History plays an integral role in the present. It embodies our past and provides a foundation for the lifestyles adopted currently. But food has outmanoeuvred the construct of time. A constant in a sea of variables – a dish equally relished in the 1920s can be tasted with fervour in the 2020s. As we attempt to understand time, cuisines all over the world boast the stamp of ‘time-tested’. In India, there exist various restaurants that date back to an era familiar to us through history books but foreign in experience – the Pre-Independence era. Here is our list of the best restaurants in India that boast of their delicious food that people have loved through generations.
OLDEST RESTAURANTS OF INDIA SERVING THE BEST TASTE
The charms of these restaurants lie in their delicious food, quaint ambience and its historical significance. To imagine that a business model combined with culinary skills has persevered through the years is highly fascinating. Having evolved through the years, these restaurants provide a smack of nostalgia that captivates customers.
Karim’s, New Delhi, 1913
Karim’s Hotel or Karim’s is a historical restaurant established in 1913 in the Old Delhi area of Jama Masjid. It is one of the most popular culinary destinations in Delhi and attracts people from all corners for its delicious Mughlai cuisine. Haji Karimuddin who was the son of a cook from the royal court of Bahadur Shah Zafar, first established this place. The place is rife with historical significance connected to the Mughal rule that persisted in the Medieval times of India.
Furthermore, the hotel continues to honour Haji’s legacy and his goal to serve royal food to the common man. Head over here for some delicious Mughlai cuisine such as mutton korma, kebabs, chicken Mughlai and more. When you have a taste of their khameeri roti with mutton stew or nihari, you would realise why is it one of the best restaurants to find in Delhi. Moreover, while the once small place has been renovated through time, the corner most spot still remains the oldest. Run a finger through their stone walls, you will know what it has seen through time.
Note : price is ₹800 for two people.
Leopold’s Cafe, Mumbai, 1871
Leopold’s Cafe is a lovely cafe situated in the area of Colaba, Mumbai. The ambience of the cafe is of an old school cafe and bar which is understandable given its origins in 1871. The cafe serves delicious Continental, Indian, and Chinese food along with cocktails to sip on. The history of Leopold’s cafe is intermixed with the culture of the Parsi community. A shred of this minority community’s culture lies within its legacy. Established by Zoroastrians, the restaurant began as a wholesale cooking oil store that oscillated between a restaurant, store and pharmacy.
One of the major indicators of its Zoroastrian affiliation is the Achaemenid Persian Lion Python in its logo. Furthermore, the place was the site of a terrorist attack during 26/11 and currently Indian frequent it in a spirit of defiance. A place painted with a cultural and tragic history, it serves as a perfect reminder for strength and resilience. However, a taste of delicious Irani food and tandoori here makes you overcome the sadness. Certainly one of the best restaurants in India, the food here reminds you that both good and the bad fills history.
Note : price is ₹2,000 for two people.
Indian Coffee House, Kolkata, late 1800s
The Indian Coffee House lies opposite to Presidency College in Kolkata is one of its most popular branches. Locally known as the ‘College Street Coffee House’ owing to its location, the place represents a cultural history. Moreover, it houses Calcutta’s most prolific debates. It is a sight for coffee and meaningful conversations for many college students. The history of this place is affiliated with Albert Hall founded in 1876. It began as a coffee joint from Albert Hall and thereafter, became a rendezvous point for poets, artists, literati and many more.
The place is an intrinsic part of Kolkata and cultivates art and culture. Further on, this quaint heritage place has received numerous popular patrons as its regular visitors which even include Satyajit Ray, Aparna Sen, Sumit Sarkar and Rabindranath Tagore. Serving as an intellectual breeding ground for literary battles, the place is nothing beyond its ambiance and coffee. So pick your favourite kind of coffee accompanied with snacks like mutton cutlet and have a chat at the Indian Coffee House.
Note: price is ₹300 for two people.
Shaikh Brothers Bakery, Guwahati, 1800s
Shaikh Brothers Bakery began its establishment in the 1800s and grew to become one of the most loved bakeries in Guwahati. Its sweet delicacies was not only a local favourite but it managed to capture the attention of the British administrators. The bakery was notably quite popular between Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter, Indira Gandhi. Nehru certainly had a penchant for their cheese straws!
What was once a soda-watering plant became a bakery through the evolution of times. Moreover, the owner, Shaikh Ibrahim learnt from his failed business and brought in a neo-Babu culture that helped bakery businesses flourish. Soon, their business found the right market and grew famous for their delicious breads, biscuits and pastries. It still continues to be one of the best and oldest restaurants out there! The bakery served as nostalgia for the colonisers and a form of cultural experience for the Indians. Grab a taste of the cheese straws that kept Nehru in awe along with puff pastry items here. They’re quite delicious!
Note: price is ₹150 for two people.
Mavalli Tiffin Rooms, Bangalore, 1924
Mavalli Tiffin Rooms is iconic for its place in culinary history and its menu. The place is renowned for its South Indian comfort food that flocks people of Bangalore. Parampalli Yagnanarayana Maiya along with his brothers found this restaurant in 1924. It began as a standard restaurant business which later diversified into instant food business due to the Food Control Act enacted in the mid-1970s. Oh yes, today we know it as the famous, “MTR” foods!
