Where to eat biryani in Hyderabad
There are two reasons the Hyderabadi biryani is considered by some as the country’s best: the method of cooking and the mild but sophisticated spicing. When marinated raw lamb is cooked together with rice, it is referred to as the kachchi biryani. However, the more common version is the pakki biryani, in which the mutton is cooked in a khurma curry and then layered with the almost-cooked rice. Both biryanis are cooked on dum, though for varying lengths of time. Now, the spicing.
According to Hyderabadi cuisine expert and the last word on the subject Nawab Mehboob Alam Khan, fresh cardamom makes the biryani. There should also be a hint of green chilli, ghee, and saffron. While the biryani is well spiced, it should not to be fiery. Lastly, there should be no stinting on the mutton, which should be flavourful, on the bone, and tender.
At its most basic, biryani is a dish of rice and lamb or, well, chicken if you want to commit heresy. We don’t, so this is a listing of only mutton biryani.
Four Seasons (Rating – 4.5/5)
When it started in 2000, Four Seasons’ claim to fame was its Middle-Eastern food. It still is, but the establishment also makes one of the best biryanis in Hyderabad. Owner Nayeem Ahmed Baksh took the bones of the recipe from the book Recipes of Nizami Kitchens and added his own spice. It’s a pale biryani, not fiery but well spiced, and with a bit of heat at the end of a mouthful. The rice is aromatic and the meat is ample and tender. The dahi ki chutney is thick, the mirchi ka salan indeterminate, but the biryani needs neither—it stands well on its own. Rs279. 9-4-77/3/D/4/5/6, Yousuf Tekri, Opp RTA Office, Tolichowki. 90520 78671.
Chicha’s (Rating – 4.5/5)
Opened in 2016, this is the newest biryani place in town. The Chicha it refers to is Nawab Mehboob Alam Khan, the doyen of Hyderabadi biryani. The restaurant is owned by his nephew Qutub Alam Khan, and his friends. The biryani is aromatic—the first flavour that hits the senses is the saffron. The spice is mild, but the heat comes from the green chillies. Chicha’s has the absolute best mutton—lean, on the bone, tender and generous. The dahi ki chutney is thick, the mirchi ka salan authentic, and with mirchis. So what stops it from being the best biryani? The biryani here is on the sweet side and lacks a balancing punch to keep the palate interested. Rs329. 6-2-39, AC Guards Road, Opposite Kun Hyundai, Lakdikapul. 66567890
Cafe Bahar (Rating – 4.5/5)
This is considered one of the top contenders for biryani supremacy by many Hyderabadis and the crowds outside testify to its popularity. It’s hard to believe that the eatery began as a small tea stall and provision store by Syed Hussain Boolaki in 1973, whose bespoke biryani recipe is the secret behind its success. This is one of the most appetising biryanis in Hyderabad—there’s a rounded buttery top note of bone marrow (gud) followed by a hit of spice, and the balance of the two keeps you eating despite the stinginess of the mutton, the watery mirchi ka salan and dahi ki chutney. Rs160. 3-5-815/A, Old MLA Quarters, Avanti Nagar, Hyderguda, Basheer Bagh. 23237605.
Bawarchi (Rating – 3.5/5)
The first thing you see outside Bawarchi is the sign that says “no branches”. But it sort of does because the original Bawarchi, started by Jaffer Mansoori in 1994—the one where biryani was cooked over firewood—is across the road. What catches your eye next are the many certificates proclaiming it the best biryani in Hyderabad. That’s open to debate, but what it is, is the spiciest biryani around, enough to leave your palate on slow burn for hours later. But the rice and mutton are scrumptious, and there’s whole masala to be found in it. Accompaniments as with most places are avoidable. Rs230, RTC X Roads, Nallakunta.
Shadab (Rating – 3.5/5)
This Old City institution is never not packed with locals and tourists for whom this is the nearest restaurant to the Charminar, and the place to complete the experience of the city. On the ground floor is the original Shadab, an Irani café that opened in 1953. The restaurant upstairs dates back to 1983. This is one of the few biryanis in which you can actually see the mutton curry. It is milder compared to the others, with long and flavourful grains of rice. The mutton—though not too soft—has a genuine depth of flavour.
Rs283. 21-1-140-144, Near High Court Road, High Court, Ghansi Bazaar. 24561648
Sarvi (Rating – 3/5)
Sarvi was once a bakery, that sold some pretty good cakes. Then it added haleem at Ramzan, and what slowly followed were the word-of-mouth recommendations that Sarvi biryani is very good. A restaurant was eventually opened, and awards followed. The Sarvi biryani has a lot of masala and oil, but it is still a good basic biryani. The dahi ki chutney is a tasty zeera raita, but steer clear of the mirchi ka salan that tastes of coconut.
Rs220. Road No 11, Banjara Hills. 66681114
Paradise (Rating – 3/5)
Paradise began life in 1953 as an Irani café attached to Paradise cinema. Now it’s a corporate entity spreading the flavour of the Hyderabadi biryani across India with 32 outlets in six cities; 16 are in Hyderabad itself! At its original location in Secunderabad, now a three-storey bustling restaurant, photographs show that Aamir Khan, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Gandhi have enjoyed the biryani. This is the mildest biryani around, with the buttery flavour of marrow and ghee. The rice is pale, too, testifying to its minimal approach to masala and colour. Some find it a bit bland, but the powerful mirchi ka salan comes in handy to amp up the flavour. Rs319. Paradise Circle, Secunderabad. 33165256
Shah Ghouse Café & Restaurant (Rating – 3/5)
Established in 2010 by a family of five brothers, Shah Ghouse is a relatively new kid on the block. One Ramzan, it became the reigning king of haleem. A few years later, the establishment’s biryani was also getting noticed. It’s been lauded by critics such as Vir Sanghvi and featured in the Wall Street Journal, alongside Paradise and Shadab. Seasoned generously with shah zeera, the biryani has a lot of masala, which sometimes doesn’t fully seep into the rice or mutton. The heat from red chilli powder and cloves strikes a few mouthfuls in. (Shamefaced admission: We eat the chicken biryani here often). Rs170. Near RTA Office, Tolichowki.