Some of the most popular, local-favourite establishments across the country have inspiring women at the helm of operations. This International Women’s Day, we’ve curated a list of a few must-visit women-owned cafes in India. Head on over for a quick bite and a glimpse of the future of the culinary world. By Eshita Srinivas
Throughout history, women have been driven into kitchens and handed chopping boards and spatulas by gender norms across the globe. Despite that, women-led ventures in the culinary industry have had to fight for visibility. In India, statistics report that over 80 percent of the country’s chefs are male, while only 10 percent of women make it to executive chef positions.
In the face of all odds being neatly stacked up against them, women home cooks and professional chefs alike have created a space for themselves in the industry. Many have been running their cafes, serving up delicious artisanal baked delicacies and indulgent beverages. Some have poured their passion and expertise into championing causes like sustainability and animal rights through their gastronomical endeavours. In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we’ve curated a list of a few women-owned cafes in India that you can visit to further the revolution that’s coursing through the culinary world, one ingredient at a time.
These women-owned cafes in India are a must-visit
A health-food cafe that doesn’t rely on salads to do its bidding, Farmers’ Cafe offers delicious organic brown rice bowls, smoothies infused with Indian superfoods, and pizzas that are deceptively good for you. Minali Gaba, the woman in charge, began experimenting with food in a bid to enjoy food while still trying to lose weight in her teens when she weighed over 80 kilograms. By the time she was a qualified fashion designer, she’d reached her goal weight and had begun making granola bars at home through her venture Nuttyway. Her creations were based on a one-day baking class at Whole Foods in Miami and her experiments in the kitchen. Today, diners rave about skinny pizza and breakfast puddings.
Address: Shop 2, Rita Apartments, 16th Road, Nr. Mini Punjab Hotel, Bandra West, Mumbai
Contact: +91 75060 15930
Image: Farmer’s Cafe
A cosy, charming cafe known for its scrumptious salted caramel and dark chocolate macarons, eclairs, brownies, and red velvet choux pastry, Le 15 Patisserie was founded by Pooja Dhingra. The celebrated chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu Paris and hosts the popular podcast #NoSugarCoat, which addresses entrepreneurial struggles. She’s also published three books and has won the Gourmand Best Cookbook Award. Besides, she’s also been featured on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list in India and Asia. Her cafe has the characteristic French bakery vibe and has won several patisserie awards. Needless to say, if you’re in the city, this one’s worth checking out.
Address: Unit No. 16 & 17, The Parel Cotton Press Factory P Ltd, 9/D, Elphinstone Bridge Road, Mumbai
Contact: +91 98215 94464
Image: Le 15 Pâtisserie, Mumbai
Perhaps one of the most recognisable pastry brands across India, Theobroma was founded by Kainaz Messman Harchandrai and her sister Tina. Trained at the Institute of Hotel Management, Mumbai, the former was working as a pastry chef at the Oberoi Udaivilas when a freak accident forced her to stay bedridden. To keep her passion for the culinary arts alive, she borrowed a crore from her father in 2004 and launched Theobroma with her sister Tina Messman Wykes. Today, the brand has over 78 outlets across the country, with some of the more popular menu features being the millionaire brownies, overload brownies, chip butty, devil’s mousse, and opium pastry.
Address: 24, Cusrow Baug, Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Colaba Causeway, Colaba, Mumbai
Contact: +91 81828 81881
A chic, one-of-a-kind dessert bar and bistro in Pali Hill, Moner serves up stunning desserts that are almost too beautiful to eat. At the helm of affairs is chef Freny Fernandes who’s worked at multiple Michelin-star restaurants and created scrumptious sweet treats at Tiffany’s Blue Box Cafe for events like Priyanka Chopra’s bridal shower. Fernandes’ love for all things dessert led to the birth of Moner and the chef hopes to offer the city of Bombay a culinary experience like never before. By day, the space serves up savoury delicacies including pasta, soups, and sandwiches and by night dishes out plated desserts, some of the more popular ones being the tiramisu, caramel apple, and Jardin du Rose. The plus velvet seating and teal and pink hues of the cafe make it just as Instagrammable as the desserts themselves.
Address: Shop 4, Darvesh Royale, Perry Road, Near Hill Road, Bandra West, Mumbai
Contact: +91 77700 14123
Celebrity chef Ritu Dalmia doesn’t have formal training, her creations being the product of years of experimentation and experiences in Italy. Crediting Tarla Dalal’s recipes for her early adventures with food, she’s relied on instinct and her palate through the years. She opened her first restaurant in 1993, which didn’t take off and eventually had to shut down. Years later, she hosted cooking shows, wrote numerous books, and owned several restaurants and cafes in Italy and India. Her latest venture Motodo Pizzeria pays homage to classic Italian ingredients – mozzarella, tomato, and dough. Glass walls give diners an insight into the chef’s process, and popular features on the menu include roasted cauliflower, eggplant parmigiana, and beetroot salad.
