December 1, 2023

Food Bazaar

Get In My Food Bazaar

9 vintage restaurants in Hyderabad that serve heritage on a plate

The city of pearls has become home to a string of new breweries, dessert bars, and fine-dining establishments of late. Its old-world establishments, however, continue to hold space in the hearts of locals. From heritage ice-cream shops to a century-old idli spot frequented by MF Hussain and Indira Gandhi – we’re going on a nostalgic journey across Hyderabad through its iconic vintage restaurants.

Beyond biryani, Hyderabad’s culinary culture is underlined by delicacies that fuse Mughlai traditions with Deccani practices. Peppered within this are influences from Andhra, Telangana, and Karnataka. And although time has led to the evolution of several traditional preparations, many restaurants continue to serve as time capsules, offering delicacies that draw from age-old recipes.

Several such establishments dot the Old City region and are frequented by locals and tourists alike. In fact, while there, you’re never too far away from a spot that’s packed with people conversing over cups of Irani chai and Osmania biscuits. That said, if you’ve only got a few days in hand, we’ve curated a set of the most iconic, vintage restaurants in Hyderabad that truly capture the yesteryear spirit of the city.

Get a taste of nostalgia at these vintage restaurants in Hyderabad

Taj Mahal Hotel at Abids (1948)

An eclectic mix of students, working professionals, and tourists huddle over cups of chai every evening at this iconic restaurant in the city. The Taj Mahal Hotel opened its doors to customers over six decades ago and has been serving up the most delicious, simple South Indian fare in the city ever since.

Time has not changed certain practices in this space. For instance, all the masalas used in cooking continue to be made in-house and the coffee powder is sourced from the same vendor as 6 decades ago. Not to mention, the prices are affordable as ever. The only thing to have altered slightly is the restaurant’s decor. While you’re here, the button vada, palak paneer dosa, filtered coffee, masala dosa, and thali. The button idlis with sambar here were favoured by artist MF Hussain and you’ll spot a picture of Indira Gandhi eating off a banana leaf on the floor here as well. Don’t miss out on this place if you’re in the city.

Address: 4-1-999, Abids, Hyderabad

Paradise (1953)

What’s perhaps one of the most popular vintage restaurants, not just in Hyderabad but the country, Paradise began as a small canteen and cafe. The year was 1953 and the establishment had just about 100 seats with quintessential Hyderabadi cuisine and small bites on the menu. Soon enough, the food from the establishment became the talk of the town, leading to several upgrades and changes until 1983, when it was converted to an air-conditioned restaurant with takeaway options.

Today, people from far and wide head to the restaurant to sample their authentic biryani. The focus, reportedly, has always been to serve rich, flavourful Hyderabadi cuisine that also happens to be budget friendly. Several celebrities like Amir Khan, Sachin Tendulkar, and Mahesh Babu reportedly frequent the spot.

Address: Door 1-7-191 To 193, SD Road, Paradise Circle, Secunderabad

Famous Icecream (1951)

This ice cream shop is based in Moazzam Jahi market, a popular spot in Nampally that’s named after Prince Moazzam Jah. The market, which is over 80 years old, has a string of old establishments but this spot takes the crown of popularity, having immediately caught the attention of locals for its hand-churned, seasonal fruit ice creams after Mohammad Haleem first opened the space in 1951.

No colours or preservatives go into these preparations which take about half an hour to make. The most recommended here are the mango and chikoo ice creams. However, their custard apple, kulfis, chocolate blast, and other pot ice creams are popular as well. The ambiance is fuss-free with plastic chairs strewn about and the best way to savour what the place has to offer is to head there after a long drive late at night, just like the locals do.

Address: 5-4-650/36/38, MJ Market, Nampally, Hyderabad

Hotel Shadab (1953)

A visit to Hyderabad is incomplete without a stopover at an authentic Irani cafe for a sip of decadent chai. Hotel Shadab has been one of the most popular spots for this experience for decades now. First opened as a small canteen and cafe in 1953, the space grew in popularity as one where locals could have long conversations over Irani chai and Osmania biscuits.

