The regal charm of Hyderabad lies in its ability to seamlessly merge its hi-tech hub with its ancient heritage. By-lanes of Secunderabad, Char Minar and Nampally are awash with pungent aromas that fuse typical Andhra cuisine with rich Nizam culinary offerings. If you are on a food trail in the city, there's cuppa Irani chai and a buttery-soft Osmania biscuit waiting for you.
Cloudy haleems, crispy dosas, toothsome biriyanis and the search for the elusive luqmi (short fried pockets of mutton that can out-triumph any self-respecting samosa) that seems to be galloping towards extinction - all this and more will have any true food lover falling in love with Hyderabad. A litre of watermelon ice cream here is the same price as a stick of gum. And, while Hyderabad is peppered with eateries, bakeries and watering holes, here are a few that you should not miss when in the city.
Skip past the usual commercial restaurants that scream biryani, and instead head for some delicious chicken nihari (priced at Rs 60, it is only available on Saturdays) at this joint. Also popular for its haleem during Ramadan, Hotel Shadab is an ancient eatery opposite Madina building on High Court Road, in Ghansi Bazaar, that features some of the best biryani and kebabs you can hope to scarf down in Hyderabad. After gaining much fame (mostly through word-of-mouth), it recently opened a take-away joint on Road No 3, Banjara Hills.
Uttapams. Guntur Idlis. Corn Dosa. These are just a few of the reasons why one can never find a seat at Hyderabad’s most famous vegetarian restaurant in Banjara Hills Road No 3 (it has opened in 5 other locations as well, but this is the most popular one). Simple South Indian fare with small twists like the Paneer Tikka Dosa make this place stand out from other dosa-offering corners. Possibly the best stop for a typical South-Indian breakfast, a meal for two is priced at Rs 800 on an average.
Shobhit Mathur/ Facebook
In the heart of Mozamjahi market in Nampally, sits this ice cream place that offers two scoops of fruit ice cream for just Rs 20. Ignore the usual mango offerings, and instead treat your tastebuds to some unique flavours that range from custard apple to watermelon and litchi. The best way to enjoy your ice cream is to order a litre of it, and share it with a friend late at night.
Badam Ki Jali/ Facebook
This sweetmeat is for those who want a real taste of ancient Hyderabadi tradition, aka straight from the Nizam's kitchens. Stumble into the quaint neighbourhoods of Aziz Baugh, and you'll find a small home-run kitchen by Nasreen Hussaini and her mother-in-law. They produce these authentic baked Nizami sweets from recipes that are generations old, made from a particular type of almond meal and sugar. Badam ki jali is made in a variety of shapes and sizes, whereas Ashrafi (based on the gold coins employed during the Nizam's reign) is a rounded sweet pressed between moulds that carry inscriptions of the coins used.
Also popular amongst the locals (and now the tourists) for its haleem during Ramadan, Shah Ghouse Café also serves up some of the best Irani chai found in the city - a hard niche to maintain given the number of Irani cafés that pepper older parts of the city. The restaurant owners claim that the flavour of its Irani chai has not changed in 50 years! In close proximity to Charminar ( about a kilometre away), on Shah Ali Banda Road, it's a far cry from your fancy hygienic restaurants nestled comfortably in Banjara or Jubilee Hills.
Pune's famous Shrewsbusy biscuit has a fairly strong competitor in the southern market - aka the Osmania biscuit. These buttery-soft salt biscuits flavoured with cardamom make for perfect elevenses, and are named after the seventh nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan who had a particular affinity for these cookies. While there is no dearth of Irani cafés around the city (Blue Sea Hotel also comes to mind), Subhan Bakery boasts a large following for a cuppa chai and a quick biscuit, alongside its other assortment of cakes, cookies and eats. Ensconsed within Nampally Market, the bakery also takes on bulk orders for its baked goods that range from a price of Rs 10 to Rs 150.
Disclaimer: This is a generic photo of Osmania Biscuits, not one from Subhan bakery
"Hyderabadi lukhmi" by Randhirreddy at English Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hyderabadi_lukhmi.JPG#/media/File:Hyderabadi_lukhmi
Once a popular appetiser found everywhere in Hyderabad, Luqmi a crunchy savoury snack is now slowly diminishing. At first glance it looks like a samosa, but bite into it, and you'll know the samosa is a poor cousin as compared to its rich flavouring of mince meat, onions and other spices. Hotel Savera is not the worst place to savour these square pockets of food haven (at just Rs 8 a plate), and their mutton biryani (at a gob-stopping Rs 80) is even better, not to mention cheaper than the fare it would take to traverse to the hotel. You'll find this restaurant in Malakpet, near Chaderghat cross road.
Disclaimer: This is a generic photo of Luqmi, not one from Hotel Savera