This post is kind of a recap of cuisines & eateries in Gurgaon – I have covered detailed reviews of many of these eateries in the blog . Needless to say that this is not a comprehensive guide of food places in Gurgaon but then it is good to start with – its about our favourite pik or not so favourite pik.
Food being a passion, eating out is a part of our regular existence in this city of Gurgaon. The range of eateries here vary from the tiny old shops of old gurgaon & their relatively new avatars in New Gurgaon to Restaurant chains & Boutique restaurants in star hotels. When someone asks us ‘what is ur favorite cuisine’ or ‘what is ur favourite dish?’, we have no answer coz as long as the food is great, we r happy. We generally try to avoid eateries that are confused about their USP themselves & have signboards saying ‘Indian, Chinese, Mughlai’ – They seem to have separated Mughals from the rest of the Indians owing to the former’s Timurid origins (pun intended)!!!!
In this post we focus on Indian eateries. By Indian most restaurants here refer to Punjabi. Among the non Punjabi ones, there is one stray tiny Bengali joint, few horrible or at most average South Indian ones (except Zambar), two branches of ‘Mughal’ Karim’s, a super cool Mangalorean seafood joint, a very bad Rajasthani food joint & alas a good erstwhile kashmiri joint Chor Bazaar (now closed down).
What is common with most of the above restaurants, however, is that most of the non-veg menu cards are very chicken heavy influenced by the taste of Punjab.……….. to the extent that I heard someone crack a joke in frustration – ‘Chicken seems to be the National bird of Punjab’. Let me make a confession here – For hardcore carnivores like us, chicken actually is the lowest form of non-vegetarian food & is on the borderline of being vegetarian!!!! I have consciously tried to cover all chicken joints, being completely aware of my bias………… Hope I do not disappoint the chicken lovers.
Inspite of having a bombardment of Punjabi food on offer, surprisingly there is not one shop which serves an Amritsari macchi tikka as good as Makhan Fish shop in Amritsar or a Bhuna Baingan & Dal Makhani as good as Kesar Da Dhaba in the bylanes of old city of Amritsar. In case u have had the opportunity to taste the fantastic true blue Amritsari Kulcha on Lawrence Road, Amritsar, u wud hate to swallow down the breaded variety of kulcha that is served at most of the eateries in Gurgaon. In fact, if u had been courageous to eat at Bajwa Ka Dhaba (opposite Highway King on Jaipur road), then u wud shudder at the thought of eating Punjabi in Gurgaon.
Among the low cost Punjabi joints, the best seems to be Pind Balluchi & Park Balluchi besides Bikanerwala. Bauji ka Dhaba in MGF mall is also not bad. All of them serve very good tandoori items (meats, paneer, breads), few good curries (the meats in many cases are not cooked in the gravy but boiled meat is simmered in half made gravy) and mostly average to good desserts. Gulab jamuns do no more have that slight taste of saltiness in the center near the kesar and many of them smell of ‘ageing’.
Punjabi By Nature is overtly expensive for what it serves. I am not among the ones who think twice about paying for good food. At any point in time, I am willing to spend more on a dinner for two than a shirt & a pair of denims for my office or a party. I have on many occasions spent more on a dinner for two than what my mobile phone costs. The Punjabi By Nature charges do not match up to the taste standards that their food is to. It is different that if one has been to drinking sessions there, taste wud not have matter much as after few drinks the tastebuds also slow down like others parts of the body. Golgappa shots with tequila & vodka are a speciality of Punjabi By Nature. Kababs r good too. Curries r too tomatoeeee….. location is a disaster as it is one of the most clogged locations where u surely do not want to get stuck in traffic before a nice dinner. Maybe after the rapid metro the traffic situation will be good. Even then, do not plan out a romantic dinner here. It’s too noisy & very stuffy …..u are almost just a foot away from the next table!!!!
