Things in this life change very slowly, sang The Eagles gloomily, if they ever change at all.
One look at the before-after photographs of Paradise, the 53-year-old landmark in Secunderabad, and they'd have been singing a different tune. One mouthfull of the Biryani, and their gloom would have lifted too.
Threatened with a reduction in area by road-widening, the angels who run Paradise reacted with unsuspected lan. They expanded skywards.
Everything has changed about the building.
Gone is the Bougainvillea ambience of Garden. Gone too is the Bogart-like Persis. Gone are the bustling Irani Cafe settings of Akbar. And in their place is a 300-pound gorilla that threatens to put the other members of Hyderabad's Biryani Bloc permanently in the shade.
There's actually underground parking for cars! The parcel counter, earlier reminiscent of a railway booking office, now positively gleams. The area that used to house Akbar is today a Food Court with commuter-tailored stand-and-eat sideboards replacing the fossils that used to serve as tables. Garden has been merged into what used to be Persis - it's now a part of a huge split-level seating area that all goes under the brand Persis and spans 4 levels. Some parts are airconditioned, while some retain the ambience of the earlier Persis-balcony.
Families can walk in without a second thought, all 3 or 4 generations hand-in-hand, without a second thought: cleanliness has improved by an order of magnitude. In an amazing, and surely a positive, metamorphosis, you can now see tables populated entirely by what old-timers would dismissively refer to as the distaff side.
Yes, everything has changed. Except, Allah Shukr, the taste of the food.
Paradise was always a single kitchen with multiple restaurants. The same tea would cost more in Garden than in Akbar, and more in Persis than in Garden.
The same rules still hold. And, as before, prices rise with the altitude.
And again, as before, the food is as glorious as it ever was. The old dishes, that is.
The menu now boasts of entres that qualify it fully for the multi-cuisine tag. But if you're here for the noodles or the palak paneer, you're one sandwich short of a picnic. The pride of place is reserved for dishes with the Paradise tag.
The Paradise Special Biryani is fit for the gods. And priced to match, at an astounding Rs. 270. More down to earth, and equally tasty, are the Paradise Mutton Biryani at Rs. 95, and the Paradise Special Mutton. Once you've eaten these, you'll wish for nothing more than a cup of creamy, sweet, hot Irani tea.
Yes, there are other dishes on the bill of fare: a Chinese section, a Tandoor section and various motley soups. There's some pretty decent vegetarian fare too. But this is, at heart, a Biryani caf. The fragrance of the spices, the seductively long grains of rice, the delicate morsels buried under the rice waiting for the eager diner to uncover them, and the incomparable gravy that accompanies it.
This is what you come to Paradise for.
Paradise is everything it was - fantastic food, and excellent value for money. Make no mistake, nothing has changed on that front even if the prices have moved up a bit. It's added more arrows to its quiver, which means ordinary mortals can eat ordinary food while you, the epicure non-pareil, dig into succulent mutton and ambrosial rice.
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