Monday, October 14, 2019

Hyderabad - Impressions and Food


This was our second short trip to Hyderabad in two years and both Mr Stonethrower and I are very impressed with the city. We cannot understand why every city besides Mumbai continues to improve and get better infrastructure while Mumbai keeps sliding down a never-ending quagmire of over intellectualisation, lack of political will, outright corruption, shoddy contractors and endless protests to stall any development.

Landing in Hyderabad is a pleasure. The airport is clean, the bags come relatively quickly, the parking is neatly organised to make space to private cars, taxis, Uber, Ola, etc. They have systems in place and seeing the orderly way everyone was exiting the airport, the systems seem to work pretty well. Try getting an Uber from level P7 (west side!) of Mumbai T2 and you will know what I am saying…

Anyway, griping aside, we were soon in our car (hired for the weekend) and zooming away on the super smooth airport exit road. Kilometre after kilometre of straight, un-potholed tree lined joy. Serious joy. When we hit the end of the airport road our driver informed us there was a traffic jam caused by some political rally. He called a friend who had exited the airport a little before us and was told there was a 45 min delay just ahead of us. Mr Driver took an executive decision and swung the car around to the Outer Ring Road - a 158 kilometre, 8-lane Expressway encircling Hyderabad. Again, joy. Serious joy. A road like a runway on which speeds of 120 kms per hour are not just acceptable but actually expected! Mr Driver kept up a steady commentary of all sights and developments and rules and we could hear the pride in his voice. Yes, here was a someone who was proud of how his city had developed. This made me think back at the time we were in Chennai. The taxi driver in Chennai was so proud of the new Metro there and enthusiastically pointed every Metro station en route. Sorry to labour the point, but think back to the last time you heard someone say Mumbai has changed for the better!

Anyway, we checked into the extremely nice Park Hyatt at Banjara Hills – definitely recommended - and were soon in the firm control of Junior Ms Stonethrower – who was the reason why we were in Hyderabad. She zoomed us off to the impressive Arbor Road Estate which Mr Stonethrower has written about here.

Traffic getting back was beyond insane and we were all getting more than a little irritated. Junior Ms Stonethrower saved the day and got us to hop into the super-efficient Hyderabad Metro. This, on the day that the Supreme Court had ordered a stay on tree cutting at the proposed Metro car shed at Aarey! We keenly felt the irony of this ride that cut our commute time by over an hour.

A quick change and we were seated in the extremely pleasant bar at the Park Hyatt. A few much-needed intoxicants for us and a plate of fried calamari started the evening off nicely. Super fresh calamari in a crisp, thin batter. Appetites whetted, we asked for a Prawns Aglio Olio. Again, spot on. Large prawns, not overcooked, in chilli olive oil served with crisp garlic bread. The irritation with the traffic was easily forgotten. After some more assorted warm bread with excellent Truffle Butter we were ready to take the evening up a notch.

We strolled across the floor to the Park Hyatt’s Asian restaurant Rika and in the blink of an eye had a crunchy bowl of Popcorn Chicken with spicy Gochujang sauce sitting in front of us. Sorry to say but there are no photographs of this as it was demolished within minutes. Dinner was a shared platter of sushi for junior Ms Stonethrower and me and Shanghai-Style Poached Chicken With Sichuan Peppercorns And Chilli for Mr Stonethrower

Look at the Sushi platter. A thing of absolute beauty. It takes someone who cares for and is proud of their work to create this. The Sushi came out at the perfect temperature. Was obviously freshly made. The fish cool, fresh and evenly cut. And importantly for me the Sushi had the perfect amount of rice to fish. Both Junior Ms Stonethrower and I were extremely pleased with our Sushi and proceeded to demolish it while complaining that we were destroying a work of art. Without a doubt the best Sushi I have eaten in India – definitely recommended

Above: The Sushi Platter at Rika Park Hyatt Hyderabad

Mr Stonethrower too was very happy with his chicken (unfortunately no pics) and said it was the first time in India he had seen the use of Sichuan peppercorns.

Desserts were a good Passion Fruit Panna Cotta and an indifferent Cheesecake. Apologies for the blurred photos.

