New Delhi, India
October 1, 2011
The Golconda Bowl is on the ground floor of the same building that houses Gunpowder: Gunpowder sits on the roof, The Golconda Bowl on the ground – and the approaches are from two opposite sides of the same building. Inside, The Golconda Bowl is all dark wood, dull red upholstery and massive (not to mention very stylish) black and white photographs of some of Hyderabad’s landmarks – the Charminar, Quli Qutb Khan’s Tomb, and so on. (The corridor leading in from the street has some more photos, which looked like bad reproductions. But some were interesting: for example, an early 20th century ceremonial procession, and a photo of the Hope Diamond – mined at Golconda).
The menu, thankfully, concentrates on good wholesome Hyderabadi food and does not try to jump onto the North Indian-Mughlai bandwagon. This is a menu replete with all that’s Hyderabadi: mirchi ka salan (fat green chillies cooked in a hot, peanut gravy); baghare baingan (fried aubergines in a spicy gravy), mutton and okra curry; biryanis, patthar kababs (‘patthar’ means ‘stone’ – these kababs are beaten very flat and cooked on a hot stone), and the like. After much pondering – and much see-sawing – we finally settled on two dishes: a kachche gosht ki biryani and a gosht haleem. With that we ordered two fresh lemonades.
A few words, now, about what these two dishes are. Kachche gosht ki biryani literally means a ‘biryani of raw meat’. No, it’s not raw when it’s served up, it’s just that the meat, when it’s layered with the rice and spices, is raw to begin with. As anybody who’s cooked rice and mutton knows, they have very different cooking times – especially in Indian cuisine, where rare is unknown. So, getting well-cooked meat without overcooking the rice to a pulp is quite a feat. The haleem is a typically Hyderabadi preparation of pounded meat cooked with coarse-ground wheat and spices.
The haleem and the biryani were served up within about 10 minutes. The biryani came in a large (very large) bowl, heaped with spiced rice, chunks of mutton, wedges of hard-boiled egg, and a generous helping of crisp-fried onions mixed all through. Not very spicy, but delicious – though the meat could have been more tender. Along with the biryani were served small portions of dahi ki chutney (a yoghurt chutney – whisked yoghurt, mixed with salt, finely chopped onions, and a little fresh coriander) and mirchi ka salan. The mirchi ka salan would probably be a welcome addition to someone who really liked a lot of heat in their biryani (because the biryani, while it has the fragrance of cardamom, cloves and similar mild spices, isn’t chilli hot). We, however, weren’t terribly enamoured by the salan: it seemed to lack substance. One fat chilli floating about in a bowlful of a thin, spicy gravy? No.
What completely made the meal for us was the haleem. It was mind-blowingly good: meat and wheat pounded to a velvety smoothness, with just enough spice to make it delectable without being at all hot, and with more of those gorgeous fried onions on top. With a squeeze of lime (wedges served alongside), it was sheer heaven. (Note, though, that it’s available only on the weekend, starting Friday night).
For dessert, though they do offer well-known Hyderabadi favourites like double ka meetha (fried bread, soaked in syrup and served with heavily thickened milk) and khubaani ka meetha (a puree of stewed dried apricots, served with cream), our waiter recommended the thandi sabz kheer: a milk pudding in which the milk is cooked along with grated bottle gourd. Though a vegetable, bottle gourd is one of those rather bland and dull veggies that are occasionally used in desserts such as these. The Golconda Bowl’s thandi sabz kheer (literally, ‘cold green kheer’) was creamy, very lightly sweetened and with a sprinkle of slivered almonds on top. Delicious!
Our bill came to just over Rs 1,500, inclusive of service charge. I liked the food a lot and would gladly go back here to try out some of the other stuff on their menu – and some of that fabulous haleem again. The only thing I didn’t like was the very dim lighting. Even on a sunny day, in broad daylight (and with the benefit of windows down one side), The Golconda Bowl was dark and gloomy. May we have some lights, please?
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