Biryani [Bir-ee-ah-nee] - “The humble realisation that a dish can make you weep.” (Merriam Webster, but not really.)
It’s been a while since we declared our allegiance to Biryani by tracing its not-so-humble origins. With ties to the Taj Mahal a la (carte?) Mumtaz Mahal’s desire to fatten up Shah Jahan’s army, we’re more inclined to love her for her contribution to our tummies, than we are to any architectural wonders she inspired. After all, you can’t beat what you can eat.
Either way, we salute the brave young queen who fearlessly dared to cook all our favourite things—delicate meat, mounds of cooked rice, just the right amount of veggies which is almost none at all unless we’re talking soft potatoes, and all that delicious masala—together. But the real beauty of the one-trick pony is just how many new tricks it’s learned along the way. Nearly every Indian state has come up with their own version of the dish (state-wise segregated Biryani options coming soon to a Homegrown article near you) and luckily for us, everybody’s a winner in this race. So whether you like your layered feast to come with fried prawns or slide-of-the-bone mutton, mounds of white rice, or rigorously rubbed with masalas, we don’t really care. We all rooted hard for our specific favourites, and almost all of them landed up on this selection; there’s something for every kind of Biryani lover in here.
So without further ado, here we go again. The list that almost split our office apart in debate, Bombay’s Best Biryanis for different budgets. This one’s for you, Mumz.
[Disclaimer #1: Got beef with this list that’s missing your favourite? Well, we’ve got some beef in here too. Seriously though, take it to the comments section or take it up with the queen. Either one works for us but at least you’d be doing a service towards mankind if you did the former.]
[Disclaimer #2: Also, vegetarians fret not, we have two whole options for you. Even though we’re not entirely sure you deserve it in a Biryani compilation.]
I. Dum Gosht Noormahal Lucknowi Biryani @ Kakori House
Where: Shop No 5, Dunhill Apartments , 26, Waroda House, Bandra
Considering the Awadhis are influenced by Mughal techniques, they’ve had the most amount of time to perfect their Biryani making. This was one of the only places that was unanimously voted onto the list by every member of our team during anonymous polls so we’re willing to bet a majority of our readers will agree with us. The Dum Gosht Noormahal also pays titular respect to the above-mentioned queen so you know they treat it with respect. Synonyms for respect here equal heavy spices, an even heavier meat-to-rice ratio and the heaviest stomach you’ll ever have if you actually polish of an entire portion.
Cost: We’re spewing vulgar profanity at everybody who says Bombay’s too expensive @ Rs. 150
Rebel’s Choice: That beautiful saffron aroma which wafts through when they serve the Dum Murg Masala Lucknowi Biryani is heaven in a steel bartan.
II. Reshmi Tikka Biryani @ Cafe Noorani
Where: Opposite SOBO Central Mall, Near Haji Ali Juice Centre, Tardeo
We’re not sure what kind of holy hell we might have unleashed had we left Mumbai’s Biryani darling off this list, so we decided not to deal with it. Mostly because Noorani deserves its hard-earned city-wide adoration. Their biryani offerings are painfully exhaustive for indecisive folk but we’d always opt for the reshmi tikka biryani. It’s not commonly available, it’s not at all spicy which we actually appreciate once in a while, and it’s got a slight creaminess to the meat that slathers itself on the rice in the most delicious way possible. Friendly tip—-chuck some onions on top of it, they add a world of flavour.
Cost: It’s the perfect portion for one so make sure you order other options if you’re with friends @ Rs. 250 (that way, you can try everything.)
Rebel’s Choice: The spicier, wilder chicken tikka Biryani obviously. You rebel, you.
III. Kurlya Biryani @ Saibini Gomantak
Where: Katrada Mension, Gokhale Road (N), near Shiv Sena Bhavan, Dadar (W)
Not as much of a meat fiend as you are a sucker for seafood? Well, we’ve got the perfect option for you even although it pains us to give away one of our best kept food secrets in the city. Allow us to (grudgingly) welcome you to the shiny jewel that is Saibini Gomantak, tucked away between Matunga and Dadar station. Something of a seafood sanctuary, the Kurlya Biryani crowns a bed of Malvani spiced riced with a whole teetering, cooked crab. No really, you heard right. You could get a waiter to crack open those claws for you but personally, we think the messier it gets, the more fun you’ll have.
