The Original Moti Mahal

As the appetite wilts under the summer sun, I’m once again reminded of the exciting outings the EOiD gang have had over the past winter.

For instance, the arrival of a friend from the US occasioned an impromptu EOiD field trip in early December. For ideas on where to go we looked to Harneet, who recommended his childhood haunt, Moti Mahal in Daryaganj.

Moti Mahal is a landmark in Delhi’s culinary history. Set up shortly after independence in 1947, it boasts of having introduced the recipes for everything from tandoori chicken and butter chicken to burra kabaabs. The restaurant is a curiously mixed highbrow and lowbrow experience. Setting the tone even before you enter is an imposing valet who promptly takes the key to park your car — a manoeuvre involving riding it up the sidewalk. As you step inside, you come into a sumptuous courtyard — where the arrangements involve sitting on plastic chairs. And as you settle down and daintily dip your fingers into the proffered warm bowls of water, your ears quail at the sounds of the predictably off-key ghazal singing (the choice of songs was, in much the same spirit, a mix of the best of the patrician and the plaebian — Himesh Reshammaiya tunes belted out with as much relish as Ghalib’s qalaam).

Moti MahalBut that only helps focus your mind on the food, and we left no holds barred when we ordered ours — which included everything from Paneer Shashlik, Bharwaan Aloo and Makhani Daal for the principled vegetarians to the Reshami Kabaab, Burra Kabaab, Rogan Josh, Butter Chicken, and Tandoori Chicken for the rambunctious carnivores. The service was surprisingly quick and the food was unsurprisingly delicious. Personally I think it was the best butter chicken I’ve ever had. (A second foray a few days later yielded other recommendations from the menu — the Kalmi Kabaab and the Khasta Roti. It seems fair to say that you can pretty much pick what you want from the menu; you won’t go wrong.) The stunning discovery of the day though, was that this original* Moti Mahal of Darya Ganj has no branch! I have a feeling there has been a split in the family, because at least some of the other places (usually called Moti Mahal Delux) are, I believe, run by the descendents of the original. A multitude of others have never let a complete lack of genetic connection deter them from profiting from the name. I will leave it to those better-informed to decide whether the food elsewhere is up to the standards of the Daryaganj one. In the meanwhile, a big thumbs up for the original. Having taken a nice old Romanian lady and a Bangladeshi-born American resident there by now, I can also assure you that this is a good place to take your friends from abroad — and with some luck, they won’t even figure out that the music is, shall we say, a tad quirky!

Location: very close to Golcha cinema on Netaji Subhash Marg in Daryaganj. Map

Expense: Unless you get really carried away, it should be easily possible to spend less than Rs. 300 per head.

(photo courtesy: Rashed)

* update (Dec 14, 2008): EOiD member Samil Malhotra has gone into the vexed question of which is the “original” Moti Mahal in some detail. Read about it here.  

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18 thoughts on “The Original Moti Mahal”

  1. hmm, too bad i had a totally different experience in this restaurant,except the quick service.I eve found their meat is not so fresh, and the tandoori was not really well cooked.

  2. I do agree the quality of food and the ambiance is nice, Eating their burra makes one feel as if died and gone to heaven. But I would still like to complement it with the tea from App Ki Pasand.

    You can choose from 100 variety of different teas and the ambiance is so laid back brings kind of old days memory of life as slow pace and relishingly different.

  3. Guy’s

    Does someone know of a place apart from Chore Bizzare that serves authentic Kashmiri food. Do not want to go to a over priced 5 star restaurant but a place easy on the packet as well. Do know of a take away place in Arjun nagar but that about it.

  4. next to moti mahal (just before, or just after) it’s on the main road going from ITO towards purani dilli, there’s a place called changezi chicken, takeout only. try it.

  5. Which Moti Mahal, Mayank? Hemanshu’s post and Samir Malhotra’s blog he refers to raise this interesting question.

    Imagine the claim of Moti Mahal Deluxe group, “The mughlai and Bar – be – que was introduced for the first time in Delhi in 1959 by the Moti Mahal Group” – well, they introduced Delhi to Moghlai food ‘coz the Moghals had been ruling the country from Chennai for all those centuries and no one in Delhi knew about ! Would such claims be a crime under MRTP?;-)

  6. Overrated again. After I paid the bill and tipped the waiter, another waiter loudly asked my waiter: ‘Kitna diya?’. Talk about manners!! And I do not resemble and expat or an NRI. Surely, the bugger was just being rude, as he would know I would understand Hindi..

    1. Joey, I wouldn’t call a place “overrated” on the basis of a mere question between two waiters. If you found the food bad, I’d like to hear about that, or if the waiters’ service was bad either before or after you tipped them, that would be interesting to know about as well. Otherwise your judgement comes across as unnecessarily harsh.

    2. No.. I did not find the food bad per se. But it was not so divine either. I mean, I would not specifically go all the way to Daryaganj to visit that restaurant again, nor would I go there, even if I am in Daryaganj, on some other errand. I would not recommend it to others also. And about the hype of them being the inventors of butter chicken or tandoori chicken and whatnot… I would like to leave the matter open for discussion and speculation.

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