Monday, December 15, 2008

Kwality and Gaylord:The First Family of Restaurateurs (Restaurant wallahs)






It all began with ice cream. The British had a settlement in whats now Palika Bazaar and Iqbal Singh Ghai and Purshottam Lal Lamba started making hand churned Ice Cream, sold at the Regal building in Delhi. This was in Circa 1939 . In 1942 an American dropped in and tipped them to keep their business open after the late night show at Regal. This changed their fortune and friendship grew into family and Lamba married Ghai's sister and then what, they got into the restaurant business and started Gaylord. The "G" from Ghai and "L" from Lord. Thank goodness they did not call it Lordgay. But, those were innocent times and gay in the 40's in Delhi was an unknown word (in the current context). Though some historians feel Lord Krishna was termed as Gaylord in the indian context in an innocent way gay meaning happy.


PL Lamba started the Kwality resturant (misspelt as a marketing gimmick that Absolut vodka would follow 4o years later). I think Lamba meant Quality in the Punjabi way. Then came the partition of India and Pakistan and lots of family came and settled in various parts of India, there was a Kwality every where started in Bombay, Calcutta and at my last count there was or had been a Kwality in Mumbai, Kolkatta, Bangalore, Amritsar, Chennai, Nagpur, Chennai, Chandigarh, Patiala,Jamshedpur,Kanpur, Pune, Dehradun, Nagpur, Baroda,Goa, Agra, Mysore, Lucknow, Udaipur, Dalhousie , Vizag and some others I could not trace. All had some family linkage, brother, uncle cousin, son in law, old employee and so on. To the extent my friend and senior blogger Sandip Ghose tells me (he was in HUL, then HLL) that they had to buy the Kwality brand many times over as there was so many other claimants after the deal was done.


Meanwhile Gaylord made inroads abroad, 1946 to 1957, there was a Gaylord Indian Restaurant in Delhi, Bombay, London, Japan, Chicago New York. These were more stylised restaurants with a continental food experience, with a live band and an esoteric feel of a european fine dining experience. While Kwality stuck to the North Indian cuisine and popularised and immortalised the humble channa bhatura (the Pindi channa, a recipe of a halwai who came in from Rawalpindi and Lamba met in 1948 on a vacation at Mussorie). The dish is still a show stopper at Kwality, Delhi and in all their catering do's.


The story of Jay and Veeru progressed (Lamba and Ghai) expanded their footprint Kwality into Kwality Ice Cream amd the mantle from Pl Lamba was taken over by his astute son Sunil Lamba. Who further, expanded to Kwality catering besides expanding the footprint to 49 restaurants. Mean while the sons of Iqbal Ghai (Ravi and Sanjeev) were busy with Gaylord restaurants abroad, The Natraj hotel on Marine Drive (1960-1999)(which is now The Intercontinenal at the Marine Drive in Mumbai). It had the legendary RG's discotheque named after Ravi Ghai. They even started the Gaylord Ice cream with Yankee Doodle Ice cream parlours (though they now hold the Baskin Robbins franchise in India). Now have expanded to Mayfair Banqueting and Hot Breads.

So what was it that drove these men to develop brands which like the Moti Mahal which are faked in most cities in the world from Vegas to Kobe, from San Francisco to Sacramento, London to Birmingham there is Gaylord or even a Kwality everywhere in the world Krishan Kripalani has made a huge business out of Gaylord restaurants in the whole of North America without paying a cent in franchise fees to the Original owners. We think they had a tremendous vision to involve friends family and employees to set up businesses across India and across the world. Perhaps the only mistake of not registering the brand worldwide (there were hardly any systems to monitor it).

Kwality had a simple model make and sell Ice cream (a dream with cream) , and open restaurants with family for families to dine in.When Sunil Lamba came to handle the helm of affairs, his big ticket was at the Asiad Village in 1982. He opened a series of restaurants in the complex, Angeethi (frontier cuisine), Ankur (Indian Cuisine), Chopsticks (chinese cuisine), Tonic the bar amd another American fastfood restaurant, the name I forget. Which has been taken up further by his son Dhruv Lamba starting , Kwality express and Chopsticks express in Malls and Hospitals and Breads and More all over. Kwality also caters at the Delhi Gymkhana Club.



