Loud clamors of people tweet greet you. All tables are fully occupied. Sitting with his family, a man enjoys the Biryani mutton with Raita placed on his plate. As a paired scroll debates what to have, a waiter in a white uniform eagerly stands to note the order. “Chicken Biryani and Mutton Nihari,” they finally cry out loud together.
It’s the scene of a Wednesday afternoon when you enter the Grand Hôtel d’Abids. The crowds inside the hotel may make you doubt whether it is a weekday afternoon. Located near the general post office at Abids Circle, this 86-year-old hotel, also Hyderabad’s oldest Iranian cafe, is a popular stopover for people hungry for the traditional flavor of Hyderabad.
In 1935, a group of 12 Iranians who immigrated to India founded the Grand Hotel. Interestingly, they were the first inhabitants of the city to commercially sell Hyderabadi Biryani. “Biriyani used to be about elite marriages, Nawab palaces, but we brought the food from the palaces to the people,” says Jaleel Farrokh Rooz, owner of the Grand Hotel.
Jaleel’s maternal grandfather, who was employed when the Iranians ran the hotel, later became a shareholder in the hotel. Ultimately, it was his father who bought the last remaining shares and took over as owner of the hotel. For 22 years, Jaleel has managed the affairs of the hotel.
Yum … Authentic Hyderabadi Biryani
“Ours is the closest to the traditional Hyderabadi biryani,” says Jaleel, who likes to be identified as a Hyderabadi but an Iranian in origin.
Compared to its predominantly red and cold version served at many other hotels in town, the Biriyani at the Grand Hotel may seem bland to some because it doesn’t make it very spicy. “Biriyani is not meant to be a very spicy dish. Rather, it’s the flavor of the spices that counts, ”explains Jaleel, who has run the hotel for 22 years.
Jaleel also explains how people’s tastes also influence the flavor of the different Biryanis you get in different joints in different parts of the city. To satisfy the tastes of the younger generations, Biriyani is now sold very hot and spicy in many hotels. But at Grand, they still retain the original Hyderabadi flavor.
Hello, would you like to try Chai and Bun Maska?
Besides Biriyani, another specialty of the Grand Hotel is the Hyderabadi breakfast they give in the morning. At 4 am you walk into the Grand Hotel, you get an Irani Chai and a Bun Maska (made by adding butter on a bun). Morning snacks also include the typical Hyderabadi Dilkush and Dilpasand. Hardly any other restaurant in town can you find these items today.
“Iranian chai is supposed to be a very strong drink. Nowadays, condensed milk is added to it in many stores in town. When in other cafes, the flavor of the tea will be in the last sip, in my cellar. , it’s very strong that towards the end you get a bitter taste, ”Jaleel says proudly.
Breakfast which starts at 7 a.m. includes Khichdi, Kheema, Roti, Khatta, etc.
On weekends, the Grand Hotel fills your stomach and heart with Mutton Nihari, Badami Mutton (the mutton curry with almonds), which is not available at any of the cafes in town.
Besides, they also sell some of Hyderabadi’s traditional sweets like Qabani Ka Meetha and Double Ka Meetha.
The added benefit of all of this is the reasonable prices. Regular Chicken Biryani costs around Rs. 200 while Mutton Biryani costs around Rs. 230. If you go for a Chicken Biryani Family Pack priced at Rs. 400 or Mutton Biryani Family Pack, just fill the belly. from a family of four. The quantity you get at these prices is also worth mentioning. It is very economical in terms of quantity and quality.
No literature on the original recipe
Iranian cafes in the city were not affected by the advent of McDonald’s, Pizza Hut simply because there is no substitute for Biryani or Irani Chai.
For the Grand Hôtel, the challenge has always been to “keep the traditional”. They are still striving to restore some of their old dishes that were once people’s favorites. For example, the mutton chop they cooked fifty years ago during British rule and Nawab. “People still come here and ask for it,” Jaleel says.
The traditional recipes used by Iranian Bawarchis (chiefs) were unfortunately not documented and preserved. Therefore, the biggest challenge for them is to find people who have the traditional knowledge. “When I try to find Bawarchis, they add tomato sauce and soy sauce and this and that… The mughlai dishes were never about sauces but rather pure spices and their flavor”, Jaleel adds.
Most of the former clients of the Grand Hotel have died. But the legacy and the taste continue to live on in the hearts of their children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.
Grand Hotel, Abids is also listed on Zomato and Swiggy.