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Every city has infrastructure like roads, parks, public transport, etc. But there is also another not-so-hidden aspect, and that is its food. It is not enough to have a world-class cuisine; it must be reflected in the restaurants of the city. That too, from top to bottom. However, in Delhi, there does not seem to be a concerted effort to help heritage restaurants.
Consider just two prominent names: one in the mid-segment and the other towards the bottom of the ladder. Moti Mahal came into being around the time of Partition, making it one of the older eateries in the city. However, what the brand has descended to is dismaying. There is the dowager in Daryaganj, where it all started, but it is owned by a newcomer to the brand. The other branches – Moti Mahal Delux, Moti Mahal Deluxe and Moti Mahal Tandoori Trail are all owned in a bewildering tangle of partners and business rivals, so the question of a standardised menu with signature dishes does not arise.
The other brand is Kake da Dhaba, the most prominent of the tiny eateries in Municipal Market. One fine day, it changed address to two shops down the road, became Kake da Hotel, whereupon the quality of food nosedived. Insiders insist that the owning family have fallen out after trying to set up clones in South Delhi. What is the truth? And more to the point: why hasn’t anybody called out the pretenders in Municipal Market who are raking in the moolah on someone else’s name?
Karim’s is a century old and it is only the Jama Masjid branch that has any credibility at all. Like Nathu’s Sweets, another venerable name that has now been parcelled out to anyone with enough money to pay for a franchise.