Cost: You’d be a fool to turn it down @ Rs. 225
Rebel’s Choice: We wouldn’t waste our time with anything but seafood here so either the prawn biryani or better yet, the tisrya (clam) biryani though all those shells can get a little frustrating.
IV. Stuffed Bakra Biryani @ Jeff Caterer’s
Where: End of Bazaar Road, Chapel Road Junction, Bandra
We thought it best to get this one out of the way because it might not appeal to everybody’s ethical sensibilities, but Jeff’s Catering has earned a mighty reputation for itself at major household celebrations/events by stuffing an entire goat with biryani (though he also offers the options of fried or plain rice). Naturally, the biryanis the best though, lovingly loaded with chicken legs, kebabs, boiled eggs, dry fruits and potatoes.
Cost: How do you put a price on an entire goat? You’ll have to call them, pre-order, and see what they say.
Rebel’s Choice: Does Chicken Kashmiri Pulao count? Come on, pulao is practically biryani.
V. Kerala Style Kappa Biryani @ Sneha
Where: End of Bazaar Road, Chapel Road Junction, Bandra
We’re a little biased towards the South Indian palate here at Homegrown but even if you’ve hated every dosa you’ve ever put in your mouth (we hate you too) this Tapioca-meets-beef combination within the context of a Biryani is everything that’s right in this world for the moment that you’re eating it. Not only is it one of the most delicious biryanis on this list, it’s also one of the cheapest, making us hate everyone who’s situated close enough to Mahim to visit every day.
Cost: Hello, I love you, won’t you tell me your name? @ Rs. 40
Rebel’s Choice: Just the plain beef biryani or the typically kerala-spiced fish biryani with flaky, well-cooked bits of fish are 100% worth your time.
VI. Fish Tikka Biryani @ Lucky’s
Where: Junction Of SV Road & Hill Road, Hill Road, Bandra West, Mumbai
Lucky’s was almost our exclusive lunch order choice when one of us—stay loyal, team—decided she couldn’t make it through a day without some lucky love. So considering we’ve sampled almost 100% of their menu, don’t be surprised by our pick of Fish Tikka biryani in a typically Mughlai joint. It’s some kind of myth that the Mughals could only cook good meat because apparently they were a multi-talented bunch. This fish in this case is so succulent and so beautifully paired with authentic North Indian garam tikka masala that you’d be absolutely crazy to not try it once.
Cost: Saddle up, it’s going to be a long journey with this one @ Rs. 280
Rebel’s Choice: Mutton Bonesless Biryani is just as good for purists.
VII. Paneer Mushroom Biryani @ Khane Khas
Where: 4, Silver Croft Building Junction Of 16th & 33rd Road, TPS 3, Pali Hill, Bandra West
We know, we know. It’s a little risky to recommend a vegetarian Biryani over non-vegetarian options but Khane Khas just does it so well. Punjabi cheer is evident all over their menu and know one cooks paneer better than them. Paired with mushrooms, the rich, moist dish makes an unlikely combination but we like our meals to be special.
Cost: If you’re vegetarian, this is the absolute best you can get @ Rs. 290
Rebel’s Choice: Murg Biryani (with bone) comes served in an earthen pot, which is a magical vessel designed to lend unmatched flavours to any biryani it touches, we’re convinced.
VIII. Malabar Chicken Biryani @ Hotel Deluxe
Where: 28, SBS Road, Pitha Street, Near Hitkari House, Fort
Deluxe is probably part of our top 5 elite restaurants in the country at this point, though there’s nothing elite about their prices. They stick to what they know, authentic Malayali cuisine, as a result of which, they almost never faulter on those spicy, coconut-rubbed flavours.
Cost: Worth at least thrice this @ Rs. 115 for a pretty hefty serving.
Rebel’s Choice: Have you ever had Kerala fish biryani? Stop whatever you’re doing right now and go to Deluxe.
IX. Kolkatta Style Mutton Biryani @ Hangla’s
Where: Opposite Royal Accord, near Swami Samarth Mandir, Lokhandwala, Andheri (W).
The filthy by-lanes of Kolkatta are still hugely underestimated in the foodie world, locals and Bengalis notwithstanding of course. From their gigantic, delicious phuchkas or street side aloo puri to real stall-made Hangla biryani, there’s almost no meal that’s too complex to be served up quickly here. Especially when we’re talking chunks of protein tossed around amidst a stack of carbs.
This style of mutton biryani has typically Eastern flavours, so expect a lot richer textures, more soft potatoes and meat that’s cooked so well you’ll find yourself making it a priority.
