Last year, Khalil Ahmed – a former stakeholder of vaccine company Shantha Biotechnics, acquired Hyderabad House. The once legendary brand had been tarnished by years of mismanagement and was rapidly shrinking. Mr. Ahmed shuttered all existing outlets of Hyderabad House and promised to bring back the brand in a new avatar. The relaunch of Hyderabad House is still a work in progress. But the new management surprised and delighted food lovers in Hyderabad with its pop-up events. While its first event “Dawat-E-Khaas” – a grand Hyderabadi wedding themed feast – was well received, the real surprise was Zaiqa-E-Ramzaan. Zaiqa brought a smattering of authentic Hyderabadi delights under one roof at an affordable price. Hyderabad House rented a function hall in Mehedipatnam and set up dozens of stalls offering everything from Biryani and Qubani ka Meetha to Bheja Fry and Baida Roti. It was hardly a surprise that the word spread quickly, and within days crowds were thronging to Zaiqa.
This year Zaiqa-E-Ramzan is being organized at two locations – Khilwat Grounds near Chowmahallah Palace, in addition to Rayyan Function Hall in Mehedipatnam. I was invited for a tasting session with a few other foodies. On offer were over forty delicacies including almost all of the Old City specialties that I featured in my previous article on Old City Food Hopping. If spending hours on the crowded roads of Old City to discover hidden culinary delights isn’t quite your thing, Zaiqa offers a wonderful alternative. You can walk around the function hall and order whatever catches your fancy. Dishes are freshly prepared and served hot in a more hygenic and family friendly atmosphere.
I began my meal with Paaya Shorba and Naan. The Paaya was a lot thinner and milder than what’s served at most Hyderabadi restaurants, and more in tune with what I prefer. There are quite a few Kebabs and Fried starters on offer. My favourites were the Batair (Quail) Fry, Patthar ka Gosht, Mazedaar Mutton Chops and Raampur ka Damdaar Seena. In the mains, the Baida Roti – pan fried Roti with a egg and minced mutton stuffing, is something that you should definitely try. Old city favorites like Bheja Fry, Gurda, Kheema don’t disappoint either. Among the curries – the Safed Murgh Makkhanwallah – a slightly sweetish, buttery gravy of chicken, won me over. There is also a Dosa counter dishing out an assortment of Dosas. However, I was fast running out of space in my tummy. So I skipped the dosas and headed for the two most anticipated items – Hyderabadi Mutton Biryani and Haleem. The Biryani was turned out to be pretty mundane. The Haleem, however, was quite interesting. The Hyderabad House haleem is different from the commercial Haleems, which seem to be getting spicier by the day. THe one I tasted at Zaiqa was mildly spiced with a smoother than usual consistency. A porridge like consistency usually indicates a skewed meat to wheat ratio; however, I was glad to discover that that’s not the case here. The Haleem sort of grows on you, and is definitely worth a try. It is also available in neatly packaged boxes at select Heritage outlets.
Zaiqa-E-Ramzan is best enjoyed in large groups as that affords you the opportunity to order and try a wide range of dishes. Almost all of the dishes in the menu are priced between Rs. 150 and Rs. 250, and a meal for two would cost around Rs. 1200. Zaiqa will continue until Eid and is open every day from Iftar to Sehri (5 p.m. to 5 a.m).