In a land bursting with cuisines and restaurants to go with it, ‘iconic’ is sometimes a status granted all too easily in India.  Yet, there are a few names that immediately pop up when a city’s name is mentioned. In fact, one is incomplete without the other. 

In this series of iconic restaurants in India, we take you through one each of these establishments, popular in their own right, in major cities of the country.

Britannia and Co., Mumbai

The legendary Britannia & Co. is an unmissable experience in Ballard Estate, Mumbai
Eating at Britannia & Co. is an unmissable experience in Ballard Estate, Mumbai

Some would say that the home of Parsi food in India is Britannia & Co. That they are incorrect is irrelevant, because to many in Mumbai, the restaurant itself feels like home, indeed. A cosy Irani café tucked inside Mumbai’s Ballard Estate prides itself on its classic dishes. Not for leisurely eating—they tend to have groups come in, order and go. Boman Kohinoor, the owner of the restaurant who has dedicated over 80 years of his life to serving food, still enthusiastically comes over to your table, tells you stories about his love for the royals in England and letters he once received from the queen of England.

The well-loved berry pulao comes in two varieties, mutton and chicken. The berries used are tangy Irani berries, and they have ‘Indianised’ the berry pulao and added masalas, making it incomparable.

Known for: Its berry pulao and dhansak
Most underrated dish: The salli boti, a mutton dish lathered with gravy and sprinkled with crispy potato sticks, boti. The fluffy chapattis there, too, are unsung heroes of the meals.

MTR, Bengaluru

The rava idlis served at MTR make for a fulfilling breakfast
The rava idlis served at MTR make for a fulfilling breakfast

MTR is a three-letter-acronym that when heard, in a manner similar to Parov’s bell, makes people salivate. Mostly spoken in hushed, respectful tones as an institution, ‘not just an eatery’, Mavalli Tiffin Road (when extended) is Bengaluru’s most iconic South Indian restaurant.

The original stands tall yet inconspicuously on Lalbagh road, quietly disguised as another residential space. There are eight other branches in Bengaluru, however.

Much like its namesake, the floors too are stacked one on top of the other like a tiffin—with the tea, coffee and food packaging room at the bottom, somewhat messily topped with the main restaurant and waiting room above. Packed to the brim, a Sunday morning visit will lead you into a bustling, jostling crowd which is merrily getting parcels packed, sipping on filter coffee or putting down names for the inevitable 45-minute wait.

Known for: The rava idli and ghee masala dosa

Most underrated dish: Have the podi dosa (the powder makes a world of a difference), and the Bisi Beli Bath

Flurys, Kolkata

Tea-time at Flurys is always acceptable, and always with cake
Tea-time at Flurys is always acceptable, and always with cake

A visit to Kolkata will be accompanied by requests from friends and neighbours alike to bring something back from Flurys. Such is the appeal of this confectionary chain that once started off as a small tearoom on Park Street in Kolkata. Flurys renovated itself from its original avatar in 1923 to a bright pink branding now, even expanding to 19 outlets in Kolkata and outside the city.

A flurry of people (pardon the pun) still flocks to the original outlet for its classic English breakfast, or nostalgia-soaked desserts.

Known for: Its breakfast, rum balls, tea and sandwiches

Most underrated dish: The original boat pastry and the mushrooms on toast 

Moti Mahal, Delhi

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The not-so-humble butter chicken is Moti Mahal's most loved dish
The not-so-humble butter chicken is Moti Mahal’s most loved dish

The almighty butter chicken is said to have been born here, thus changing the standards of North Indian cuisine all over the world. This legendary restaurant rests in the lanes of Daryaganj, and serves Mughlai food with no apologies for calories.

According to regulars, the same dish served elsewhere pales in comparison to the original, where the chicken is fresh and succulent, and the gravy attains the right balance between sweet and savoury. Order a plate for yourself, keep a plate of naan on the side and dig in.

Known for: The butter chicken, of course (vegetarians can have just the sauce as ‘Butter Gravy’)

Most underrated dish: The tandoori chicken (usually ignored in favour of its cousin)