It’s an iconic establishment that needs no introduction. Originally started in The Claridges hotel in New Delhi, Dhaba has been consistently dishing out the very best of north Indian highway cuisine for three decades now.
Replicating the exact high standards in another city far from the mother ship is no mean feat but Dhaba by Claridges Hyderabad has met up to the challenge.
A bit over a month since its opening in Kondapur, Hyderabad is already feeling some dildaar punjabi love. Right from the moment you step into the funky restaurant with its kitschy décor, you’ll invariably break into a smile – how can you not with its jhoola seats for a swinging good time, or a loud sign that proclaims ‘We are Punjabi, Aapa Calm Coom ni Hunde’ or a mural of our favourite Bollywood baddies looking down at voluntary jailbirds in the barred up private dining section.
There’s a nostalgic earthiness to the place with vinyl table tops painted with beautiful sights usually seen at the back of trucks, barni (pickle) jars, distressed brown tiles that are reminiscent of the hardened red earth of traditional dhabas floors, and quirky travel signs to keep you entertained while eating out of steel plates and tumblers and copper serve-ware just like you would at a roadside dhaba. And there are the waiters with their colourful Patiala kurtas and metallic armbands with their names of it, chaneling Amitabh Bachchan’s swagger from Coolie. If you’re at the right place at the right time you might even see them break into song and balle balle.
While you’re taking in the sights and sounds of this welcome sensory overload, the real magic happens in the kitchen. So you could choose to get on your plate a whole smorgasbord ranging from Bhuna Aloo, Sheekth Kebabs, Tawa Fish, Highway Chicken Tikka, Veg Galauti and more.
The ultimate piece de resistance for me was the Dhaba Tandoori Raan – the leg of lamb cooked till the meat separates from the bone with succulent tenderness.
Other signature dishes include Dhaba’s Balti Meat, Chitta Butter Chicken (as in gora chitta, fair and lovely chicken marinated with hung curd and spices), Dhaba Dhal and hot off the tandoor parathas and rotis.
Desserts are full on desi ghee and malai marke specialities like gulab jamuns, kesar kulfi and phirni to name a few.
This is definitely comfort food sans the long haul drive onto a highway pit stop as was evident from the rush during lunch hour the day I visited. As a fellow diner commented, dhaba food isn’t made by formula cooks, but rather those who ‘ekdum dil se pakathe hain’. True that, like they say, the proof is in the eating.
Horn Ok Please.
Dhaba by Claridges, 13, Ground Floor, Western Pearl Building, Kondapur, Hyderabad
Ph: 040 33165285