WHERE THE EATS HAVE NO FAME
A wise man once said: you don’t need a silver fork to eat good food. Welcome to the small but golden restaurants of India’s big cities
In a world consumed by Michelin stars, 88 best restaurants in the world and a flood of food awards, I am happy to play the Pied Piper to the little known, the rarely-spoken-about and the never noticed places.
Just the other day, I was sent a mail asking me if I would like to interview a two-michelin star chef. I panicked. I wrote back to the editor saying that I was ill-equipped to undertake such a marvellous mission. I cannot even pronounce words such as degustation, en-papillote and soubise.
My favourite pet is an underdog. So, here is a list of the places that float my gloat. These are my go-to places in the cities I go to.
WORLD’S BEST BIRYANI IN BENGALURU
While Manu Chandra has masterfully changed the ‘platescape’ of Bengaluru, I confess I have not had the good fortune to eat at Toast & Tonic, though his Monsoon Bone Broth and Flash Aged Steak have been showing me their cleavage for a while and very soon, I hope to be there. But in Bengaluru, the one meal that I absolutely must have is at Eden Park. Their mutton biryani is fiercely fabulous. I would rate it as the best biryani I have ever had. Equally staggering is their chilly chicken (Andhra Style). I time my flight to Bengaluru to ensure that I am in time for lunch. Bowing to social pressure, there is an air-conditioned area. But I would never sit there. It is the unfashionable, non-airconditioned area where the meal must be had.
SARDAR’S, CRYSTAL AND GUJJU FOOD IN MUMBAI
There hasn’t been a single trip to Mumbai where I haven’t had pav bhaji from Sardar’s. It is simply superlative. I like it very spicy and with loads and loads of butter. A statin after that takes care of stupid things such as cholesterol.
The other nugget in Mumbai is Crystal on Chowpatty. I love their dal fry and alu gobi. Perfectly paired with chapattis and butter as the topping.
The Trident at Bandra Kurla attracts loads of Gujaratis from the diamond bourse nearby. So the infinitely wise David Mathews decided to hire a Maharaj for their coffee shop. He whips up a mean dal and saag. It remains amongst my most memorable meals to date. At the other end, and unknown to most, is the legendary egg curry by chef Satbir at The Oberoi. The trick that he employs is simple: the eggs are soft boiled. As you penetrate the egg with a roti, the yolk breaks free and mixes with the curry to provide a texture and taste that is simply lovely. STREET FOOD ALERT The alu gobi at Crystal on Chowpatty is delish
PLASTIC CHAIRS, BAD SERVICE AND A FABULOUS THALI IN KATHGODAM
I go up to the hills of Uttarakhand every year. And frankly, I am quite done with the Udupiwala
There’s an AC area at Eden Park in Bengaluru, which serves the best biryani. But, it is the non-AC part where the meal must be had
restaurant at Kathgodam. For the longest time, I have suffered their obese idlis and staid sambar.
TREAT FROM THE HILLS The alu matar at bhojanalaya, On a trip last month, I decided to quiz a bunch of train conductors on an alternative to the agony that Udupiwala has become. The answer from all of them was the same – bhojanalaya at Kathgodam station. The place has plastic chairs and plastic tablecloths. The service is godawful. And because the food is freshly prepared, waiting 30 minutes for a meal is quite the norm. But when the vegetarian thali arrives, all is forgiven. The chapattis are hot with a river of ghee flowing on them. Their alu- matar is staggering. As are the vegetables, the dal and the papad – fresh as a flower. It is more than a meal. It is an abiding memory.
TASTY TWIST Kachori-alu at Tea Junction in Kolkata
A NU VARIETY BREAKFAST, SHIRAZ CHAAPS IN KOLKATA
The concierges at all the hotels I stay in know the drill. Breakfast for me has to be from Nu Variety. They make the finest hing