Punjab grill by Jiggs Kalra in Ambience mall is good but not outstanding. Last time I had mutton I was cursing myself. One, the mutton seemed to have been boiled & then thrown into a curry & re-boiled. Second, it smelled of ‘non freshness’. Same was an experience with chicken on another occasion. I however love the tandoori jhinga (prawn) here & the salmon tikka. This is one of the most unique dishes made with salmon that I ever had. Its bright orange soft, juicy, semi crispy outer with masala flavors that are well into the fish fillet & in other words is outstanding. The mutton burrah kabab is also not bad but Karim’s is much better & rustic at less than half the price.
Bikanerwala – This is one of the largest eateries in Gurgaon in terms of sheer size. It’s a very good place to happily eat out at low cost & buy sweets as well. I would not say that any of the food available is the ‘best I have ever had’ but almost all are good & surely better than average. They serve a good poori-subzi- halwa-lassi breakfast – good for an inexpensive lazy late breakfast on Sunday after a late Saturday night. It also serves 2 – 3 types of good north Indian thalis & many ala carte options for heavy meals. The namkeen & snacks list is also exhaustive & good. We love the tandoori platter, the paneer pakora, dhoklas, fresh jalebis, pao bhaji etc. The motichoor ka laddu (the one with the highest price) is one of the best ladoos I had in Gurgaon – It is soft & juicy & just melts in mouth & the sweetness is optimum. The ganne ka ras served with mint & ginger is a sure shot refresher & simply superb. In summers they serve a cool mango kulfi in which a kulfi is set inside a whole mango (in the hollow created after the seed of the mango is removed). There is a bengali sweet counter as well which has a few good sweets like gur rasmalai, mishti doi, sandesh etc but the rasgullas are so bad that on two occasions I tried them, I could feel the ras (tears) coming out of my eyes.
OM Sweets with its older shop in old Gurgaon has two new shops in sector 14 market & sector 31 market. Their chholey is the best in Gurgaon – eat it with bhature or kachori or samosa or even in a chat. All these dishes are served with brilliant pickled green chillies. The chholey is dark brown in color, has a strong spicy taste and is not at all tomatoee. The tandoori paneer is also the best in Gurgaon – excellent quality of super soft & juicy paneer is used & the taste of the masala sprinkled on the top makes the dish too good. The halwas are good & probably best in Gurgaon – but nothing as compared to the Gianis in Chandni Chowk (see blog – Hidden culinary gems of shahjehanabad). OM is best known for their tasty sticky, ‘cashew & nut’ infested, mildly chewy dark colored sweet called Dhoda.
Just by fluke we discovered a tiny old shop called Kishu di Hatti in New Colony in Old Gurgaon!!!! The Dhodas here are even better than those at OM. The chholey is however nowhere as good as OM. An excellent item sold by this shop is the mini samosas – 50 times better than the mini cocktail samosas sold by Haldirams & others in retail packs. The cover of the samosa is flaky, crunchy & the inside has a very unique masala & daal mix. Definitely worth a try. The regular samosas & kachoris are also super good. Another sweet called ‘shakarpara’ / ‘tosha’ is also a speciality – Multilayered flour sticks fried & dipped in fresh jaggery. This is the best shakarpara I have ever had.
Another curious little eatery is Baljee on the Post Office road in Old Gurgaon Sadar Bazaar. On days with austerity drive, we would go there to have lunch – Kachoris, Chhole Bhatures, Gulab Jamuns & a bottle of Thums up – Rs. 58 (as late as 2009) for two people!!! The taste is real good & there is a rustic feel & flavor to all that is served here. The shop is located on the first floor & is always full with customers. If you tip the little boy who waits on you, he is extremely surprised & for few seconds he gets startled & then slowly a smile spreads on his face.
There are many other sweet shops like Sham Sweets in Vyapar Kendra, Sushant Lok I (original one in Old Gurgaon on Old Delhi Jaipur road, between Sadar Bazar & Atul Kataria Chowk), Rewari Sweets opposite Old Post Office in Sadar Bazaar etc which serve quite good sweets & snacks. Chholey Bhature, kachori & samosas with chholey are usually good in these places. The typical layout is a few seats for sit & eat & a large sweet counter.
