Karim’s And Al Jawahar: One Lane. Two Restaurants. Thousands Divided.

Old Delhi is the soul of the city. Shahjahanabad, as it was known in the olden days, captures the pulse of all that Delhi is about. And of course, the food. And these flavours haven’t changed for years and years. There have been dishes, chaat wale, khomche wale and restaurants that have been a mainstay of the walled city for decades now. Two such institutions are Karim’s and Al Jawahar. These two iconic restaurants have always divided dilliwalahs with some preferring Karim’s and other swearing by Al Jawahar. Karim’s Vs Al Jawahar is a battle that has been fought in every street in Delhi it seems.

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Separated By A Lane. Joined By History.

The origin of Karim’s goes way back to the early 20th century. Haji Karimuddin, the son of an erstwhile cook in the court of Bahadur Shah Zafar, came from Ghaziabad to the walled city in 1911. He had decided to open a dhaba for those who were coming from across the country to attend the famous Delhi Durbar. At the time he was only selling aloo gosht, dal and roomali roti. Later he opened Karim Hotel in 1913, and the Karim’s we know and love took birth. It was from these humble beginnings that Karim’s opened many, many restaurants across Delhi.

Al Jawahar, on the other had, doesn’t have a story fantastical story behind it. If anything, it has always lived in the shadow of the bigger and more popular Karim’s. It was opened in the year the country gained independence, 1947, by the first Prime Minister of the country, Jawaharlal Nehru. Which is where the restaurant got its name from. Pt. Nehru would visit the restaurant often and was a fan of their fantastic dishes.

Karim’s Vs Al Jawahar

It would be impossible to be able to say with any conviction that one of these iconic monuments to Delhi food is better than the other. But what we can do is try and compare different aspects of the restaurants to each other. Both have their own specialities. While Karim’s does a better brain curry and better kebabs, Al Jawahar has the edge when it comes to mutton ishtew, nihari and pasandas. The lines at Karim are always uncomfortable while Al Jawahar has a better, cleaner and more comfortable space. Many people love the heritage and history that Karim’s stands for, while others feel like they have sold out and prefer Al Jawahar’s integrity instead.

Personally, I always found Al Jawahar to be the better of the two. The seating and service is a lot more comfortable, plus the spices and meat cuts appear to be fresher. Some of their dishes are a long way away from the fare you’d get at Karim’s. And I genuinely believe that having to manage numerous restaurants in Delhi NCR has taken a toll on the giant. While the silent Al Jawahar works quietly in a corner, making some of the best food Delhi has to offer.

Whichever you may choose, you cannot deny the value both of them bring to the history of Delhi foods. And as a lover of Delhi, I know that without them the landscape of the Delhi foods is a bit less flavoursome.

Photo Courtesy Of: via Zomato / Wikimedia

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