Around the country, there have been eateries which have seen legends accumulate around them. In Lucknow, that would be the Tunday kabab stands, and not just because of its 110-year history but also because of how it has leveraged the brand to its present pre-eminent position in India’s kabab stakes.
From a tiny 12x18 ft kabab-paratha corner in a narrow bylane of old Lucknow’s crowded Gol Darwaza street, it’s now spawned a 21,000 sq ft Tunday food mall in modern Lucknow’s Kapurthala complex. Founder Murad Ali got his nickname ‘Tunday’ after he lost his left arm, amputated following a fall from a rooftop while flying kites, his favourite sport. Little could he imagine that the handicap would become his biggest strength, give him a brand identity one day.
Grandson Usman says he always wanted to take Tunday out of the confines of Gol Darwaza street—originally known for Lucknow’s famous nautch girls and classical mujras. The corner at the junction of Gol Darwaza street and Akbari Gate had become synonymous with Tunday Kababs for 10 long decades until Usman succeeded his father Rais Ahmad and started a parallel outlet in Aminabad in 1995.
Photograph by Nirala Tripathi
The outlet at the Gol Darwaza, Akbari Gate junction has been synonymous with Tunday Kababs for over a century.
While the first modern commercial venture came about nine years ago in the form of an outlet at a busy city mall, Usman took the initiative to give his grandfather’s venture a corporate identity by registering itself as Tunday Kababi Pvt Ltd and decided to go the franchisee way. Outlets in Lucknow and Bangalore opened in 2009 but the experiment did not work and a disappointed Usman chose to snap both deals. “The franchisees let me down in maintaining quality and pricing which ultimately led me to pulling out. That day I decided I would open new outlets only on my own,” Usman tells Outlook.
“It took me three years to gather fresh resources. I acquired a piece of land in the Kapurthala area where I set up this comprehensive eating complex,” he says. The three-storeyed, centrally air-conditioned set-up was inaugurated on August 10. It has a traditional kabab- paratha restaurant, a banquet hall, a fine-dine area, and a 7,000 sq ft rooftop terrace garden restaurant offering both a la carte and an unlimited buffet. Quite in tune with the new pop aesthetics, there’s also a take-away which looks more like a McDonald’s drive-thru.
The new menu doesn’t end with the legendary galawati kababs either. There’s a wide range though the focus remains Awadhi cuisine, including “a vast variety of kababs, some of which may not be available in regular restaurants”. Other specialities include the nahari-kulcha, biriyani and also “an exquisite spread of mutton and chicken preparations”, says a proud Usman. To cater to the vegetarians, they have introduced another unique range of dishes, he adds. Awadhi desserts followed by the Lakhnavi paan complete the list.
Fifty-five-year-old Usman has no doubts about the success of his new multi-crore venture which has, incidentally, taken all his life’s savings. “Insha-llah! This will help us keep alive the name of my grandfather in the minds and hearts of generations to come,” he hopes. That said, he’s not forgotten his roots or a key advice laid down by his grandfather—the man on the street must get his kabab-paratha at an affordable price. Which is why, even today, their original shop at Gol Darwaza—which caters more to the common man—remains as important for him as the new ultra-modern complex.