Rahul Verma discovers another pocket of taste in Old Delhi, this time inside a fakiri hotel

I like getting these calls from friends who are foodies. The other day, my friend Vikram Dutt — who is an old reader of this column — rang up to air his views on street food. I gave him a patient hearing, agreed with him on many counts, and then urged him to tell me about some good food that he'd eaten in the recent past. He called back in a few days and asked me if I'd been to Rehmatullah Hotel in Old Delhi.

I had seen it, but never gone in there. I was under the impression that it was a fakiri hotel, from where people buy food in large quantities to feed the poor. I learnt that it is that, but it also has a large sitting area inside for those who want to sit and eat.

Vikram is a regular there and urged me to try out the food. So, of course, I landed up in Old Delhi some days ago, and had a superb meal with the father and son who run the hotel. I had thought that I would have a quiet lunch and leave. But Vikram had already told Fazalur Rehman and his son Adam Mohammad that I was on my way there. So the father-son duo insisted that I go up to their house above the hotel and have my meal there. That, of course, meant I was a guest in their house.

The hotel — in Matia Mahal, just ahead of Karim's — has been around for 52 years. When you enter, you see a tandoor on one side and a row of shining utensils filled with food. Another side had been reserved for chicken dishes.

They make chicken korma (Rs. 40 for a plate) and chicken biryani (Rs. 120 a kilo). But Rehmatullah Hotel is essentially a buff eater's paradise. All kinds of dishes are cooked with buffalo meat — from ishtoo to korma to liver and brain curry. I had a tasting menu, consisting of small portions of a great many dishes. I ate some keema (Rs.20 a plate), kaleji (Rs.20), korma, ishtoo and bheja (Rs. 25 for a plate each) and beef biryani (Rs. 80 for a kilo). And I had some daal gosht; the hotel's cooks prepare this delicious combination of dal and meat with channey dal in the mornings and with urad dal in the evenings (Rs.20 a plate). The food indeed is delicious. It's a bit different from the usual fare, and I thought there was a light UP touch to it, which I enjoyed.

The food is not heavily spiced, which encourages you to eat more. And every dish had been cooked to perfection, with tender pieces of meat and the right amount of masalas.

I am a great bheja fry fan, and loved it. I enjoyed the dal gosht immensely, and dug into the korma with relish. In fact, every dish was delectable in its own way. The soft and delicious rotis (Rs. 3 a piece) come from their own bakery. I shall tell you more about the bakery on another occasion. Right now, I am still revelling in the aromatic flavours of the food.

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