You’re most likely to find the Udupi cuisine popular in Karnataka here. Moreover, it is also quite popular for its invention of the Rava idli that has gradually become a revered South Indian dish. The invention came as a response to the shortage of rice during World War II. Currently, it is a hygienic and clean hub for instant South Indian food such as rasam and Rava idlis. it is certainly one of the best restaurants in Bangalore to grab a morning breakfast!
Note: price is ₹250 for two people.
Tunday Kababi, Lucknow, 1905
The area of Aminabad shelters the old and historic ambience of Lucknow that it once thrived in. Now, it is a great spot for good food and a shopping spree. One of the oldest restaurants to eat in Lucknow is the famous Tunday Kababi. Tourist guides often recommend this place and locals highly frequent it for its delicious kebabs. But what is even more fascinating is that Tunday Kababi has its roots in the colonial period.
Tunday Kababi was founded in 1905 by Haji Murad Ali who continued the legacy of this type of kebab that became the identity of Lucknow’s Awadhi cuisine. Further on, their secret to preservation for 9 decades is that they remained confined to the remote corner in Chowk, Lucknow. You will love the taste of the galouti kebabs and seekh kebabs but mind you, there are so many more options! We would call it a culinary delight rooted in history.
Note: price is ₹300 for two people.
Dorabjee and sons, Pune, 1878
Another charming example of the culinary legacy of the Zoroastrian community is Dorabjee and Sons. This simple restaurant was once a small tea stall in the 1800s. Through the years, the eateries at the stall gained immense popularity which caused the place to expand into a restaurant. It was first established by Sorabjee and Dorabjee in 1878. One of the best restaurants for Parsi food, it holds a great historical and cultural significance.
The pride of their legacy is understood through the language of food. As humble as it began, the restaurant continues with its humble ventures of serving delicious Parsi specialities to the people of Pune. Furthermore, the place serves lip-smacking Dhansak, Salli Boti, Mutton Paya along with the iconic Ardeshir Raspberry soda and lemon soda. A place to be treasured by culinary enthusiasts, history buffs and binge-eaters! The simple decor of the restaurant and the quality of food makes a trip to this restaurant quite worthy.
Note: price is ₹600 for two people.
Glenary’s, Darjeeling, 1911
Glenary’s is an iconic hangout place in Darjeeling that crosses a bakery, restaurant and a pub to offer a unique experience. The beautiful vintage setting of Glenary’s is reminiscent of its origins. The place offers excellent varieties of Indian, Chinese and Continental food to its customers and has continued to remain in popularity since 1911. One must wonder the secret to good business after witnessing the functioning of Glenary’s – which has run successfully since the colonial period.
It was originally named Vado after its Italian owner but was bought by a Patna-based family post-Independence. It is a great hangout place to munch over cakes, muffins or chocolates while catching a breath from the daily buzz of life. In addition to that, their plates of roast pork, beef steak and more are equally delicious. As a prominent landmark in Darjeeling, the place witnesses a myriad of people ranging from locals to tourists. Moreover, the vintage rooftop gives gorgeous views of the hills!
Note : price is ₹1000 for two people.
Rayar’s Mess, Chennai, early 1940s
The cramped lanes of Mylapore hide a historical gem from the people of Chennai. It is a humble and small quarters that offers delicious South Indian food in a home-style fashion. To many South Indians away from home, it will bring a wave of nostalgia like none other. The mess was established by Srinivasa Rao who was nicknamed Rayar by the locals. The history of this place weaves together 70 years of South Indian delicacies and wonderful dining experiences.
Moreover, the mess is known for its soft idlis, crispy vadas and chutney served along with the sweet and strong filter coffee. The iconic taste of the food is so magnetic that it draws people from over long distances. The epitome of delicious South Indian food is found in this heavenly abode and those passionate about South Indian cuisine cannot miss it. Ideal for a getaway breakfast date, the Rayar’s mess is one of the best restaurants to enjoy your meal!
Note: price is ₹100 for two people.
Confeitaria 31 De Janeiro, Goa, 1913
A great example of cultural history meets food is Confeitaria 31 De Janeiro of Panaji, Goa. The place is held in high regard for the whiff of nostalgia it evokes within its customers. But most importantly, it is a testament to the Portuguese culture that has prevailed in Goa since the colonial period. It is a quaint family-run bakery popular for its freshly baked cakes and bread. You’re likely to find tasty local Goan sweets such as sweet dates, fresh walnut cake, creamy sweet rolls and the delicious bebinca.
Furthermore, ˆt is a wonderful place to get affordable snacks instantly and soak in the vintage vibe of the place. Established in 1913, the place is tucked between the colourful houses in the heart of the Latin Quarters. And since then, it has continued to provide a sugary escape for the people of Goa. The place might seem no different from any ordinary bakery but the fresh cakes baked here makes it worlds apart from any other bakery. Hence, one of the best restaurants of Goa!
Note: price is ₹500 for two people.
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