something to be honored and respected. The bakery celebrated their 100-year anniversary in November 2011, and we hope that it will continue to maintain its quality, standard and popularity for a long
Courtesy: Youlin Magazine (Published on April 13, 2020)