Cost: It’s even cheaper in Kolkatta but you’d never find us complaining about this @ Rs. 170 for a plate.
Rebel’s Choice: Options aren’t exactly overflowing over here. You’ve got a choice between chicken and vegetarian, guess which one we’re going for?
X. Mutton Biryani @ Jaffer Bhai’s Delhi Darbar
6 and 7, Rendezvous Building, Ravi Raj Oberoi Complex, Sab TV Lane, Andheri Lokhandwala, Andheri West, Mumbai
The term Dabao for extreme gluttony/ induced midnight munchies was undoubtedly born over a corner table piled high with Biryani and kebabs at Delhi Darbar. We’ll be honest, the influx of so many new options has kept us away for far too long now but we’ll never forget the way their special Haleem—a delicious ghee-soaked chichi ike mixture cooked with soft meat and lentils for hours until it achieves a paste like consistency—-placated our starving tummies during Ramadan. Still, there’s a reason many still refer to Jaffer Bhai’s as “The Biryani King Of Mumbai,” considering the quality of their Mughlai consistency falls closest to authentic on the spectrum of comparison. The mutton biryani is both the most obvious and the most popular choice, largely due to the impeccable quality of their meat. Seriously, we don’t know where they get their goats from, but they’re far superior to everyone else’s.
Cost: People would pay much for the legacy, we’re sure @ Rs. 160
Rebel’s Choice: Egg Biryani is pretty great for not-too-fussy vegetarians and though this isn’t technically fair game, order up a side of mutton roast with whichever one you’re getting and chuck it in there.
XI. Dum Pukht Mutton Biryani @ ITC’s Peshawari
Where: ITC Grand Maratha, Lower Parel
Feeling a little splurgy but still craving the one-serve simplicity of a Biryani? Nobody classes up the Mughlai version of the dish and packs it with quite as much flavour. In fact, this extends to their entire North Indian menu offerings.
But the Dum Pukht Mutton Biryani? She’s a real thing of beauty. Prepared in a massive hand, the food is tightly packed together and then cooked over a slow fire for hours. As they themselves put it, the ‘bhunao’ or ‘dum’ style of cooking ‘gently persuades’ each ingredient to give maximum flavour of itself, all their juices creating a bewitching flavour combination.
Cost: You’re paying 5-star prices for 5-star flavour @ Rs. 950++
Rebel’s Choice: Yet another vegetarian option, trust ITC Maratha to ensure that their ‘subzi’ version of this Biryani is every bit as flavourful as its meat counterpart. Yes, it’s prepared in the same way.
XII. Prawn Biryani @ Gajalee
Where: opposite Royal Accord, near Swami Samarth Mandir, Lokhandwala, Andheri (W).
Just like the Grand Maratha’s managed to add complexity and elegance to mughlai Biryani, Gajalee’s learned to do the same for any seafood related affair. Many notches up, both ambience and detailed preparation wise, than all the hole-in-the-wall Malvani joints we tend to frequent for our seafood fix, it was the butter garlic crab that drew us in but it was the prawn biryani that made us stay.
A spicier combination than most options on this list, the prawns are well-cooked and juicy, just lightly fried off in all the same masalas the Biryani is tossed and cooked in, to provide an element of crunch that makes for the loveliest surprise. How we’d do it? We’d order that butter garlic crab on the side either way, and let both flavour combinations run into each other. Then again, we’re disgusting.
Cost: Only slightly more expensive than most, but slightly more worth it too @ Rs. 350 (without taxes)
Rebel’s Choice: Mixed Seafood Biryani, only for the sheer rarity of it. Where else are you going to find someone to mix fish, prawns, crab meat and more in their Biryani?
XIII. Bhatkali Biryani @ Indian Harvest
Where: Gate No. 1, Acres Club, 411-B Hemu Kalani Marg, Chembur
This Chembur secret is particularly special because unlike every other Biryani we’ve featured, and will feature, on this list, the treasure recipe for Bhatkali Biryani that they serve up here is the only one that doesn’t have a direct correlation with needing to join the gym. A dish with both Iranian and Arab influences, the marinade is a simple one consisting of ginger, yogurt and green chili mix making this one of the lightest, non-ggreasiest Biryani options around. Not exactly the adjectives you’d associate with the dish perhaps, but it doesn’t compromise on the flavour for even a second thanks to the delicately saffron-infused Basmati rice it’s all tossed together in.