Soon enough, in 1983, Shadab Persis, a multi-cuisine restaurant opened on the first floor of the cafe. Over the years, Hotel Shadab has won several awards, particularly for their haleem. Their niharis, payas, munshi naan, chicken keema, Nizami handi, and biryani are quite popular as well. And let’s not forget the tea and biscuits here, which go well with their lavish breakfast spread of bheja fry and bhajji gurda. Prices are affordable but be sure to head their early to beat the crowds.

Address: Plot 21, High Court Road, Near Madina Circle, Ghansi Bazaar, Hyderabad

Subhan Bakery (1948)

Hyderabad may have a string of patisseries lining its streets but this old-school establishment takes the cake for the most loyal customer base. Established in 1948, Subhan Bakery was a home-based business which soon came to be known for its Osmania biscuits with a secret twist.

Also popular here are the puffs, cakes, and rolls. Come Muharram, the bakery also serves dum ke roat – a giant semolina, sugar, and nut cookie – that’s now become their specialty. The milk bread and chicken puff come highly recommended. Reportedly, the bread here was so popular that former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru would insist on having it for breakfast during his visits to the city. Drop by for a bite of nostalgia when you’re in the neighborhood.

Address: 11-6-467, Nampally Market, Nampally, Hyderabad

Cafe Niloufer (1978)

You haven’t experienced authentic Hyderabadi breakfast until you’ve lined up here early in the morning for a bite of the bun malai – creamy, sweet milk cream, sugar, and freshly-baked bread. This place often runs out of stock by 5:00 am! Cafe Niloufer has been serving this yesteryear staple for decades now, gaining popularity in 1976 when Babu Rao, a former janitor at the establishment, took over the management.

The motto of this cafe has been to serve flavourful chai that remains unchanged. To do this, the cafe blends its own tea powder and meticulously ensures consistency in colour and flavour. The bun maska pairs well with the irani chai as well, especially if you’re too late for the bun malai. Don’t forget to try the Osmania biscuits while you’re here.

Address: 1-4-706/1, Bhazar Ghat Road, Lakdikapul, Hyderabad

Cafe Bahar & Restaurant (1973)

This space is often packed with scores of locals, some digging into biryani and others leisurely sipping a cup of chai, with crowds often spilling into the roads. Cafe Bahar and Restaurant first opened in 1973 as a tea and coffee space which also had a provisional store. The owners came in from Iran in 1934, so you know that the food here is as authentic as it gets.

On the menu, apart from Irani chai and Osmania biscuits are Irani samosas, bheja fry, mutton tikka masalas, cream buns, and more! Kitchen opens at around 4:00 am and shuts at midnight so you’ve got plenty of time to sample all of their delicious food. Expect a lot of crowd when you visit and head early for a seat.

Address: Old MLA Quarters Rd, Avanti Nagar, Himayatnagar, Hyderabad

Hameedi (1913)

For over a century, this spot in the city has been serving up delicious desserts. And while Hyderabad has several traditional sweets like double ka meetha and shahi tukda to its name, few things match the experience of digging into jouzi halwa from Hameedi. Established in 1913 as a street trolley, this spot was manned by a 15-year-old Muhammad Hussain whose most popular creation was a blend of ghee, nutmeg, sugar, spices, soaked barley, and saffron.

The story goes that Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan Asaf Jah VII visited him and was so pleased with the treat that he named it after king Hameed of Turkey, his close relative. The letter regarding the same continues to adorn the walls of this establishment. While here, try the phirni, badam halwa, and Ashrafi as well.

Address: 120/2, Abids Road, Gun Foundry, Basheer Bagh, Hyderabad

Grand Hotel (1935)

One of the most popular spots for biryani in town, Grand Hotel was started by a group of Iranis who had recently migrated to India. They were reportedly the first to serve biryani, which was then just a thing of weddings and feasts at the palaces of Nawabs, commercially.

Today, the nearly 90 year-old vintage restaurant, one of the oldest in Hyderabad, is often packed with people savouring mutton biryani, nihari, and chicken biryani. Besides these, the Irani chai and bun maska are also popular. Most locals recommend savouring the Hyderabadi dilkhush – coconut based sweet bread – as well as dilpasand, a puff pastry snack. The badami mutton here is also popular and not easily available around the city.

Address: Plot 4-1-395, Opposite Big Bazaar, Abids, Hyderabad

Hero image: Courtesy @karthikabhiram/Instagram; Feature image: Courtesy @sami.ansari/Instagram