Address: Level 2, Jio World Drive, Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai
Contact: +91 85918 02205
Image: Motodo Pizzeria
An airy, contemporary space that also happens to be Delhi’s first Bihari cafe, Potbelly in South Delhi brings authentic flavours to the table. Puja Sahu and Vivita Relan began the cafe on a whim, eager to do something different after designing garments for over 11 years. With family recipes up their sleeve and an inkling to champion underrated, traditional Bihari cuisine, they launched the cafe. Today, the space is a hot spot for people looking for an authentic experience, and popular features on the menu include the baggia basket, litti with mutton, keema aloo chop, and khada masala chicken.
Address: Bihar Niwas, 15, Tikendrajit Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, Delhi
Contact : 011 2611 2764
Image: The Potbelly
Gold-hued decor laces the decor of this Parisian cafe in Kolkata. Sneha Sanghi, the founder, holds a diploma from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris and absorbed much of the finer aspects of the region’s food culture during her time there. Her cafe serves classic delicacies like mini macarons, crepes, souffles, and cupcakes. The young chef is keen on expanding the palates of Indians further with quirky, experimental flavours in her pastry, like curry and is consistently working towards creating sweet treats that diners will write home about.
Address: 1, 1 A, Ashutosh Chowdhury Ave, Ballygunge Park, Ballygunge, Kolkata, West Bengal
Contact: +91 93309 37653
Image: Paris Cafe
A cheery spot with quirky decor that marries antique pieces with modern motifs, Mrs Magpie is the brainchild of Le Cordon Bleu, London alumnus Sohini Basu Behren. Most recommended here are the cupcakes, Basu’s speciality. They come in a host of flavours, from chocolate to more fruity numbers like strawberry and banana. Also popular are the scones, petit four, celebration cakes, and sandwiches. What began as a celebration cake venture turned into a full-blown cafe, pushing Basu to expand her savoury repertoire. Today, the spot is frequented by tourists and locals alike, many spending hours in the happy space clicking Insta-worthy pictures and digging into several sweet treats.
Address: 570, Lake Terrace Rd, near Vivekananda park, Golpark, Extension, Keyatala, Kolkata, Phone: +91 86977 31491
Image: Mrs Magpie
Millennial-friendly, chic space with small bites, strong espresso, and quirky patio seating, Sienna Store and Cafe began as a pottery store and eventually evolved into a cafe. A mother-daughter venture, Shanta Ghosh first launched Sienna, and her daughter Sulagna Ghosh scaled it to a profitable venture. On the menu are a host of salads, soups, sandwiches, and other delicious bites served in picture-perfect ceramic bowls and plates. Championing sustainability, the duo collaborates with different artisans from the country. One such venture was with The Burlap People, who make eco-friendly jute bags. The two held sustainability pop-ups across India, Srilanka and the US. Baking on Kolkata’s evolving food habits, the cafe continues to be a cosy space for homemade fare made with love.
Address: 49, 1, Golpark, Hindustan Park, Gariahat, Kolkata, West Bengal
Phone: +91 33406 58123
Image: Sienna Store and Cafe
The founder and CEO of this venture, Alina Alam, is a social entrepreneur and was a part of Forbes’ 30 under 30 list. She provides experiential training to people with disabilities, offering them a space to showcase their skills. With over 13 cafes under her sleeve, she has employed 116 adults with physical and psychiatric disabilities over the years, handing the reins of the day-to-day affairs over to them. The inclusive cafe offers gluten-free, vegan options, the most popular menu features being the momo platter, sizzler brownies, and nachos.
Address: 716/2, K.R. Road, 22nd Cross Road, Stage 2, Banashankari, Bangalore
Contact: +91 80414 62929
Image: Mitti Cafe
Health and wellness coach Sarah Nicole Edwards began cooking when she moved to India from London to work with NGOs in the education sector. Encouraged by the positive response of her loved ones, she launched a food blog, chronicling her tryst with organic, farm-to-table, plant-based creations. Soon, she found herself hosting cooking workshops and engaging in menu consultancy for popular brands like Blue Tokai and Champaca. Now, she runs her own cafe, serving up smoothie bowls, sourdough tartines, and hearty bowls that are as delicious as they are aesthetically pleasing.
Address: 12th Main, 7th Cross Rd, HAL 2nd Stage, Indiranagar, Bengaluru, Karnataka
Contact: +91 87921 94528
Image: Copper and Cloves
Feature and hero image: Copper and Cloves