'Paneer tikka' & 'kali dal' at Kwality

Saturday, 9 August 2008 - 11:59pm IST

If you are an Indian anywhere older than your mid-thirties, then some aspect of your childhood memories are tied up with Kwality.

If you are an Indian anywhere older than your mid-thirties, then some aspect of your childhood memories are tied up with Kwality. If I can digress into my past, when my family came back to India from England I was five. My grandmother, a very astute if wicked woman took to me to the

Kwality on Calcutta’s Park Street for tea. I ordered sausages with mashed potatoes (“bangers and mash”). She ordered a channa bhatura.

Apparently, I turned my nose up at the idea of this then completely unknown dish. (Apart from bangers and mash, I knew beans on toast for tea.) Until it arrived. Then my nose fell down, as did my jaw and my eyes became “greedier than my stomach” in the common parlance as I was seduced by the sight and smell. We exchanged plates. Kwality had established itself.

Since then, the chain has changed fortunes and hands in some cities, the iconic ice-cream has been sold to an MNC and it is no longer the last refuge for parents of young children who do not know how to behave in public (my sister spent years sitting under the table at the Kwality at Kemp’s Corner). I was therefore pleasantly surprised to find that the Kwality at Worli was buzzing and full at lunch time, very popular it seems with all the offices around the area.

And with good reason. Amidst all the emphasis we have today on “ambience” and extra virgin olive oil or some décor that strives to add authenticity to a particular kind of cuisine, here was a restaurant that looked and worked on the old-fashioned style. We
ordered accordingly. Unmissable is the tandoori chicken. Luscious pieces – not too large so as to retain the flavour and not so small that they look like crow – done to a turn, the spices given the time to seep into the meat and a hint of some unobtrusive but enhancing chaat masala on top. A squeeze of lime and you could be quite happy not eating anything else.

However, a review demands more. The paneer tikka is a hot favourite, it seems and again, with good reason. The paneer is soft and full, the tangy tandoori spices doing for vegetarians what the chicken does for non-veggies. I have a weakness for paneer tikka and Kwality is one more place to indulge it.

With that, to keep it simple, try the black dal and some raita. The black dal has a home-like taste, and though it is rich with butter floating on the top, I have to say that I have had better. It is saved only by tasting like it was made in someone’s house and not in a heartless hotel kitchen where oodles of masala and oil are thrown in to mask all flavours and appeal to the lowest common denominator. The dal, therefore, is good enough.

The failure was the bhuna gosht, but I am not sure whether the fault is mine or Kwality’s. Bhuna gosht implies that the meat is dry-roasted, fried in the masalas, which are reduced to minimum gravy and a massive concentration of taste. Instead, you get mutton in a red gravy, full of the distinct tastes of onions, garlic, ginger and tomato.
Killer of all flavour in other words, but I am sure popular with the lowest common denominator.

The only blimp, since this is one restaurant where you did not have to explain what “kadak” tandoori roti meant. They brought it correctly crisp and cooked. The staff also
belongs to the old-fashioned breed of well-trained waiters and stewards who have not sacrificed knowledge for fake accents – a welcome pleasure.

The desserts are traditional Kwality favourites like Tutti-frutti and cassata and ice-cream with chocolate sauce, plus gulab jamuns and stuff.

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