My experiences, began as a child at the Kwality restaurant at Vizag (aka Visakhapatnam), where the owner Mr Johar would call his waiters as Samosa, Bhatura and me and my brother Sanjiv found that very funny and even do so now. While my wife Praveen while growing up in Patiala and Chandigarh, had many fine dining experiences to share about Kwality.As we grew and met we had visited several Kwality and a few Gaylords all over India (like adding dot pins to the map of India).
So quite like a Sher -e -Punjab Dhaba there was a Kwality everywhere.Who can forget their first Choc bar, or the Mango Duet, the Choconut and the even now, prevalent, Kassatta (much copied but never the same)




Niloufer Billimoria my then boss at Times of India at Mumbai, many years ago perhaps in 1993 took us to the Gaylord (at Church Gate, Mumbai) and ordered a hearty meal of Waldorf Salad, Baked Alaska, Chicken Strogonoff and ended it with an ice-cream and she ordered coffee. As a dining experience we have had better experiences at Gaylord than at the Kwality which is largely remembered for the exhorbitantly priced Channa Bhatura and perhaps the butter chicken.

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I tip my hat to these extraordinary gentlemen i.e Ghai and Lamba who taught most of India how to use cutlery a serviette and the table cloth made of Damask and offered a fine dining experience and fairly good and sometimes great food at an affordable price for the middle and upper middle class India. In a recent Big fat Kapoor wedding a few weeks ago I savoured the Fish Orly and fat Kakori Kababs, the Biryani, Taar Meat and of course the Channa Bhatura. Impeccable.

Request anyone to give the current and exact price of :
A) Channa and Bhatura's at Kwality Delhi (as they are priced seprately) ?
B) The Price of the Kassatta ice cream (Kwality Walls) Currently ?

So Long !

15 comments:

Protima said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Protima said...

Very nice Samil Bhaiya..couldnt resist opening this post as soon as I received your sms..makes me nostalgic and reminds me of all the fun didi and me had in patiala at kwality

Praveen said...

chana bhatura - 250 both included
kassatta - rs 45

just guessing sam...havent eaten both in a long time.

very well written piece.

ahijit said...

Nostalgia. This took me back to my school days when I spent a lot of time at my aunt's place at Park Mansion and Kwality's used to be a stone's throw. Although not on top of the list since Blue Fox and Peter Cat really topped the list to dine out, for "kwality" punjabi khana the Kwality was the ultimate. There used to be a Kwality at Ballygunje Phanri as well but not as good as the one at Park Street. Great to finally know of the origins. Keep up the good work :)

ahijit said...

Day before yesterday I was in Bombay and eight of us decided to go to Gaylord's at Churchgate for dinner. They had refused to take our request for reservations saying everything is booked. When we reached at 9 pm only a quarter of the place was full and that too on a Saturday. Anyway to cut the long story short the place seems to be down in the dumps. The prawn malawadi was a disaster. The prawn cocktail was no better. After having served one round of Absolut to two of us they ran out of the drink only to come back 20 mins later to say that they had found a bottle. The service seemed no better. Although we spent quite some time and money at the place, definitely came back with the feeling that the place has lost its charm.

piyush said...

Samil sorry for visiting the blog so late, but its worth the effort.Everyone including me have some chidhood experience of both Kwality & Gaylord and today we also know how it all came up in these years!Very nice.I remember visiting both these places many times with my Dad at Dhanbad,Ranchi & Kolkutta.In fact there was a pattern to the visits, if the agenda is heavy drinks & snacks session then it was Gaylord and if the idea is to eat then it was Kwality.ofcourse with beer thrown in(Golden Eagle).Never saw this brand anywhere else!
If I remember my impromptu lunch post wedding was at Kwality Nagpur....

Sudarrshan said...

Awaiting your research on Agarwal Sweets... er... Aggarwal... or is Agrawal Sweets...

Piyali & Sudarrshan :)

ak said...

Lovely article, just for your reference the his name is Peshori Lal Lamba, not Purushttam..

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