Dum Pukht Delhi

ITC Maurya Hotel, Diplomatic Enclave,Sardar Patel Marg, Chanakyapuri, Delhi, India

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This restaurant, in the basement of the ITC hotel, opened in 1987. The head chef is Gulam Qureshi, who has worked here for no less than 35 years. The dining room is smartly decorated, with large well-spaced tables covered in high quality linen tablecloths. It can seat 96 customers at any one time. The name means "slow oven" and refers to a style of north Indian cuisine from Awadh, cooking using a sealed container.

Spinach kebab was an unusual dish, the traditional cylindrical shape but with spinach rather than meat; this was pleasant enough and certainly had plenty of spinach flavour, with chickpeas providing the necessary texture. However I found it rather bland, so although interesting it was not a dish that it was easy to get excited about (12/20). Paneer was much better, the curd cheese light and fluffy with crisp edges; this was unusually good paneer (14/20). Murgh tikka (INR 1,495) comprised no less than seven large chicken pieces that had been marinated and the cooked in a tandoor. For reasons that elude me, it was garnished with a piece of edible silver leaf, a style of presentation I have not seen for decades. The meat was very tender, having incorporated some mild spice flavour from its marinade (14/20). The portion size was unnecessarily large, and I could only finish half of it. I would much rather have had half the portion at half the price.

The star dish was chicken biriani (INR 1,545) served as it should be in a pot sealed with pastry. This captures all the aromas, which are released when the pastry case is cut open at the table. The rice, flavoured with saffron, had superbly delicate texture, the individual grains of rice clearly defined. The chicken pieces were still moist and were tender but the star was the rice itself, wonderfully light. This was up there with the very finest biriani that I have had, such as that at the Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad (16/20).

Tandoori prawns (INR 2,450) were carefully cooked and drizzled with a spicy sauce made from the stock of the prawns. The five large prawns were very tender and had good flavour (easily 14/20). Yellow dhal (INR 750) on the side was rather mushy (12/20). Naan bread was good if a little firmer than I like (14/20) but romali roti was less impressive, a little thicker than it should be (13/20). 

For dessert, gulab jaman was excellent, not overly sweet, warm and comforting (14/20). Kulfi was made from scratch in the kitchen and was pleasant, though its texture was not the very best that I have eaten (13/20). Service was attentive, and the bill for two came to INR 11,642 (£57 a head), with beer and water to drink. This is hardly cheap, though the standard of cooking was high, and the biriani was top class. 

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