Thursday, 7 March 2019

Iconic Restaurant | Serving Delicious Fare For The Last 80 Years

At a day and age when new restaurants are sprouting in every nook and corner of Delhi, there is an equal number of those that shut shop because they cannot survive in the face of fierce competition. Yet, there are a handful of restaurants that have stood the test of time, those that have been around since pre-Independence years and still continue to thrive.

Founder Mr. PL Lamba entertaining high profile guests
including Pandit Jasraj.

Kwality in Connaught Place is a shining example of an iconic restaurant that has stood the test of time as well as the challenge of the evolving palate of Indians. Over the last 80 years the look of the restaurant may have undergone several changes to keep up with the times, but the consistency of some of the best-selling dishes is something that old timers can still swear by. While the puffed up bhatoora that accompanies the delectable bowl of chana is almost synonymous with Kwality, it serves many more inimitable specials including cheese balls, mulligatwany soup, prawn cocktail, paneer shashlik, chicken a la kiev and the likes that were introduced to India during the Colonial era and hence gave rise to Anglo-Indian cuisine.

Early Days
Sunil Lamba takes us back to the early days, when Kwality first opened its doors in 1940. “My grandfather, PL Lamba, opened this restaurant in partnership with his brother in law, IK Ghei, before I was born,” he shares. The coveted location in the then uppity Connaught Place and in the vicinity of prime entertainment hubs like Regal and Rivoli brought in the numbers to this family run restaurant. Being a part of the family buisiness since his youth, Sunil Lamba proudly attributes Kwality’s initial success to the vision of its founders. On one hand they catered to the rich Indian families of the time, on the other they included Continental dishes to suit the British as well as the American GIs who were stationed here during the 2nd World War. With their dedication, foresight and multiple international trips they soon become the icons of the thriving restaurant industry in India and also opened many successful restaurants across the globe including London, New York and Japan. It was during one of their trips to America that they learnt the craft of making icecream bricks, as opposed to home-made icecream that was earlier served in their restaurants. This too helped them to enjoy unparalleled success for many years as Kwality icecream became market leaders in north India.

The New Look

Newly Created Old World Charm
Coming back to where it all started, Kwality restaurant still stands tall at its original location. Of course, the original interiors were in line with the simplicity of those days, but today they have been redone to create a plush aura of the bygone era. The young Divij Lamba (Sunil Lamba’s son), has spearheaded the project to revamp this iconic restaurant in a way that the core originals remain intact while adapting to modern challenges and catering to the evolving preferences of food connoisseurs. The new interiors almost create a time warp with period furniture that includes a lot of leather, fine wood and brass, a piano lounge and a typical maharajah style polo bar littered with antiques. There are almost 70 original photographs of Connaught Place spanning over a period of 40 years by the famous photographer Madan Mahatta. And the delcious food is served stylishly with bespoke crockery and cutlery from Villeroy & Boch, Germany.

Left: The iconic chana bhatoora.
Right: High Tea is worth experiencing for the delicious array of food
along with a daily piano recital.

Along with the new look, the piano is put to good use with daily recitals during afternoon high tea and dinner service; weekends are likely to see jazz performances as well. Over time, Divij hopes to bring back traditions such as a dress code, foreign brass bands, formal high teas and midnight dances.

Address: 7, Regal Building, Parliament Street, New Delhi 110001
Phone: 011 23742310 / 23742352
Time: Noon to Midnight
Meal for Two: INR 1400++

A version of this article first appeared in The Hindu MetroPlus on 8th March 2019.