Tucked away in the heart of Old Delhi is the famous eatery known as Karim Hotel. Although in modern times more branches have opened in various cities including Hyderabad, the original Karim’s establishment is now more than a century old. Its longevity is a testament to the mesmerising taste that its dishes offer to the customers. People from far and wide come to Karim’s to taste the authentic Mughlai cuisine. Not only is the taste exclusive and made with the hotel’s special recipes, but the meals are also very affordable too.
In the mid-19th century, a chef by the name of Mohammed Aziz served in the royal court of Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. In 1913 one of Aziz’s sons named Haji Karimuddin established the Karim Hotel in Gali Kababian, near Jama Masjid, in Delhi.
But like all businesses, the eatery had its share of fluctuating fortunes. One such period of uncertainty occurred soon after the partition of India in 1947. The huge influx of refugees, and the simmering communal tension and struggle of the common man to survive, affected businesses all over the country.
It was then that the dwindling popularity of this establishment was revived in an unusual manner. The people responsible for it were the members of the Hyderabad City Police football team. The famous football coach S.A. Rahim discovered the delightful fare of Karim’s in 1948. This hotel was recommended to Rahim by a friend when Rahim visited Delhi that year. After trying out the food, Rahim decided that this would be the best place for his players to eat when they came to Delhi.
Thereafter whenever his team, Hyderabad City Police, went to Delhi to take part in tournaments such as the Durand Cup, Rahim made sure that the entire team dined at this restaurant. The coach pointed out to his players the tastiest dishes and they loved them. The footballers happily flocked there every day accompanied by their fans and followers. So whenever the Hyderabad team was in Delhi, the hotel was jam-packed with customers.
The Hyderabad Police players could be easily identified because they wore brown coats which were a part of their uniform. Every time they dined at Karim’s there was a hum of excitement throughout the locality. The players from Hyderabad were very popular and the fans too made it a practice to eat at this hotel where their heroes were seen frequently. The public eagerly waited for the chance to rub shoulders with internationally famed players.
The well-known football expert, the late Novy Kapadia who was himself born and brought up in Delhi, has written that the present owners of Karims do not hesitate to acknowledge the role played by Hyderabad City Police in popularising the hotel. When coach Rahim passed away in 1963, Alimuddin Ahmed, manager of Karim’s Hotel Delhi, flew down to Hyderabad to attend the funeral and pay respects to the departed soul. Even today the management of Karim’s Hotel gives a discount to members of Rahim’s family whenever any of them go to dine at this hotel.
It is a unique story of the camaraderie that existed between a team of footballers from Hyderabad and the owners of a famous Hotel in Delhi. The mutual friendship has stood the test of time and continues to exist today. Now the famous Karims of Delhi has begun operations in other cities including Hyderabad. The efforts are directed towards retaining all the old flavours and tastes of the original dishes that captured the hearts of the patrons. Online user reviews show that people appreciate the quantity and quality of the food. While one reviewer said that the Sheermal was the best item, another has stated that he loved the Shahi Tukda the most. Other popular dishes are Gosht ka Shorba, Afghani chicken, Firdausi Khorma, Akbari Murgh Massalam, and others.
But back in the 1950s, Coach Syed Abdul Rahim proved that he was a trendsetter. He had a knack for spotting football talent and he proved that even in the matter of food, his choice was the perfect one.