History with an Indian accent

The 200-year-old haveli is not easy to find, although the monument is quite popular – the Jama Masjid Police Station. It’s probably not the best place to imagine a smorgasbord of gastronomic delights, but those lured by Matia Mahal, Karim’s, Al Jawahar and Dariba Kalan would be happy to brave many more for a taste of Mughal-esque delicacies. So when someone talks about a gastronomic experience in Old Delhi, it is unnatural not to be skeptical. But that is exactly what Haveli Dharampura has to offer.

The building, owned by MP Vijay Goel and now owned by WelcomHeritage, took six years to be restored as a heritage hotel. It houses 13 rooms, a spa, two restaurants (Indian and Continental – although only Lakhori, the Indian, is currently functional), and a small art gallery. Views of Jama Masjid, Red Fort, Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib, Gauri Shankar Temple and St James Church are in a panoramic stretch. With lakhori finishes (as the bricks are called, which inspired the restaurant’s name), colonial-style furnishings, and a courtyard with a fountain, the three-story haveli retains its old-world feel.

Chef Pradeep Kumar of Lakhori and the owners spent weeks brainstorming to come up with a menu of nearly 50 dishes. These are true to Indian flavors, while the presentation is modern and sophisticated. We start with a round of bite-sized Cucumber Chaat Canapes, a long cucumber slice filled with chaat masala and yogurt, followed by Dahi Puri and Palak Patta Chaat. The latter was particularly flavoursome, crunchy and the cool yogurt and spices played well on the palate.

In the starters there was a Kadak Roomali Masala, which was a bit bland. The veg and non veg Gilouti Kebabs were just as they should be, flavorful and melt in the mouth. The Murg ke Paarchey (aka chicken tikka) was well seasoned and did justice to the presence of Lakhori in purani Dilli.

The dishes were accompanied by a range of smoothies and mocktails. (The restaurant has yet to get its liquor license.) One would recommend the Jahan Ara (khus and chili), Kiwi Strawberry and Lakhori Manzil smoothies, and the Chai Biscuit (for someone who hates tea, this was a revelation). The Banarasi Paan was great when taken in small sips between courses.

The main course showcased Chef Kumar’s international experience, with his Aloo Gobhi Mutter Deconstructed, a blend of textures. The Kofta Dogala (cottage cheese koftas with two gravy – tomato and cashew) was a visual delight. The bowl was divided into two halves, with the spinach-wrapped paneer koftas acting as a divider. The flavors complemented each other with the spiciness of the tomato being rounded off by the creaminess of the cashew spread. That the owners are vegetarians shines through and gives herbivores something to look forward to in Old Delhi.

Moments later the desserts arrived. A trio of creamy kheers (beetroot, paan and fig) and rose-flavored kulfi (presented in a chocolate cone) made the perfect end to a modern Mughal Delhi meal.
The evening is when the magic of the haveli enchants you, with classical music set against the backdrop of purani Delhi, with food worthy of nawabs and rooms that tell a quirky yet contemporary story.

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