Kitschy and colourful, Delhi’s Dhaba by Claridges comes to town with bold Punjabi flavours and boisterous decor
Woven chairs reminiscent of khatiyas, chai glasses for chandeliers, bright kite reels and tyres on the wall, besides a brazenly colourful truck in the middle of it all — yes, we are in a dhabha. No, we are not in Punjab. With lively Hindi music and an astonishingly fresh North Indian menu, Dhaba by Claridges opens in the city, bang in the middle of Nungambakkam High Road. The team, Azure Hospitality, that brought the likes of Mamagoto to the city, is ready to take the brand to Bengaluru next. Rahul Khanna, co-founder of Azure, tells us, “Dhaba by Claridges is about 25 years old and carries the legacy of The Claridges, Delhi. We are taking the brand to different cities across the country now, with the most recent launch in Hyderabad. The menu here is all about authentic North Indian recipes and real Punjabi flavours, and recreating the typical highway dhabha experience in a casual dining format.”
While the 75-seater doesn’t have a liquor license like the original outlet, their range of mocktails promises to keep up the spirits. From kaala khatta shots and ganne ka sa ras (literally translated — ‘just like sugarcane’) to a delightful junglee cooler that has mango in the mix, they also have staples like jal jeera and aam panna. We get started on heaped platters where their Highway chicken tikka and the palak paneer ki sheekh are addictive, and goes well with the thiki (spicy chutney). The former comprises thick cuts, and is mildly spiced and succulent.
The tiffin chicken makes for an interesting main, comprising a boneless chicken masala dish in a typical metal tiffin carrier, with kadak ajwain parathas, while the Dhabe ki Aloo Gobi is an interesting variation of the staple with a yogurt-based gravy. The chitta butter chicken surprises with an unsweetened albeit creamy white base — however the star of the show is their signature Balti Meat, where generous portions of lamb shanks peep out of a steel bucket of flavoursome gravy. Meat lovers will relate to my surprise when I say that the Dhabe di Roti that accompanied the signature dish nearly stole the thunder. Perfectly puffed up, dotted with fennel seeds, the bread is soft and smoky, and you can’t eat just one. Adding to our singing palate, the staff break into a cheerful flash mob on cue!
Enjoying the hearty Punjabi hospitality, though we were stuffed from trying to do justice to the wide range of starters and mains — we find ourselves reaching out for the badam halwa unabashedly. Not to be confused with the sweeter South Indian version, it is coarser in texture, with copious amounts of ghee, and makes for a delicious ending.
Meal for two at about Rs 1,600. Details: 7338863168
— Sabrina Rajan