[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The pots and pans are filled with Delhi’s customary dishes; the thick rotis are stacked under a white netted fabric; the cooks routinely wave at passersby on the street; the two owners often double up as waiters; and the diners sit in the uncluttered courtyard, which feels so quiet that the adjacent street seems as far away as Siberia.
Husseini Hotel is truly romantic.
Even its address is filled with romance. It lies in a neighborhood that is named after a great Sufi saint, and the lane on which it stands is named after a great Urdu poet—Mirza Ghalib street, Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti.
Come here, be seated, turn on your e-book and read for hours—nobody will bother you. The only distraction will be the spicy food smells. In fact, first get that out of the way. Try the Bhuna Dal, urad cooked with roasted buff meat. The calorie-rich paya and nihari are delicious—these two dishes are ready by 7am every day. There are also kormas and biryanis. And it will be foolish not to have the milky sheermal roti—there are very few places in Delhi that serves this sweetened bread.
Although the food is homely and traditional, you can get similar dishes in the other eateries that line this street. But Husseini Hotel is more than just its culinary heritage. Lounging here brings peace. The place feels as sleepy as a village. Indeed, most diners happen to be villagers who stop here for a leisurely meal before continuing on their way to the aforementioned Sufi shrine, just around the corner. These customers talk in a drawl far removed from the processed accents of our cities. Sometimes they bring their own meals and only ask for hot rotis; the owners don’t object.
The eatery’s courtyard is clean but the paint has peeled off at many places from the brick walls. That gives Husseini its authenticity and one hopes against any attempt at renovation. There is also a shaded corridor, which is preferred in hot afternoons.
The eatery was founded in 1952 by Muhammed Husseini, who had moved to our city from Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. Today it is run by his two extremely polite grandsons, Talib and Makki, who are as courteous to their cooks as they are to their guests.
The two cooks, Abdul Aziz and Muhammed Ayub, have been here for more than a decade. Mr Aziz has a passion for music; his ears are always plugged to his mobile phone’s earphones. Even then, he could get very chatty with the regular customers.
The eatery closes around midnight.
Salooning at Husseini