A unique focused shop is of the Sardarji Jalebiwallah opposite old Post Office at Sadar Bazar Gurgaon. At any point of time there is a queue & people are seen gobbling up the freshly made jalebis in no time. That’s the only item sold in this shop. The jalebis are not super thin like the ones in Bikanerwala nor do they have kesar flavor. They are medium thickness golden brown colored crisp jalebis with a slight sour taste that goes well with the overall sweetness. For those who cannot wait in the queues, there is another jalebiwallah on the thela parked right in front of the post office. These are also quite good. At Rs. 10 a pack, you get enough jalebis to fill up ur tummy at lunchtime!!!
For those of you not familiar with Haryana, this place has more ‘wine shops’ (Liquor Shops – do not necessarily sell wine but are called wine shops) than there are medicine shops. There is also a concept of ‘Government approved Drinking place’ e.g. Raj restaurant near HSBC building in sector 45, Zaika at Iffco Chowk etc. These are open air eateries that serve really good spicy, rustic, hot, freshly made tandoori items & also serve liquor. They usually have a ‘family’ section & a large stag section. Good option for a summer evening beer & food with friends.
Coming to food from the rest of the country, we start with Love & mustard – A tiny two level eatery in Galleria market (above Le Marche) – serves Bengali food. The egg chicken roll is made with a roti instead of a parantha (the original Kolkata roll is made on a multilayered 5 mm thick flour parantha as the base) & for sure it is a disappointment from an authenticity perspective. On its own, it does not taste bad. The fish cutlet, Moglai parota (Mughlai Parantha – A flour parantha lined with egg & filled with mutton mince topping is folded & deep fried) & Devilled eggs (An egg covered with potato & minced mutton paste, fried with arrowroot crumbs) are quite good but not ‘fatafati’ (Bengali for outstanding). However, the main course dishes like kosha mangsho, & the curries etc are good. The mutton Biryani is almost ‘there’ from an authenticity point of view but is still short of Arsalan, Park Circus, Kolkata. The Arsalan one just melts in the mouth…. The one at Love & Mustard is a few notches lower. Kolkata Biryani is an extension of Lucknow Dum biryani & is served with an egg & a half potato – It came with Nawab of Lucknow, Wazid Ali Shah after he was deported by the British to Kolkata & then the cuisine got modified over time. I guess, being from Bengal I am a bit stricter to this eatery than others in my judgement but I guess if you do not have that baggage, u have a very high chance of loving it. You can surely have some good sweets here like the sandesh, payesh, mishti doi etc. The level of food has deteoriated seriously since I first wrote this post.
Swagath near Bikanerwala, is another one of our favorite restaurants. It specializes in Mangalorean sea food dishes though you can see Punjabi, Chinese & other options on the menu card as well. The two dishes that we order before even the menu card arrives are lady fish fry & bombil fry. They are unique & simply superb. It’s takes real caliber to fry the slimy, flimsy & ever breakable bombil with a rawa coating – don’t worry, it does not taste slimy at all. This restaurant also serves many lobster & crab dishes. When I say crab, I mean full crabs, some of which can be bigger than the dinner plate. They show you the live crabs & you can choose one, which in turn will be cooked according to your choice. We prefer the garlic butter option – as that does not interfere with the taste of the crab. We order the crab on days we have nothing to do (as a crab lunch can take 2 hours!!!!) & also if we get a seat in a corner (coz you have to eat with your hand & to vegetarian onlookers, you might appear to be a demon straight out of an epic fairy tale). Curries are good in general for seafood – try the south Indian varieties. In case you like hot curries, try the Goan ones as well. Never tasted the Punjabi or Chinese here – so no comments. Overall, a brilliant place to eat out.
