Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Hogging in Hyderabad


Most folks are aware that Hyderabad is awesome for a number of reasons. But let us leave aside for a moment the Charminar, Golkonda fort, Taj Faluknama palace, Ramoji film city and the Telugu film industry hotties like Prabhas, Allu Arjun and Vijay Deverakonda, though they must by no means be forgotten and certainly checked out. After all, it is the incredible array of culinary choices which is absolutely to die for that makes Hyderabad the ideal place for all who love to hog without worrying about silly things like burgeoning waistlines and way too much junk in the trunk. After all you live only once and what is life without a decent meal right? 
The foodies with Varsoo! 
Traditionally, Hyderabad is famed for the opulent culinary offerings of the Nizams, particularly the mildly spiced yet intensely flavoursome biriyani and with good reason. This is a biriyani lover’s paradise. The savoury meat and rice dish guarantees a foodgasm and is so good all who have tried it will most certainly choose it for a last meal. I kid you not! The discerning foodie and biriyani aficionados will do well not to google the best biriyani places in Hyderabad and head there directly though these establishments are usually deserving of their reputation. It is far more fun to wander around, taking in the sights and sounds of the city and allowing it to guide you to charming, lesser known joints that lure you in with their quaint décor and tantalizing aromas. And trust me, in Hyderabad, they all seem to know how to make heavenly biriyani.
I recommend Ulavucharu, Jubilee Hills for those who can boast of a cast iron stomach and like their food hot and spicy. The hospitality of the serving staff makes you feel like you are being feasted by a particularly benevolent monarch and the flavours are unbeatable. Be sure to try the scrumptious vepudula (starters) particularly the bamboo kodi (chicken) and chilli prawns. If you are with friends, guard your portion because those seated next to you may not be able to resist the temptation to steal some succulent morsels off your plate. They have a smorgasbord of biriyani and pulao options to choose from whether you favour the milder Hyderabadi version or the spicy Andhra style. Irrespective of your choice be prepared to enter foodie heaven. The Gongura kodi vepudu and grilled tandoori fish are smart choices as well. 
For those who can’t stand the heat, it may be a good idea to order their yummy lassi to wash it down with. The dessert options are pretty decent too, and I am partial to junnu, a delicate and delectable milk pudding made with colostrum, produced by lactating cows just after birthing their calves. If you haven’t tried it before, prepare yourself for a treat!
You may be tempted to bury yourself in biriyani, but if you need a breather there is a quaint bakery named Labonel at Banjara hills, that serves the most decadent chocolate cake in the world. And trust me that is hardly an exaggeration and more of an understatement. It is one of those charming places that makes you feel like you have stepped out of the real world and into an Enid Blyton eatery where you can expect to be served google buns, pop biscuits and shock toffee. And you will not be disappointed because the yumminess quotient of the goodies served at this place is through the roof.
It is hard to choose from an array of classics like red velvet cake, chocolate Victoria sponge, midnight fudge and chocolate walnut since they all taste amazing but do close your eyes and blindly opt for Labonel’s signature chocolate cake, a marvel in dark chocolate, semi – sweet ganache and chocolate flakes.  It is the definitive cake that put the chocolate in death by chocolate. Incidentally they have death by chocolate too! How incredible is this place? Some nights I dream of this cake, and wake up with hunger pangs so great, I am tempted to move to Hyderabad and spend my days at Labonel. Sighs! Oh and did I mention that the little cupcakes melt in your mouth, the brownies are something special and while you wait, you can sample bite – sized treats? I insist you try this place, dear reader. Thank me later! 
Labonel's sinful signature chocolate cake! 
            Doing the clichéd thing in Hyderabad is a lot of fun. Therefore, it makes sense to hit the streets if only to try tasty treats like keema (minced meat) samosas, lukhmi (deep fried maida squares with a meat filling), chaat and idlis with paaya (spicy goat trotters gravy). For those with a sweet tooth, regional delicacies include ariselu made with rice flour and jaggery (they are particularly good in temples during festivals!), payasams, sheer kurma and shahi tukdas.
            If like me, you are the sort of person who develops a hankering for continental food, even while on Indian shores, never fear, you are likely to be spoilt for choice. Do yourself a favour though and steer clear of those ubiquitous fast food chains and head towards, La Vantage Café in Jubilee hills. They have tasty short eats like quesadillas, buffalo chicken wings, bruschetta, garlic loaves, and nachos. The steaks, burgers, sandwiches, pizzas, and pastas are yummy too. The chilled out ambience of the place is its USP. It is a great place to relax and unwind with friends.
            For travellers who would like to dress up and check out fine dining options, needless to say there are a number of choices. I daresay, all the five star establishments in Hyderabad can cook up a storm but the Thai pavilion at Vivanta by Taj, Begumpet, the Dining and Living room at the Park Hyatt are personal favourites.
            Each time, I head out to Hyderabad, I make a mental note to try the famous haleem but am yet to do so. But this is just another reason to visit the city asap. And I can hear the siren call of Labonel! I can hardly wait to visit Hyderabad again!

Really enjoyed writing this piece for AirAsia's Travel360. 


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