Ask anyone to name 3 things they connect to Hyderabad and the name ‘Paradise’ would be in that list. Before it became the World’s Most Favourite Biryani, Paradise was synonymous with Hyderabad. Even now many people who visit Hyderabad, pester their friends and family to take them to Paradise. I know some who would miss going to the Charminar, but would not leave the Biryani at Paradise.
As an outsider to Hyderabad, my first biryani was at Paradise when a friend took me to the main location. I was in awe of a place so huge and still packed with people and that too on a weekday. The biryani was unlike any other biryani that I had tasted and for me it would be the Best Biryani in Hyderabad. So in the last 6 years, after my first biryani, I still end up at the main Paradise outlet to eat biryani and take some parcel for my family back home too!
When you have attained a ‘legendary’ status and become a part of the mystical Hyderabadi folklore or sorts, most places would just be satisfied and relax, but not Paradise. They expanded to other cities, opened more branches in Hyderabad and managed to still hold on to the charm. If even that wasn’t enough, they still keep reinventing themselves through various food festivals. They had a kebab festival a few months back, which was a huge success and some of the most loved kebabs have gone to the main menu too.
With Chef Vijay Anand Bakshi looking to engage the Paradise patrons into more complex and royal flavours, they now have the Zafrani Biryani Festival! A well kept secret recipe from the royal Mughal family time, this is now part of the ongoing festival.
Chef briefed us on the whole idea of serving a biryani different than what we are so used to in the Hyderabadi food scene. Out go the double masalas, overload of spices and added colours. This recipe brings the royal charm of a high quality Kesar/Saffron brought in from the hills of Kashmir. Coupled with the authentic ‘dum’ method used across all Paradise kitchens, this whole recipe manages to keep the rustic, ancient and royal feel alive.
In an effort of doing justice to the term ‘biryani’, they have decided to not have a vegetarian option at all. Which might prevent them from reaching out to a whole set of people, but then that just shows how honest they are in using the recipe. Biryani with any meat other than goat is a crime, so vegetarian biryani is a sin.
So we have the Zafrani Mutton Biryani and the Zafrani Chicken Biryani for the festival. The biryani is served in a rustic pot with a closed lid. The chef had already asked us to watchout for the whiff of saffron from the biryani. But even if he hadn’t mentioned it, that thing is tough to miss!
We got both the biryanis and the moment the lids were off, the whole atmosphere lit up with the zafran fragrance. Zafran being a very subtle, yet highly aromatic, ingredient, needs a lot of restraint. Because a little extra or a little under, and the whole effect would be lost.
First spoon of the biryani and you can tell that it’s not your usual biryani by any means. No burn of spices, no overdose of ghee and no extra masala rice in there. Just lightly flavoured rice with a punch of zafran in every bite. At first, it makes you question the whole concept of this being a biryani and then you realize that this is actually how the royal families would savour the Biryani.
The meat in both the biryani compliments the flavours pretty well. Although you do always miss the meat to rice ratio at a restaurant. For once I dint feel like pouring salan on my biryani and dint even want the raita. These beautiful flavours would be missed on any additions, so you want to keep it simple and as the chef recommends.
So be sure to knock out your existing biryani hats off before you put on this one. By no means is it your usual Hyderabadi Biryani, nor does it claim to be one. But it’s a welcome change from the super spicy biryani race that everyone seems to be a part of. Soak in the Zafrani flavours and get thrown into the ancient royal setting of the Mughal houses. Definitely worth a try to understand that this is what our version of biryani has evolved from.
Where – All Paradise outlets across in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Vizag.
Pricing – Between 200-285
When – Festival ends on 31st March