Interior of Ahdoos. (Photo: Shuaib Masoodi)
Buttered toast, mutton and chicken kantis (Kashmiri version of tikkas) and a teapot of nun chai — this is the favourite order of most Kashmiri locals as they step in Ahdoos, a 101-year-old restaurant set up near Residency Road in Srinagar. These are also the signature items of this eating joint, which started as a bakery in 1918 under the rule of Maharaja Hari Singh. “The location of the bakery was a little away in Polo View Market, but butter toast and kantis were available for locals even then," says Hayat Bhat, owner of the restaurant. “My grandfather Hazi Mohammad Sultan had started this bakery which was taken over by my father Hazi Gulab Hasan and now I am the third generation,” he says.
Chicken patties and walnut fudge were the other favourite items of bakery and still exist. The bakery venture transformed into a full-fledged restaurant within two-three years and since then the menu has not changed. This is according to the history of this restaurant, which has been displayed at the entrance along with black and white pictures of the restaurant since pre-independence era. “We focus on Kashmiri Wazwan dishes rather than traditional north Indian dishes. Gushtabas are large meat balls cooked in curd-based sauce, ristas are the smaller and marginally spicer version, Methi Maaz is organ meats combined with dried fenugreek leaves and Tabak Maaz is pan-fried ribs. All are traditionally eaten with steamed rice and washed down with Kahwa or green tea,” Bhat explains.
The fading carpets and geometrical patterned Kashmiri ceilings were renovated first in 1985 and over the years some minor changes have been done in wood work. The entrance wall shows photographs — one of them highlights how the head gears of Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims used to be the same. Other pictures showcase snowfall in Polo View market, Residency Road alongside one of the Chinar trees that cannot be missed.
Tabak Maaz and Kebab. (Photo: Shuaib Masoodi)
Ahdoos has eating out arrangements too. The space opens in summers and it overlooks river Jhelum. The restaurant which can accommodate over 150 customers at one time has now expanded into a hotel as well. Bakery, the parent unit is on the ground floor, followed by a restaurant on the first floor and the hotel on the upper floors.
Though the restaurant is non- vegetarian’s delight, few vegetarian dishes, too, are there. Kashmiri Saag also called as Karam Saag, Nadru Yakhni ( Lotus stem) cooked in curd, and Cheese Tomato cooked in Kashmiri masalas are a few of them.
Gulab Nabi, who’s been working in the restaurant since 1972 says, “The menu has not changed, though the decor has changed. This is our USP."