Got that Lara-like feeling as I just saw that Finely Chopped has 400 plus followers. Thanks folks. And I meant Brian not Dutt.
It’s not often that I go back within three days to a restaurant that I just tried for the first time. And order the same dishes.
Yes, the newly opened Golconda Bowl at Bandra’s Hill Road is special.
I usually don’t go to new Indian restaurants and prefer older establishments when it comes to Indian food.
A new South Indian Hyderabadi restaurant run by North Indian Delhi’ites at Mumbai could have disaster written all over it in my book. The fact that I returned, the first time with friends who themselves were making their second visit to it, reinforces the point that Golconda Bowl is not just any restaurant.
The reason why I stick to old family run restaurants which haven’t been franchised, when it comes to Indian restaurants, is that their passion still shows in the food dished out in these places. Over my two visits I realised that this is what works for Golconda too. The passion of its owner, and those who run it, distinguishes Golconda Bowl.
I have not met the owner but in both my visits we met Nitin, the general manager of the group. My dinner mates agreed that the way Nitin managed our tables, consulted us on our orders, guided us through the dinner, stepping in when he had something to add and then discreetly withdrew leaving us to our dinner made all the difference. I observed him doing this in other tables too. Nitin’s going to return to Delhi, I understand, once the Mumbai ops are stable but I hope his staff is able to step in to his shoes when he does leave.
We knew some of this dishes that we wanted to order but Nitin told us to stop when he thought it was too much. He suggested one dish beyond what we had in mind, the patther ke gosht, which was mind blowing. The waiters consulted him and then asked us about the order in which we wanted our dishes.
Nitin later ran up to our table, as he did to to other tables, asking us to skip the raw onions on the side with our starter. “The spices are subtle in the patthar ke gosht sir. The onions will hide the taste.” When it came to the haleem, on the other hand, Nitin came to us and said that we should add the caramelised onions and some drops of lime juice to it. He answered our questions on how the dishes were made and explained why the Hyderbadi haleem was different from those in Calcutta and Lucknow (the former is slow cooked and is richer and more pasty). Having done a biryani expedition at Hyderabad earlier I could vouch for the authenticity of the taste of the biryani at Golconda Bowl.
And here’s the thing. Nitin hasn’t been to Hyderabad yet! The confidence and expertise with which he spoke to us on Hyderabadi food, despite this, made it clear to me that Nitin is a food nut. When he is not busy sourcing and appointing his meat vendors, four for each cut, Nitin tries out the mutton at the various restaurants of Bandra. Yes, that’s the sort of food nut, and I use the term with the greatest sense of affection and regard, that I would trust my meals to.
The patthar ke gosht and the haleem are the two dishes I repeated on my second visit. Consistent blockbusters.
The patthar ke gosht is nothing short of a meat miracle.
Thin slices of boneless lamb as Nitin explained, or mutton (gosht) as I corrected, marinated in 65 masalas for 6 hours I was told. Cooked over a slab of stone (patthar) on a charcoal fire, 3 to 4 minutes on each side when the order is placed.
This Indian steak is so tender that one could tear it even with the most delicate touch of fingers spoilt by the float over keypad of an iPhone. The meat is spiced in a way that brings out the taste of stellar mutton without overshadowing it. The seasoning just perfect.
The patthar ke gosht is best accompanied with thin rumali rotis. As Nitin points out, and I agree, a thicker naan or paratha would bludgeon down the delicacy of the meat. If you are the sort of person who likes to know the story behind what you are eating then Nitin’s commentary would definitely help. And, as he said, skip the onions here. Which in any case, unless you use a mouthwash after eating, is always a good idea honestly.
Then came the haleem.
Ironic that I found Hyderabadi Haleem back home at Bandra thanks to the Delhi’ites behind Golconda Bowl. I had earlier scoured all over old Hyderabad for Haleem when I went there but didn’t find any. For you get Haleem only during Ramzan on the streets of Hyderabad I was told..
The Haleem at Golconda Bowl is a divine rhapsody of a dish. Broken wheat, boneless mutton and loads of ghee slow cooked for twelve hours. A complete dish according to Nitin. One which doesn’t require any accompaniments with it barring the condiments of caramelised onions and and a few drops of lime juice.
You take in a mouthful, sit back, feel the warm meaty glow of the dish massage your every sense as you savour the sort of culinary artistry which only the nawabs of Hyderabad would have been privy to.
Nitin tells me that that they have not tried to recreate the modern Hyderabad experience at Golconda Bowl. Instead they have apparently gone for recipes that were used four hundred years back in the courts of the rulers of Hyderabad.
The mutton biryani that we tried strengthened at Golconda Bow is an example of this.
This is Kachhi biryani where the raw (kachhi) meat and rice are cooked together, not assembled after both are cooked individually unlike in the biryanis of the Awadhi gharana. A method which worked for the cooks travelling with the armies of the namab who would carry spices, rice and livestock when they went out to war and feed biryani to the soldiers at night. A sort of ancient martial cup o’noodles.
The biryani at Golconda tasted like the ones at Shadab and Bahar at Hyderabad and had the regulation slice of boiled egg too. The difference being that the nawab’s biryani at Golconda Bowl was not as greasy as what the Hyderbadis of today eat.
The biryani at Golconda Bowl had the same smattering of spice powders interspersed through the rice as did the biryanis of Hyderabad. Nitin exhorted us to cast our forks aside and mix the masala in to the rice and eat with our hands.
The Bengali in me stuck to the fork though. I didn’t mix the rice as I like my rice and spices separate. In fact my fellow Bengali dinner mates, who were enthralled by the rest of the meal, didn’t warm up to the biryani. But that’s a cultural thing. no matter how good a biryani is, if it’s not styled like the Lucknow origined biryanis of Calcutta, then we Bengalis don’t like it.
Yet, as Hyderabadi biryanis go the one at Golconda Bowl seemed right up there with the best.
We also tried a mirchi fish tikka which had a very delicate crisp exterior with soft well flavoured fish inside.
In my second visit I chose the haleem and pathar ke gosht and was as delighted as I was the first time. The same holds for Nitin’s management of the table.
For its nawabi red and black interiors, which are a fine balance of opulence and class, our average per person dinner rate of about Rs 500 (9 USD) without alcohol seemed unreal.
I skipped the desserts as I am yet to recover from the excruciatingly sweet khubani ke meetha at Cafe Bahar at Hyderabad. Barring the Mysore Pak I don’t think they get sweets in the South. The Jal Jeera is a good start to the dinner and they give some potent paans on the house at the end if you can handle it.
Yes, this is one of the write-ups where I should mention that it was not a hosted review and that we paid for our food.
I know that it doesn’t read that way.
Golconda Bowl on Google Maps