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    Dhaba by Claridges wows us with a pukka Punjabi menu and quirky interiors

    Chef Ravi Saxena mingles with the crowd at the new Dhaba by Claridges in Indira Nagar’s chic 12th main. “This isn’t north Indian cuisine, this is just hard core Punjabi,” he clarifies and a meal at the restaurant is testament to that. There is no hint of Mughlai cooking, just old favourites and a few that push the boundaries, but are still clearly Punjabi.

    The Claridges Hotel in Delhi is an institution, and 30 years ago, they opened the restaurant Dhaba which promised, as the name suggests, the charm of a highway eatery but with the finesse of a five star. They took their property outside the hotel too and this is their sixth outlet.

    The restaurant is rustic with a patila (cauldron) counter, where one can go for refills. The walls are adorned with colourful “goli soda” bottles. Although the bar, or theka, is not yet active, it promises drinks such as Toofan, Gulabo, Basanti and Laal Pari, a Punjabi version of the classic Bloody Mary.

    Thali talks
    The menu is divided into Tawa, Tandoor and Patila sections — a welcome change from the usual appetisers and mains. From Tawa, we tried the Bhune aloo, which was crispy and moreish. The Veg galouti kebab, was even better than its non-vegetarian counterpart. But if there is something we’d return for, it’s the Tawa surmai — spicy and juicy Kingfish fried to perfection. From the Tandoors, we tried the Murgh malai tikka. A hint of cheese elevates the dish.

    One of the highlights of the Patila section was the Balti (bucket) meat, a dish quintessential to dhabas. “Our mutton comes straight from Jaipur,” the chef adds as an aside. Another must-try is the Chitta butter chicken, where the red gravy is swapped for a white one but with no compromise on taste. “The idea came to me after listening to the song Chitiya kalainyan ve, so the credit should really go to Jacqueline Fernandez,” he adds. From the vegetarian section, we recommend the Lahsuni palak, the Dhaba daal, and the Dhabe di aloo gobhi. As a side, try the Dhabe di roti, fermented flatbread.

    Even if you have no room left for dessert, don’t miss the Badam halwa. More ghee than halwa (and that’s not exactly a complaint), it was the moreish texture that won us over. With Bollywood routines performed by the waiters, the place will make you re-live a Delhi road trip.

    Opens tomorrow. Rs 1,300 for two. At 12th main, Indira Nagar. Details: 48536713
    — Anagha M

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