Cost: We’d honestly pay twice as much for something this rare @ Rs. 250 so buy 2 and pack 1 for home.
Rebel’s Choice: Ok we just heard this one might be permanently closed, but we’re still leaving it on this list out of posthumous respect. If you missed this one, you have our sympathies.
XIV. Chicken White Biryani @ Noor Mohammadi Hotel
Where: Next to Shalimar restaurant, Abdul Hakim Noor Mohammadi Chowk, Bhendi Bazar
Sometimes, particularly after a rigorous night/day, you just need to line your stomach with something soaked in ghee and ripe with flavour. Something with a little bit of everything you need and this Chicken White Biryani comes close to satisfying on most accounts. A little simpler in its preparation, the meat is simply left to marinate in a paste of garam masala, boiled onions and dry fruits for a few hours and then the preparation is simmered for an hour to create this heady mixture of rice and meat. Our favourite part? That generous sprinkling of crunchy, fried onions on top along with an additional dollop of ghee. We’re convinced they’re trying to kill us.
Cost: What is this? I don’t even….@ Rs. 165
Rebel’s Choice: It’s chicken white or chicken so stop being so anti-establishment and just go with what we suggested in the first place.
XV. Raan Biryani @ Shalimar
Where: Vazir Building, Bhendi Bazaar , Near JJ Hospital, Muhammad Ali Road
There are times when mainstream choices are literally the best example of a healthy democracy. And when it comes to food over politics, we tend to trust the majority rule. Shalimar might be the most famous and popular haunt in the Bhendi Bazaar area that’s filled with little culinary treasures but it’s because no one’s been able to recreate a raan biryani with quite as much finesse as they have. By now you’ve realised we have a slight fetish for slow-cooked goodness so the fact that a whole leg of lamb has been marinated and roasting in its own juices for over 8 hours and then placed upon all that rice makes us more than a little over excited. Seriously Shalimar, you’ve got to stop teasing us like this.
And please get a side of bheja fry on the side. It doesn’t go well together or anything, it just needs to be eaten.
Cost: Come prepared to shell it out, and don’t you complain about it for one second @ Rs. 1430 (but it feeds like, a hundred people)
Rebel’s Choice: So there’s no other Biryani option, which is fine with us, but please, please, please don’t miss their mutton khichda. It’s the best in the city but the worst if you’re dieting.
XVI. Chicken Biryani from Shah Ghouse Cafe by @ Biryani By Air
Where: 325 Siffin Apts, Ambedkar Road, Bandra (W)
We know we said Jaffer Bhai’s had an edge on authenticity but in all honesty, we’d sort of forgotten about these guys. Biryani by Air orders a pre-determined amount of the good stuff each day and are nice enough to share their spoils but you need to pre-order early enough if you want to get there before they run out. Which they inevitably do, faster than everyone else.
The flavours and style are Mughlai like most options on this list but these ones bring a date. Each meal for two comes with two packets of delicious, thick shorba (gravy) and halal meat, both succulent and delicious.
Cost: Don’t be ungrateful @ Rs. 450
Rebel’s Choice: Mutton biryani, duh. Don’t worry they don’t skimp on the shorba or halal meat for this either.
XVII. Murg Biryani @ Zaffran’s
Where: Opposite The Blue Frog, Mathuradas Mills, Lower Parel
Someone needs to include tandoor as the word that’s synonymous with all heavenly things. Well before Zaffran posted up for its midnight party crowd that always came rolling through, for surprisingly good pasta and risotto, they had their calling and they’ve never neglected it. Till today, loyal customers swear by their Murg Biryani when they’re too hungry for a roll and too drunk to co-ordinate the hand movements that excessive ordering tends to come with. They’ve always nailed their tandoori meats and North Indian flavours so the fact that you can get your hands on this Biryani all the way up until 3 a.m. only makes us love it more.
Cost: They’ve always a bit more extravagant in their pricing, but we’ll allow it @ Rs. 375
Rebel’s Choice: They actually get major vegetarian footfalls so both the Paneer Tikka Biryani and the Wild Mushroom Biryani are incredibly delicious options for the friendly neighbourhood herbivore.
[Got beef with this list that’s missing your favourite? Well, we’ve got some beef in here too. Seriously though, take it to the comments section or take it up with the queen. Either one works for us but at least you’d be doing a service towards mankind if you did the former.]