As the culmination of three decades of culinary perfection comes to a close, Dhaba – The Claridges, has since long established itself as an institution for North Indian highway dining. This journey through the Grand Trunk Road explores India’s heritage and brings with it, a glimpse of the next three decades of Dhaba at The Claridges.
Dhaba first opened its legendary doors in 1986 and today, after 30 years of excellence; its culinary perfection stands undisputed in India.
The restaurant stands on a legacy guided by the rich traditions of North Indian roadside eateries and is inspired by the contemporary fine dining experience. With recipes that have stood the test of time, Dhaba is as famous for its unique highway dining experience as it is for its delectable cuisine; the Balti Meat and Dal Makhani date back to the first day since Dhaba started serving food.
The true magic of Dhaba, however, lies in its heritage: the roadside atmosphere created by Rashmi Khanna and the rich menu left behind by its first head chef, Chef Tafsil. The carefully designed, wholesome experience is a testament to Rashmi Khanna’s unparalleled zeal, the first owner of Dhaba. This passion translated to intricate detailing of this experience based on her visits to over two hundred roadside stalls.
Dhaba is as famous for its unique highway eatery ambience as it is for its delectable cuisine. The remarkable décor of the restaurant is inspired by a typical North Indian eatery around the highway with rustic wooden tables and chairs, natural flooring, thatched ceiling, traditional pickle containers, traditional pickle containers and an old radio playing hindi filmy songs from the black and white era. The iconic restaurant completed 30 years in July 2016.
The celebrated restaurant is bringing in 30 years with the Grand Trunk Road Festival beginning on 22nd July 2016.
Spanning from Chittagong in Bangladesh to Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, the Grand Trunk road is not only Asia’s most extensive road but also one with the strongest ties to India’s past. Built by the Mauryan Empire, it survived and flourished through the rise and fall of empires, and like any city or region, with it, it developed its own culture.
Along the massive length of GT road, the iconic roadside eateries have served weary traders, colonial officers, freedom fighters and now, still standing, they provide the same food to present day travelers. These dhabas are a reflection of the province they are situated in, providing glimpses into the nuances of the cuisine of the area.
To celebrate three decades of Dhaba at the Claridges, the chefs will take you through this culinary journey in the coming two months. Divided into three phases, Dhaba’s chefs aim to cover every major stop the Grand Trunk Road has within India.
The first phase from 22nd July to 31st July takes one to the very beginning of GT road, to Kolkata, where culture and creative energy is ingrained in the city’s very spirit. This inventive spirit is seen in the dhabas of GT road, where traditional Paturi Machh and Litti Chokha are staples, but also other seafood dishes and sweet desserts are experimented with and reimagined. The railway colonies of Mughal Sarai follow this stop, amidst the chaos typical of Benaras, the mouthwatering chaats, tikkis and other varieties of fried food offer a façade of calm.
Perhaps what gives Benarasi food its unique flavours and tastes is that it does not only represent the area, but also it offers a mélange of the city, our spiritual past and the influences of many a foreign traveler. Allahabad, the next stop on this journey, is decidedly more Mughlai in its flavours. Savour the Allahbadi Tehri incorporated by the chefs of Dhaba into this menu.
Phase two takes you through to Kanpur, where sweet aromas emanating from the halwai fill the early morning air. Thousands of tourists and kanpuriyas alike throng the streets for varieties of chaats, kachoris and subzis.
Further ahead on GT road lies erstwhile capital of the Mughal Empire, Agra. Famed for its jalebis, the dhabas flanking GT road offer this rich, sweet dessert. En route to the third stop of phase two, the capital city of India, the roadside eateries offer rich, flavourful mughlai curries, served with a side of breads.
Delhi offers spicier and more varied street food, its chaats, dumplings and wraps being the highlight. The phase commences on 19th August and ends on 28th August at Dhaba.
Karnal marks the beginning of the final phase of this journey. Starting on 9nd September, the festival will take you through to Ludhiana, Jalandar and finally to Amritsar.
The staple flavours of Punjabi cuisine – rich, thick and spicy – are evident in all three stops. Butter chicken, Dal Makhani and naans dictate the nuances of the area, with little variations or twists to keep you engaged through the journey. This will embark the end of the Grand Trunk Road Festival on 18th September.
The celebrations of 30 years of Dhaba will culminate with a showcase of Chef Sweety Singh’s signature menu. Chef Sweety Singh will showcase an array of authentic preparations from the rustic Punjab region using his secret blend of spices in October.