Delhi Darbar has long been a favourite haunt for those who know their Mughlai food - it's one of the few restaurants in South Bombay which understands how to make tandoori chicken, and consequently has a loyal base of customers who drop in on a regular basis for a bite.
The restaurant is situated on Colaba Causeway, very close to Regal Cinema, and is divided into two wings, each capable of seating about seventy people. The interior is air-conditioned and the lighting is adequate, although the tables are placed far too close together in some areas, making privacy difficult. But this is not the kind of place you'd take your girlfriend on a date; this is the kind of place you'd go to get really good food, and so conversation is not usually a high priority with the diners here.
The menu offers both Mughlai and Chinese items - the latter is safely avoidable and seems to have been introduced for the sake of variety more than anything else. Amongst the starters, I'd recommend a plate of Mutton Seekh Kababs (Rs. 60.00), which will be served to you soft and spicy, together with mint chutney and onion. The other kabab dishes are very good too - try the Malai Kabab (Rs. 105.00) if you like your meat soft and dipped in curd. All kebab dishes are priced in the Rs. 60.00-Rs. 110 range, and typically include four to seven pieces. Among the vegetarian starters, your choice is more limited - vegetable cutlets, vegetable samosas, salad and potato chips.
Moving on to the main course, the Tandoori Chicken (Rs. 130.00) is excellent - four pieces, roasted and served with lime, pickle, and onion. Order a couple of Roomali Rotis (Rs. 16.00 each) as well, and you'll go home happy. Alternatively, the chicken and/or mutton biryani (Rs. 88.00) is also pretty good, although a trifle greasy, and the quantities could be better too. Other chicken dishes worth a mention are the Chicken Patiala (Rs. 105.00), which is chicken curry with egg, Butter Chicken (Rs. 130) and the Chicken Tikka Masala (Rs. 105.00), all of which contain de-boned chicken pieces.
The mutton and fish dishes are quite good as well - you'll find Dabba Ghost (Rs. 82.00), Mutton Curry (Rs. 82.00), Mutton Kheema (Rs. 60.00) and Mixed Grill Fry (Rs. 82.00) on the menu, together with some interesting Tikka Botis (Rs. 80.00). The seafood section includes prawns and fish - I tried the Tandoori Fish (Rs. 115.00) and came away satisfied, although you must remember to ask them for mint chutney with it. The Prawn Biryani (Rs. 105.00) is also quite good, although could do with a little bit more of the main attraction.
Among the vegetarian dishes, the offerings include Alu Mutter (Rs. 60.00), Chana Masala (Rs. 60.00), Vegetable Makhanwala (Rs. 77.00), Mushroom Masala (Rs. 71.00) and Vegetable Kadai (Rs. 71.00), together with standard items like Dal, Paneer and the like. Parathas (Rs. 16.00) and Nans (Rs. 16.00) are also available, as is Raita (Rs. 22.00) for the various rice dishes. The Chinese menu also includes both vegetarian and non-vegetarian items; dishes are adequate, but nothing to write home about.
Desserts include Caramel Custard (Rs. 33.00), Gulab Jamboon (Rs. 33.00), Ras Malai (Rs. 38.00), Fruit Salad (Rs. 38.00) and a somewhat messy concoction called Cold Coffee With Ice Cream (Rs. 49.00), which also happens to be one of my favourites.
The service is acceptable, though not great, and tends to drop on Saturdays and Sundays when the place is bursting at the seams. There's also a take-out counter, in case you prefer to munch your kebabs while staring at the idiot box at home. Overall cleanliness is also adequate, although the ambience is almost non-existent. Check this one out if you like tandoori food!This article was first published on 25 Oct 2000.