A Bite of Delhi’s History (literally)!

When one starts to talk about Delhi’s history and culture, one unfailingly lingers onto the city’s food. Here is a little peek into some of the food havens which are not just harboured by the city but have for decades now shaped the modern day food culture that characterizes Delhi.

Wengers

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Delhi’s icon of sorts, this bakery has seen much. By much, we mean the entire Connaught Place complex as it stands today being built brick by brick! Started in 1926, Wengers had already established itself as a hub for the city’s socialites by the time Connaught Place was completed in 1933. The Wengers you see and go to now for those fresh cream buns, the “melt-in-your-mouth” shammi kabab and the numerous cakes, tarts, patties and pastries is not quite the same as the pre-1945 two-floored bakery that it was, owned by a Swiss couple named Wenger. The bakery’s lobby was adorned by columns, the ceilings were once 20 feet high and on the first floor there used to be a large ballroom, a Swiss café and a restaurant. Spacious verandahs complemented the restaurant’s neo-Georgian architecture. In 1945, the bakery was sold to B.M. Tandon and the family still owns the restaurant, although it has lost much of its grandeur with Delhi’s dining options having expanded. Nevertheless, Wengers still retains its handsome old-world charm as well as its ability to dish out lovely delights that continue to pull crowds all day, every day.

Closest Metro: Rajiv Chowk

Meal for 2: ₹400

Karim’s

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Very few restaurants in Delhi can claim to be more than 100 years old and still be running as successfully as Karim’s. Their secret- they serve food fit for emperors! Owned by a family of cooks who used to cook food for the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, this claim isn’t hard to believe. Established in 1913 by Haji Karimuddin, the restaurant is now managed by his great grandson Zaeemuddin with the art of cooking and recipes being handed down from one generation to only the sons of the next generation. “Daughters may reveal the secret to outsiders after getting married”, explains Zaeemuddin. Karim’s has 13 outlets across the city today with a bunch of ‘phony’ restaurants that use the brand name without any permission or agreement with this famous Old Delhi restaurant. Having grown up with the city, Karim’s is one of the first few restaurants that have shaped Delhi’s “eating-out” culture. They introduced Delhi to nihari and paaya which are still one of the best you’ll get. The burra kebab however, is unparalleled. They also serve decent biryani but their speciality still lies in their gosht (mutton) with the right cut of meat, the right amount of tenderness and the right mix of spices that was devised to please the emperors of Delhi.

Closest Metro: Chandni Chowk/ Chawri Bazaar

Meal for 2: ₹800

 United Coffee House

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Built in 1942, this place has been painstakingly maintained for over three generations with the most recent facelift coming in 2013 when handsome replicas of the chandeliers of the old were ordered from Belgium and ceilings and walls given licks of gold paint to restore the restaurants’ heritage charm. Known best for its Continental cuisine that was brought here decades ago by cooks from the clubs of Calcutta, they serve North Indian, Chinese, Thai and Indian teatime snacks such as Chicken cutlets, cheese balls and mushrooms on toast (although the timings for serving snacks and meals differ). The Chicken a la Kiev stands out as do the Mushroom Stroganoff and Sole Meuniere. The restaurant has enough variety to satiate vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike and ensures that you leave here with great dining experience without denting your pocket too much.

Closest Metro: Rajiv Chowk

Meal for 2: ₹2200

 Moti Mahal

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Maulana Azad had once said “..coming to Delhi without eating at Moti Mahal would be like visiting Agra without seeing Taj Mahal” and he couldn’t have put it forth any better!

After all, Moti Mahal introduced Delhi to the tandoori cuisine as we know it today. They are the pioneers of butter chicken and tandoori chicken.

*a moment to ponder upon what Delhi would be today without those*

As old as independent India, Moti Mahal was established in 1947 and even today, as you walk past the dandified durbaan at the arched gateway, time seems to have come to a standstill here. Located in possibly one of the most congested and arguably the most ancient parts of the capital- Daryaganj this restaurant boasts of some of the most renowned visitors from across the country and abroad. It has seen patronage from none lesser than Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, John F Kennedy, Maulana Azad, Shah of Iran and Richard Nixon to name a few. In its more recent times, Moti Mahal was visited by none other than renowned master chef Gordon Ramsay, who even went behind the counter in the kitchen of this ancient restaurant.

Contrary to popular belief, the original restaurant has nothing to do with some of the namesakes that operate across the city today. The restaurant was bought by Vinod Chaddha from its original owner Kundan Lal Gujral in 1991 whereas the vast chains that have sprung up now belong to Kundan Lal’s grandson, Monish Gujral.

Closest Metro: Chandni Chowk

Meal for 2: ₹1100

 Embassy

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Another Connaught Place restaurant that has mastered the Continental cuisine for decades now, Embassy is one of Delhi’s oldest fine-dining restaurants. Although it was never in the coveted category as Wengers (of the older times) or Mumbai’s Gaylord Restaurant, Embassy has over years been home to a loyal set of customers who retain fond memories of Continental fare of the place.

While the menu contains several winners such as the lamb Roast, the Stroganoff, Chicken a la Kiev and a selection of well-done salads, what sets Embassy apart is their service. The servers greet you like old friends and are more than happy to help you pick out the right dishes for you according to your taste.

Closest Metro: Rajiv Chowk

Meal for 2: ₹1500

 Giani Di Hatti

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This popular rabri-falooda shop in Old Delhi’s Fatehpuri area was opened in 1950 by a refugee from Lyallpur (now in Pakistan), Giani Gur Charan Singh. The establishment has branched out in various parts of the city as Gianis Gourmet Ice Creams. The joint which was popular for its falooda, shakes and moong dal halwa, now offers 38 flavours of ice-cream, varieties of fruit shakes and ice cream sodas. Some of the exotic flavours like bubblegum, zaffrani kulfi and chikoo are unique to this brand.

Closest Metro: Chandni Chowk

Meal for 2: ₹150

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