Above: The Cheesecake with Matcha Ice Cream and Caramel

 Above: Passion Fruit Panna Cotta

A very happy meal indeed.

Early the next morning Junior Ms Stonethrower whisked us off to the recently restored Qutb Shahi Tombs for a bit of a walk around. Impressive. Good renovation supported by the Aga Khan Foundation, though, still a work in progress. It is evident that the tombs were badly neglected for centuries and the renovation is a huge, uphill task. We did not see much evidence of the blue tiles that were supposed to have once adorned the domes. Not much expensive material used in construction either, no marble. Lot of plaster mortar work.

Above: An abandoned Mosque

Above: A synthesis. On the lower level 9 arches, mid level 5 and the top has a dome. Typical of the mix of Persian, Muslim and Hindu architecture. Tombs for more important individuals had this 9 -5- dome architecture. Lesser individuals has lesser number of arches

Above: The water supply for the Tombs and the then exquisite gardens

Above: A half completed Tomb for Aurangzeb

Lunch was at Junior Ms Stonethrower's favourite new patissiere-café Feu. Sorry to keep harping back to this, but Feu will give a tough fight to any patissiere-café in Mumbai and would probably win hands down. We shared an excellent thin crust Pepperoni Pizza and a Spaghetti with Pesto. Both were exactly what was promised on the menu.

But the errr… icing on the cake here were the desserts. We shared a Chocolate Mousse pastry and a Blueberry Cheesecake. Look at the photographs! Look at the Glaçage Miroir (mirror glaze) encasing the mousse! Good quality chocolate. Not overly sweet. Just perfect.

Above: The Chocolate Mousse

The Blueberry Cheesecake too was not just a work of art but extremely delicious and again not cloyingly sweet as cheesecakes can sometimes be.

Above: Blueberry Cheesecake

Above: Loads more in the display cases.

Great choice Junior Ms Stonethrower. Thanks for introducing us to Feu. We are sure we will be back there soon.

The afternoon was spent on a bit of retail therapy, including a visit to Tonique, India’s largest liquor store. A staggering 15,000 square feet spread over two floors. It is such a pleasure to walk in a liquor store see and pick up bottles. Most liquor stores treat you as a kleptomaniac and you are kept behind a counter and served by a minion. Before you ask, bottles are sold at MRP.

Dinner was at Chicha’s which Junior Ms Stonethrower said is her go to place for Hyderabadi kebabs and biryani. An extremely inviting place with mouth-watering food smells that hit you as soon as you enter. We were whisked away to a semi private dining area and proceeded to order way more than we could possibly eat. This was a classic case of the eye is bigger than the stomach.

We of course went to the Posh Chicha's. Brilliant name. Someone has a sense of humor.

Without much ado, we demolished a melting tender and flavourful Patthar ka Ghosh, a lurid red Chicken 65 (for some unknown reason, a long-time favourite for Mr Stonethrower), most of the Talawa Ghost and made a fair headway with the Special Mutton Paya. The food arrived hot, fresh and fast. No time to linger or chat, this was a place to eat till you can’t eat anymore.

Above: Chicken 65

Above: Talawa Ghost

Above: Patthar Ka Ghost

Above: Malai Paya

The Special Mutton Biryani however defeated us. We were too full to even attempt a mouthful. We asked if it could be airline packed to carry back to Mumbai for dinner the next day. “Airline packed” is a term Junior Ms Stonethrower taught us. On our way back to the airport we saw signs on many restaurants for “Airline pack” Biryani. It seems everybody wants to carry back Hyderabadi Haleem and Biryani and restaurants for a measly Rs 50/- pack these dishes in multi-layered leak proof containers.

The Special Mutton Biryani and accompanying Mirchi Ka Salan arrived safely in our suitcases without a drop leaking and we ate it over two meals. Yes, you read that right, it took two dinners to finish that quantity of rice and meat. Not that we were complaining. The Biryani was moist, flavourful and thankfully not oily at all. The Mutton pieces (9 large pieces) were tender and succulent with a nice coating of spices. We were glad for the lingering taste of Hyderabad.

A most fun, interesting and delicious two days. Looking forward to our next visit.

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