Boman Kohinoor: William and Kate's biggest Indian fan dies aged 97

By Ayeshea Perera
BBC News, Delhi

  • Published
Indian restaurateur Boman Kohinoor, 93, an ardent fan of the British royal family, poses with photos of Queen Elizabeth, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge outside the Britannia & Co. restaurant in Mumbai on April 8, 2016,Image source, AFP
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The 97-year-old called himself "India's biggest fan of the Royal Family"

Boman Rashid Kohinoor was very much an icon of India's bustling financial capital, Mumbai.

The 97-year-old who called himself "India's biggest fan of the Royal Family" died on Wednesday night after a brief illness.

His Iranian restaurant, Britannia, was famous for its berry pulao (a rice dish with cashews and raisins) and caramel custard.

But Kohinoor was arguably even more famous than the dishes he served.

Most recently, he gained internet fame after he met the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, during their official visit to India in 2016.

A video of him holding up a board asking the duchess to meet him had gone viral in the days leading up to the visit.

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Kohinoor had always been much-loved for his eccentricities and the personal touch he offered customers who would flock to his restaurant in the commercial Ballard Estate area during lunch hours - Britannia was not open for dinner.

Like many other residents of Mumbai, I visited the restaurant on a number of occasions when I lived there, patiently standing outside until a table inside was freed up and going inside to be warmly greeted by Kohinoor.

Image source, Getty Images
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He would often tell customers what to order

He would often join customers at their tables and eagerly ask for feedback on the food or tell them what to order. He was fond of narrating that the berry pulao was still cooked according to his late wife's original recipe. He would also never fail to point to a large framed picture of Queen Elizabeth and talk about how much he loved the Royal Family.

"He used to have a huge rooster that used to flap around the restaurant. I don't remember its name but I think it had a minor role in a film," Sidarth Bhatia, co-founder of The Wire news website and Mumbai chronicler, told the BBC.

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Inside India's 'dying' Irani cafes

Mr Bhatia, who used to visit the restaurant since the 1980s, also described Kohinoor as a "canny businessman".

"I think the hipster crowd discovered the place a few years ago - they all loved the chatter of this eccentric old man. His charm attracted people in droves in a city where restaurants are known for being a little impersonal," he said.

Many past and present patrons of Britannia also paid tribute on social media, and some shared memories of their favourite encounters with Kohinoor.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

"If you noticed, they had not bothered to even upgrade the decor. If you went slightly inside, you would see the place was filthy, but it was what I called an 'Instagrammable restaurant' - the food, the ambience and the man were all major attractions," Mr Bhatia said.

"Mumbai will miss him".