The 200-year-old mansion is not easy to find, although the landmark is quite popular – Jame Masjid Thana. This is probably not the best place to imagine a smoggasboard of gastronomic pleasure but those who have been tempted by Matia Mahal, Karim, Al Jawhar and Dariba Kalan will be even more adventurous for the taste of Mughal-style food. So, when one talks about the experience of a fine meal in Old Delhi, it is unusual not to be skeptical. But this is exactly what Haveli Dharampura gives.
The building, owned by MP Vijay Goel, and now a Wellcome Heritage property, took six years to restore as a heritage hotel. It has 13 rooms, a spa, two restaurants (Indian and continental – although only Lakhori, an Indian one, currently in operation), and a small art gallery. Views of Jama Masjid, Red Fort, Gurudwara Sis Ganj Saheb, Gauri Shankar Temple and St. James Church are in a panoramic stretch. The lacquer finish (as the bricks are called, and which inspires the name of the restaurant), a courtyard with colonial-style furniture and a fountain, the three-story mansion preserves the old feel.
Lakhori chef Pradeep Kumar and the owners had been thinking for weeks to come up with a menu of about 50 dishes. These are true for Indian taste, though the presentation is modern and sophisticated. We start with a round of bite-sized cucumber chutney canapেসs, a long cucumber slice roll filled with chutney spices and yogurt, then curd pur পুরe and feather leaf chutney. The latter plays particularly well on fragrant, crisp, and cold yogurt and spicy palate.
In the starters, there was a kadak rumali masala, which was somewhat smooth. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian gilauti kebabs were as they should be, melting in taste and in the mouth. The chicken ke parche (aka chicken tikka) was well seasoned and did justice to the presence of lakhori in old Delhi.
The dishes were accompanied by a series of smoothies and mocktails. (The restaurant can still get its liquor license.) One would recommend Jahan Ara (Khus and Chili), Kiwi Strawberry and Lakhori Manzil Smoothie and Chai Biscuit (it was an expression for those who hate tea). The Benaresi drink was amazing, given in small sips in the course.
The main course showcases Chef Kumar’s international experience, his potato gooey mutton deconstructed, which was a mix of textures. Kofta Dogala (cottage cheese kofta with two gravy – tomato and cashew), was a visual delight. The bowl was divided in half by the spinach-wrapped cheese koftas acting as a separator. The flavors complement each other as the tomatoes are rounded by the creamyness of the tengens cashew paste. The owners are vegetarians, which offers something to look forward to for herbivores in Old Delhi.
After a while, the sweets were gone Creamy kheer (beetroot, betel and fig) and rose-flavored kulfi (presented on a chocolate cone) were the perfect complement to a modern Mughal Delhi cuisine.
The evening is when the magic of the mansion enchants you, with classical music set against the backdrop of old Delhi, food suitable for the nawabs and a strange yet contemporary story.