Grand Hotel: Bringing food of Hyderabadi royals to common people

Back in 1935, a group of 12 Iranians who had migrated to India started the Grand Hotel. Interestingly, they were the first people in the city to sell Hyderabadi Biryani commercially.

By Nimisha S Pradeep  Published on  18 Dec 2021 7:14 AM GMT
Grand Hotel: Bringing food of Hyderabadi royals to common people

Loud clamors of chirpy people welcome you in. All the tables are fully occupied. Sitting with his family, a man relishes the Mutton Biryani with Raita placed on his plate. While a coupled scroll debate over what to have, a waiter in a white uniform stands eagerly to note down the order. "Chicken Biryani and Mutton Nihari," they finally cry out loud together.

This is the scene on a Wednesday afternoon as you enter the Grand Hotel in Abids. The rush inside the hotel might make you doubt if it is a weekday afternoon. Situated near the General Post Office in Abids Circle, this 86-year-old hotel, also the oldest Iranian café in Hyderabad is a popular stop for the people longing for traditional Hyderabadi flavor.

Back in 1935, a group of 12 Iranians who had migrated to India started the Grand Hotel. Interestingly, they were the first people in the city to sell Hyderabadi Biryani commercially. "Biriyani used to be a thing of elite weddings, palaces of Nawabs but we brought the food of the palaces to the people," says Jaleel Farrokh Rooz, the owner of Grand Hotel.

Jaleel's maternal grandfather who was an employee when the Iranians ran the hotel later went on to become a shareholder of the hotel. Finally, it was his father who bought the last remaining shares and took over as the hotel's owner. For 22 years, Jaleel has been managing the affairs of the hotel.

Yummm...Authentic Hyderabadi Biryani

"Ours is the closest to the traditional Hyderabadi biryani," says Jaleel, who loves to be identified as a Hyderabadi but an Iranian by origin.

Compared to its red chilly dominated version served at many other hotels in the city, Biriyani at Grand Hotel might taste bland to some because they don't make it very spicy. "Biriyani is not supposed to be a very spicy dish. Instead, it is the flavor of the spices that matter," explains Jaleel, who has been managing the hotel for the last 22 years.

Jaleel also explains how the tastes of the people also influence the flavor of the different Biryanis you get in different joints in different areas in the city. To suit the likes of the younger generations, Biriyani today is sold very hot and spicy in many hotels. But in Grand, they still hold on to the original Hyderabadi flavor.

Photo credit: Srushty Ladegam (Hyderabad Food Trip)

Good Morning, want to try some Chai and Bun Maska?

Besides Biriyani, another specialty of the Grand Hotel is the Hyderabadi breakfast that they give in the morning. At 4 am, you walk into the Grand Hotel, you get an Irani Chai and Bun Maska (prepared by adding butter on top of a bun). The morning snacks also include the typical Hyderabadi Dilkush and Dilpasand too. Hardly in any other restaurant in the city, one can find these items today.

"Irani chai is supposed to be a very strong drink. Nowadays, condensed milk is added to it in many of the city shops. When in other cafes, the flavor of the tea will be in the last sip, in my chai, it's very strong that towards the end, you get a bitter taste," Jaleel proudly says.

The breakfast that starts at 7 am includes Khichdi, Kheema, Roti, Khatta, etc.

On weekends, Grand Hotel fills your tummy and hearts with Mutton Nihari, Badami Mutton (the almond-flavored mutton curry), which is not available in any of the cafes in the city.

Besides, they also sell some of the traditional Hyderabadi sweets like Qabani Ka Meetha and Double Ka Meetha.

The Reasonable Prices

The added advantage with all this is the reasonable prices. The ordinary Chicken Biryani costs around Rs. 200 whereas a mutton Biryani costs around Rs. 230. If you go for a Chicken Biryani Family Pack which is priced at Rs. 400 or a Mutton Biryani Family Pack, it is enough to fill the tummies of a family of four. The quantity you get at these prices is also worth mentioning. It is highly economical-quantity-wise and quality-wise.

No literature on the original recipe

The Iranian cafés in the city were untouched by the advent of McDonald's, Pizza Hut simply because there is no substitute for Biryani or Irani Chai.

For the Grand Hotel, the challenge has always been to "retain the traditional." They still strive to restore some of their old dishes which were once people's favorites. For instance, the mutton chop that they used to prepare fifty years ago during the British and Nawab rule. "People still come here and ask for it," says Jaleel.

The traditional recipes used by the Iranian Bawarchis (chefs) were unfortunately not documented and preserved. Hence the biggest challenge for them is to find people who have the traditional knowledge. "When I try to find some Bawarchis, they add some tomato sauce and soya sauce and this and that….Mughlai dishes were never about sauces rather it was the pure spices and its flavor," adds Jaleel.

Most of the old customers of the Grand Hotel have died. But the legacy and the taste continue to live in the hearts of their children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren.

Grand Hotel, Abids is also listed on Zomato and Swiggy.

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