One can be romantic about Husseini Hotel, Nizamuddin Basti. Tucked in a 14th century settlement on a lane named after Urdu’s greatest poet, Mirza Ghalib, this eatery has been feeding people since 1942.
One may also be realistic. Husseini’s shorbas (curries) are too greasy, the rotis are often left uncovered, the cooks keep changing, and there is an open drain next to the counter. Besides, a few in the immediate neighbourhood could be caught in a social scandal if spotted here. “That’s no place for me,” said a laptop-wielding butcher, whose butchery is just a few steps away.
Yet ,we have often seen people driving in from different parts of Delhi to get their food packed from Husseini. Once we met a Jangpura expat buying sheermal, a kind of bread so delicious and filling that it could be eaten for its own sake. The one in Husseini is as good as it comes. “We make it with maida, doodh, elaichi, cheeni and ghee,” said Abdul Razzak Khan, who bakes the bread daily around 1 pm. This afternoon-make is the one you would get even if you come late in the night. It is thick, chewy, slightly-sweet and remains unspoiled for at least a week.
However, the bestseller in the Hotel is bhuna dal — a robust preparation of urad cooked with roasted gosht. Since this is a poor people’s eatery (with tables inside), the gosht, or the meat, is always the inexpensive burra (buffalo meat). No one is complaining. Sufi pilgrims going to Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah flock to Husseini for its paya, nihari and kofta.
“One particular visitor from Ajmer eats here whenever he’s in town,” said Muhammad Talib, a young man who sits at the counter in a spotless white salwar kameez. His grandfather had come to Nizamuddin Basti from Meerut, a town near Delhi, and set up this ‘hotel’ when the British were still the Capital’s ruling nabobs.
Eating in Husseini, with with pilgrims and labourers as fellow diners, is like going back in time. The tables are rickety, the walls disfigured and if it is night, the bulb is dim. It is all very charming but if you are the fine-dining type, you could always get the food packed for home.
Where: 58, Ghalib Road, Nizamuddin Basti
Price for sheermal: Rs 10
Timing: 7 am to midnight
Contact: 9873641612 (you may call in advance to have your order ready)