In the recesses of South Delhi’s Jamia Nagar lies the locality of Batla House. Along the busy lanes, crowded with cars, rickshaws, motorcycles with three men astride and an endless sea of people, everyone seems to be in a rush. But even in this melee, faces greet each other with familiarity. It’s unfortunate that the prominently Muslim neighbourhood has a dark association with the police encounter that happened here four years ago. But the place has much more to offer. The little restaurants, roadside stalls and their own little Jama Masjid make for a beautiful rendition of Old Delhi. In fact, most of the shopkeepers and proprietors will tell you they left behind the lanes of ancient Karim’s to set up shop here.
Take 34-year-old Javed Qureshi. Fondly called ‘Babloo’ by people who know him, Qureshi moved here with his family after the death of his father 14 years ago. He set up the Delhi Nahari Hotel which was even inaugurated by famed cricketer Ajay Jadeja. Here one can get the most scrumptiously soft nahari — a Mughlai dish made of slowly roasted and stewed meat. Popular with the Greater Kailash and South Ex. crowd, people from across the capital visit his restaurant each day. “If I can say one thing about my little establishment, it’s good food at very reasonable prices,” says Qureshi. Who can disagree when each dish costs no more than R40 and a roti is only R3.
Qureshi’s restaurant may be near the end of this street full of shops and eateries but it’s a good place to start your feast and work your way back.
The kebabs at Lucknowi Galawati simply melt in your mouth. Made fresh with the Awadhi ulte tawe ka paratha (upside down pan paratha), it is a favourite with Mughlai lovers. The shop, which opened three years ago, might be the youngest here but already has a reputation for excellence not to mention value for money. Four pieces of buffalo galawati will set you back R28. Of course, the chicken is costlier.
At Pehalwanji Lassi Corner a little down the way, sits Mohammad Kesar Qureshi, 67, with his young school-going son. Master of all he surveys, the man smiles and welcomes people to his shop with a tall glass of cold lassi. As your teeth crunch on the crushed ice, you get a mouthful of fresh cream which tops it all off.
Fifty feet away, his brother, Ashraf, runs a little sweets stall called Shahi Kheer. While his specialty is obvious, the faluda and rabri are treats as well. Each dessert is packed full of flavour and soothes the stomach after a full meal of kababs and parathas.
Finally, as you make your way home, stop at Famous Restaurant, with its six-rupee-a-piece seekh kabab. Situated opposite the MCD primary school, it is the first restaurant that one comes across and the last when you leave. Serving an almost endless supply of deep fried chicken and buffalo seekh, it is never short of food or business. Unfortunately, the seating is as hot as the tandoor which prompts one to pack the food and carry it home. Perhaps it is the perfect place then for you say farewell to Batla House with a full stomach, a smile on your face and a little parcel of delicious food.