Tuesday, October 11, 2011


The chap who first declared that there was a silver lining to every dark cloud knew what he was talking about. I thought of him warmly the other day when I was at a heart hospital near Friend’s Colony where a friend was undergoing a heart surgery. Naturally, we were all worried out of our wits. But when you are troubled, there’s nothing as effective as food to get your mind off your worries. That’s when the silver lining bit hit me. There I was, I told myself, just a kilometre or two away from one of the nicest eating places in South Delhi. So I tootled off towards a restaurant called Purani Dilli.

I first went there a little over three years ago when it had just opened. I wanted to check and see if it was still there – in Delhi, after all, restaurants open and close in the blink of an eye – and if the food was as good as it was when I was last there. Allow me to give you some good news, and then some more good news. The restaurant is very much there. And the food is as good as ever.

This time my journey to Purani Dilli was fraught with excitement. I first took one of those grameen seva tempos and got down at Batla House just after Jamia. From there I took a rickshaw and went up to Badi Masjid. Purani Dilli is right next to the mosque. The last time I had driven up there, but found parking such a chore that I decided to take a rickshaw this time. But in case you want to drive, I would suggest you go down an alley next to Purani Dilli, and park somewhere there.

I wanted to take some food back to the hospital for friends and their family, but the gathering there was mostly vegetarian. The couple of meat loving friends there declined to accompany me. They probably thought that since they were in a heart hospital, they needed to show respect to their arteries. So I had a nice meal all by myself.

A waiter came and placed a bowl of onion rings, lemon pieces and a green chilli in front of me. I asked for half plates of haleem and nahari (Rs 135each). But the helpings were enough for two. Two large bowls were placed in front of me – one containing haleem topped with green coriander leaves, crisp onion strips and ginger pieces. The nahari had lots and lots and lots of ginger in it. I squeezed a lime wedge over the haleem, and one mouthful told me that it was delicious as I remembered it to be. The meat, the lentils and the cereals -- their flavours enhanced by spices -- had been mashed perfectly.

The nahari, again, was superb. The meat on the shanks – cooked over slow heat -- was very, very tender. And though it had been prepared with heavy spices and masalas, I loved its taste. I broke a piece of a soft roti, wrapped it around the gravy and popped it into my mouth. This was life, I told myself.

I went back to the hospital, and found everybody talking about heart, diet and exercise. Vegetables are the best, I said, and burped quietly.



GULLU MEATWALAI never got to thank Gulshan, but it was because of him that I got married. More than two decades ago, I used to woo my would-be wife with Gulshan’s meat curry. His was the most famous meat stall in town those days. Everybody swore by Gullu’s meat, which came in a delicious gravy of thick keema. He used to sit outside the State Transport Authority office on Rajpura Road, and was thus known as Authority meatwallah, or simply Gullu.

I used to buy a full plate of his famous meat – and he used to pack it for me in an empty milk powder tin. If I remember correctly, it cost about Rs 20 or Rs 22. He would give me several rotis with this, and there was enough to feed three or four people.

I later heard that Gullu had a heart attack and closed shop. That was bad news, because he had fed a generation of hungry souls. But after all these years, I suddenly started hearing his name again. A good friend who lives in Mall Road kept urging me to try out someone called Gullu at Malka Ganj. There could be many Gullus, I said to myself – and didn’t show much interest. But then last week, I went to visit my friend, and thought I would look up the Gullu he was raving about.

And what a surprise – this place is run by the old Gullu’s son, Sulabh Arora. It’s called Gullu’s, and the address is shop no. 2, Main Road, Malka Ganj (Phone, only for enquiries: 9871363435). The shop has been there for more than 10 years.

To reach Gullu’s, take the road that goes to the old Sabzi Mandi from Hansraj College. You’ll find the shop on your left. I used to go to the old Gullu’s when it was just a roadside eatery. Now it’s a big takeaway, though quite a few people take the food and eat it in their cars, or by balancing the plates on their car bonnets.

The food is still good, but I am afraid not as good as the father’s. The meat keema comes in four portions – small, medium, full and large -- and costs between Rs 100 and Rs 385. Meat chawal is for Rs 90 a plate. I had the meat keema and enjoyed the barra (Rs 150). The dry chicken (Rs 135) was a little undercooked. The mutton had been cooked in its thick gravy of minced meat with tomatoes and black pepper, a dish that was the senior Gullu’s speciality. Junior’s was not bad at all, but I think he needs to enhance the spices a bit.

The place is open for both lunch and dinner. He even sells a vegetarian thali (Rs 110) and a non-veg thali (Rs 125). The latter consists of meat keema, keema kaleji, snacks, pulao and roti. Sabzi chawal is for Rs 80.

Well, I am happy to know that the father’s legacy is being carried out ably by his son. Someone, somewhere, I hope, is buying his keema meat – and successfully wooing a girl.