It was 2007 and we had gone to Hyderabad for the first time … after a round of Charminar and pearl shopping at Jagdamba pearls, we had asked a few locals for the best place to eat (Biryani offcourse).
Circa 2013. After a long day at work we decided to head to a restaurant called ‘Shadab’ that was reputed to have the best Hyderabadi Biryani – period. A long 1 hour drive to the old city took me to the same old area which we had roamed around aimlessly 6 years back and to my surprise, Shadab turned out to the same place where we had had lunch … years back. Some things don’t change … definitely not the reputation of an iconic restaurant in India.
The stair case takes you to a so called AC room which has decades old furniture and décor, with little or no focus on aesthetics. It doesn’t matter at all as the place is brimming with people even at 11pm in the night; families, locals and tourists alike – all waiting anxiously for the amazing food.
I had read a lot about the ‘specials’ here but disappointed as most of these items are served only during breakfast … namely Bheja fry (goat’s brain), Palak Gurda (Kidneys cooked in Spinach sauce), Nalli Nihari (Lamb shanks cooked in its fat) etc. The idea of having these items for BF may shock most people but for the locals, this is most natural and people thrive by the hundreds to have this every morning.
We had to settle for the ‘other specials’ and were not disappointed. We ordered a couple of unique dishes – Paya (Goats hoof cooked in a rich spicy & oily gravy) and Zaban (Goat’s tongue !!!!). This is best had with Sheermal, an exquisite square bread which is broken into small pieces and dipped in the bowl with gravy and had when soft. The gravy was same, mild but strong flavoured and the bread dipped in it tasted just fantastic. The Paya was soft and tender with the cartilage’s falling off the bone. The tongue was something else … a little rubbery and bland, it wasn’t really bad – as much as it was shocking to hold.
Then came the Tandoori Rotis and Keema (Minced Meat). It was by far the best Keema I have had in my life and it was rich & heavily spiced – to be licked-off-the-plate variety. Then came the Biryani – which has made Shadab the institution it is today. We were not disappointed. It may not be the best I have had but as far as my Hyderabadi Biryani journey goes, I think I have tried the best restaurants that’s there.
The above for 4 adults was for Rs. 750 !!!! All of it. That’s about US$ 12 with bottle of Coke thrown in for good measure. I don’t think anywhere in India can you get this quality of food at this price. It took a lot of effort to get us moving after a meal like this. There was a special treat waiting – 5 mins away in front of the exhibition ground – Ice Cream ! 4-5 shops selling local ice creams at a price that made me almost faint. 3 sundaes at Rs. 110 (that’s less than $2) and we were in gastronomical heaven.
When in Hyderabad, do make an effort to go to the old city – would recommend for breakfast & a meal, as nobody should leave Hyderabad without eating the amazing and authentic food of the Nizams. Shadab is located opposite Madina Building at the High Court Road – you don’t need to remember all this, just go to the old city and shout Shaaaaaaaadaaaaaaaaab!!!!!