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.  

25 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. No comment on chor bizzare. their grill has lot to offer and exist in the same area.

    their mutton tikka on grill is one of the best to go for.

    bon voyage

  4. 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.

  5. @manish
    its Ahad sons, I have given its address on our orkut community thread of Kashmiri food……..
    yeah food is quite good (heard from many sources but not tried)

  6. 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.

  7. 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?;-)

  8. 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..

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Hello,
    I once visited Delhi when i was a child. I wish I knew where MM was. Lately, I have been following a show called Gordon’s great escape & he has abt 22 restaurants all over the world and is well renounced here in US & UK visited this place and had only good things to talk about. I will definitely plan out a trip to Delhi specially to eat there & i am sure it will be worth it!!

  12. May I please request the author of this blog to mark the posts with ‘Halal’ and ‘Stunned aka Jhatka’ tags for the convenience of the readers belonging to different faith?

    I hope you would understand where I am coming from.

    Thanks!

  13. I lived in India in the 1970′s as a teenager. One of my favorite memory are dinners at Moti Mahal. It sounds exactly as it did so many years ago. I am so glad some things do not change, it was perfect.
    I remember also always buying jasmine blossom bracelet sold to the ladies before entering.

  14. The proverb fits absoulety correct with MOTI MAHAL DELUX GK- M BLOCK”UNCHI DUKAAN PHIKA PAKWAAN”. if we go after the reputation and age of moti mahal one just blindly puts his faith to such great names however some times the great names are not enough to cover all the black spots on there dresses.i have had “THE WORST ” food of my life in moti mahal delux in gk M block market. the food was so bad that despite of us being really hungry cld nt order more than two chapatis. this one does not have a very popular dish in rest of their chains.”PANEER LABABDAAR” the waiter was totally lost after hearing the name of the dish n the panner we ordered the gravy wastotally raw n dal was very bad in taste. after we asked for manager he in front of us paid no attention to what message he has been given n went back to his seat , later when we approached him he denied of any such message been delivered to him n blunty refused to take aplogises for the bad food by giving us the reason as : “mam hum saara din subah se yahi khana khilate hai to humme pata haiki khana kaisa hai” when we demanded to talk to their owner they refused by saying that the owner has asked not give his contact to anyone. by this all i can say that “THE RICH as OWNERS of such big names only wants to earn and rob his client’s pocket but do not want to take any responsibility of their ill deeds. by this they are not only hampering their reputation however just spoiling the BIG NAMES they are associated with. without realizing that these names are contributing a lot to their richness.another question arises that is that also a truth that the rich only knows to spend and do not know the worth of it. don’t they have taste on their tongues, if the people their are having such bad food than they certainly do not have it…….. it was avery special day for us and MOTI MAHAL …. spoiled it we will never ever refer this place to any one…

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