At a time when an average restaurant’s lifespan is less than a year, 60 years can seem like a lifetime. Even as, in the rest of the city, old-world decor (read silk panels and ornate chairs) have given way to exposed walls and grungy interiors, and chicken makhani has made way for chicken makhani bao, Gaylord remains unchanged. Perhaps it is this nostalgia that has helped it stay relevant.
1956: Gaylord was opened by Delhi-based entrepreneurs Pishori Lal Lamba and Iqbal Ghai of the Kwality Group (a hospitality brand). The duo (separated since) had earlier set up Kwality Restaurant in Connaught Place in Delhi in 1947. This restaurant is still around, and is as iconic as Gaylord. Owner Lamba had posted an ad in The Statesman inviting suggestions for the name of the restaurant. A reader suggested Gaylord and it stuck. Originally, there was no mezzanine floor. However, there was a dance floor, a bar and a spot for band performances.
1962: Every Saturday and Sunday, the morning coffee at Gaylord was accompanied with a jam session. It had a band featuring Ken Cumine, India’s only jazz violinist, and the vocalist was his daughter, Sweet Lorraine. “There were no standalone restaurants in Bombay. Gaylord was the talk of the town,” says then-CEO AN Malhotra (now retired), who has been part of the restaurant since inception.
1975: Gaylord was the favourite hangout for many Bollywood celebrities: Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, BR Chopra, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle, among others. Music director duo Shankar-Jaikishan were regulars. In fact, Jaikishan would come in every day during tea, and had a table reserved just for him. “Jaikishan would behave like one of the owners. We dared not touch his table, even if it sat empty,” says Malhotra.
1980s: Along with Mughlai and continental, a Turkish menu was added to the restaurant. “We’d called in a chef from Turkey who came here with his wife and lived here for a few years,” says Malhotra. The restaurant also experimented with Chinese cuisine, but soon discontinued it as the space in the kitchen couldn’t keep up.
1986: The décor was changed to add a mezzanine floor. It was done up by Neetu Kohli and Zarine Khan (wife of actor Sanjay Khan). The silk panels on the side were removed to add paintings by artist Kahini Merchant.
1990: While the Gaylord bakery had been around since inception, Lamba wanted to set up a bigger bakery operation. “He once had a dream to open a bread factory. Earlier, we did basic things like dinner rolls, sponge cakes and chicken patties. In 1990, we brought a big space in Rabale to set up a factory that could produce 48,000 loaves a day,” says Noel D’Souza, general manager, who has been with the restaurant for the last 30 years. However, after a few years, it was sold off to a Singapore-based company due to labour issues.
1997: The restaurant received the Best Restaurant in Western Region award from then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
2016: After serving continental classics such as chicken a la kiev, open cheese toasts, vegetable au gratin, and Mughlai fare, such as paneer makhani and murg makhani, the restaurant gave its menu a makeover. Dishes (with modern presentation) such as cooker da kukkad, dahi cheese rolls and kulhar ki tangdi were added. “We wanted to stay away from foam and deconstructed food. These are fads. However, we wanted to add new presentation touches,” says D’Souza.