Karim’s needs no introduction – One of the most famous eateries in Old Delhi (see post – Hidden culinary gems of Shahjehanabad) has its branches in Gurgaon – one in Sector 14 & the other on Arjun Marg. Surprisingly both claim that the other one is fake but food is good in both. Mutton Burra kabab is drooling good & the mutton seekh kabab is unique, juicy, spicy, soft & the best. Nihari that is available in the mornings for breakfast only in Old Delhi is available full day at Gurgaon on weekends. It is a mutton preparation that takes full night to prepare – the mutton is cooked with herbs & spices. The result is melt in the mouth spicy, tasty mutton dish that is one of its kind. Its best had with tandoori roti. If you love your taste buds more than your waist-line, this is the best place to be.
Moti Mahal Deluxe in MGF mall is a branch of the famous Moti Mahal deluxe of Daryaganj, Old Delhi. They claim to have invented Tandoori Chicken & butter chicken in its current form. True or false aside, these dishes are real good here. So, dear chicken lovers, please head straight to it to have some succulent masaledar yummy lipsmacking tandoori chicken. The Mutton Burrah kabab & other kababs are also good.
Great kabab factory in Park Plaza Sushant Lok is a very good place for Kababs – I call it ‘Jack of all trades but master of none’. One has to order for a vegetarian or non-vegetarian option & different kababs keep coming in till the time you can eat ……and all this at a fixed price. While the Galawati kababs of Tunde’s in Lucknow are surely better & the Burrah kabab of Karim’s is surely better, the Great Kabab Factory serves all such things with reasonably good taste, under the same roof, in a nice ambience. The Tandoori prawn kababs are a real show stopper here. This bombardment of kababs is followed by a nice daal & tandoori roti. An elaborate dessert follows this………… overall, an excellent place to taste multiple kababs under one roof in a nice ambience – Each of these are very good but none of them are the best in their respective categories.
Zambar in Ambience mall serves non vegetarian South Indian fare & is quite good. You may choose the dishes according to your liking of meat / seafood – We have not gone many times to suggest the best dishes by name though. The interiors look like a traditional Kerala houseboat.
South Indian eateries are usually known for the udupi style food. Two of the notable ones in Gurgaon are Sagar Ratna near Bikanerwala & Nayvedyam in Sushant Lok. While Sagar Ratna is at best ‘average to good’, Nayvedyam is the worst South Indian joint that I have ever eaten at. The chutneys are un-edible, idlis are hard, medu vadas are not soft in the middle & crunchy outside, the sambar tastes very average & lacks character, gunpowder is not served & so on. Being an admirer of food at Saravana Bhawan at Connaught Place, every other South Indian eatery in NCR falls majorly short of expectations. Don’t know why Saravana Bhawan does not open a branch in Gurgaon while it has branches in Singapore, Dubai etc. If I compare with Murugan Idly Chennai, then nothing is there in Gurgaon even miles near.
There is a tiny shop in MGF mall called Farsaan which is the only Gujarati food shop but unfortunately it is not a restaurant. The Dhoklas & Khandvis are delicious & u can buy a host of excellent namkeens from here. Khakra ( dry paranthas), Chutneys, Chhundas, picles, papads etc. sold from this shop are also superb.
Rajdhani in MGF mall serves a good unlimited thali of Rajasthani & Gujarati food but am wondering why it is called Rajdhani as it has nothing to do with Delhi food. The desserts & curries keep changing across the seasons & add freshness to the menu.
Another Rajasthani restaurant called Chaubara is in Galleria – It has a nice little indoor & outdoor eating facility with a band of musicians singing live traditional Rajasthani songs. The good part ends here. The food is average to bad. Basics like proportion of salt & sour & sugar was also not correct in certain dishes. Needless to say we never visited twice.
We have heard that the Indian restaurant Diya at Leela Kempinsky Gurgaon is excellent but have not been there so far. Will write about it some other time.
Originally published here