By Uzair Siddiqui

Hotel Malabar is a paradox. It exists in the midst of an incredibly dense urban village {of sorts}, the Sarai Jullena near Fortis Escorts Hospital in New Friends Colony. That being the context, the eatery can be equated to a canteen where the premiere client base constitutes nurses employed at hospitals a stone’s throw away. I was tipped off about this place a few years ago by my Mallu friends in college.

Locating this joint is quite tricky, so I suggest you call the place and take directions. Or, you could skip navigating the maze and do what I {and numerous students in hostels around} do – order in. The place is tight. It is clean enough by any dingy, little dhaba/canteen’s standard, and you should expect to share your table in case there is a rush. But the food more than makes up for all this.

We ordered classics off of the Malabar menu – Beef Fry, Beef Roast and the Chicken Biryani. We also ordered the Chicken Chettinad. All these portions were individually enough for two people to share, along with bread/rice, which you have to order separately {we had our food with the appam and the Malabari parotta}. Being a group of three, we did manage to eat through eighty percent of this.

If I were to be picky, I would argue that what Hotel Malabar offers isn’t Malabari anymore – it has spread throughout Kerala. Malabari food, in fact, belongs to the Moplahs of North Kerala. It is a complex cuisine that fuses two very distinct aspects of the Moplah ancestry – local Malayali with trading Arab. Instead, what you find at Hotel Malabar are traces of this history, stewed in a malleable version of Malayali cuisine. But I’m not complaining, because of two major reasons. Firstly, this cuisine is always overshadowed in North India because of the general assumption that anything South Indian must be dosa-idli-sambar. Secondly, food like this rarely comes at a price that Hotel Malabar sells at. Appams for eight rupees, really?! Last time I had something that cheap was at an ashram in Kanyakumari.

Hotel Malabar is one of those places that has no qulams about being what it is. It exists to serve its loyal clientele and offers classics that one could count off on their fingers. The real testimony to its brilliance lies in its food: I can’t wait to go back for more. God’s own, indeed!

Disclaimer: At the time of publishing this review, Hotel Malabar expanded its menu. It now offers a plethora of food from Kerala {including Syrian Christian fare like Karimeen Moilee} and more Malabari food like Pathiri and Fish Mango Curry {meen varutharachathu}. The menu also attempts at offering “chinese” food. What has happened at Hotel Malabar is clearly symptomatic of the changing immigrant landscape in Delhi. It is playing defensive to competition from Tibetan outlets, and pandering to a wider rental population now living in Sarai Juliena.

Notes in our Little Black Book |

Malabar Hotel offers authentic {and very affordable} Malabari food, and has expanded its menu to cater to the ever expanding immigrant population in the city, so you’ll even find some ‘Chinese’ food. Go for the beef. Both the beef roast and beef fry are out of this world. Thick, juicy cuts of beef cooked in fennel and curry leaf heavy masala, scooped up with either appams or Malabari parottas. The chicken biryani is nice too, complete with a hard-boiled egg. We recommend you stick to the basic and authentic side of the menu page.

Where | Hotel Malabar, 37 A, Sarai Juliena, New Friends Colony, New Delhi {Take the street from across the back entrance of the Escorts Hospital, off the road connecting New Friends Colony to Sukhdev Vihar. This stretch is hard to miss because of all the chemist shops that occupy the street frontage. Upon entering the street, walk till it ends in a T-point, then go right. Ask around for it.}

Contact | 9911678330, 7840808702

Cost for two | INR 400