Have been contemplating, who's photo should be the lead photo,
butter chicken or the man who created butter chicken.Now, like the Mona Lisa preceeds, Leonardo Da Vinci, similarly butter chicken preceeds, Kundan Lal Gujral. Surprisingly, there are more fake , remake, replicas, rehashes of Motimahal restaurants across
the world, than the Mona Lisa.
The story began percolating within me nearly a week ago when we visited, Motimahal restaurant in Daryaganj, New Delhi. This was a pre-diwali team lunch. The objective was to go to the real Motimahal and trace the roots of popular Tandoori cooking in India. The owner, took our order, rather we took his recommendations and ordered, butter chicken boneless, keema, brain curry and rotis and the vegetarians did a hit and trial of tandoori gobhi, daal makhni, kadhai paneer nad something else and rotis. Overall we loved our food, excellent service, 3-4 waiters to table of 10. We befriend the staff, the oldest worker for 41 years, Joshi, Ijaaz Khan 17 years and the owner Vijay Chadha..... Vijay Chadha..... Its meant to be owned by the legend and his family name should be Gujral.
Thats when I decided to dig deep and find out clarity in the maze and matrix of Motimahals all over India and the world over. We all know Kundan Lal Gujral worked in a restaurant in Peshawar called Motimahal started in 1920 with the partition, he set up shop in the tony precinct of Darya Ganj in 1947 and rest is history with visits and patronage from Bulganin, Kruchchev, Gorbachov, Nixon, Kennedy, Trudeau, Zakir Hussain, Maulana Azad, Shah of Iran and most importantly, Nehru and then his daughter Indira Gandhi. Catering by Motimahal was famous at banquets and state functions even Sanjay Gandhi's wedding was catered in part or whole by them. Gujral was a rockstar among statesmen and film stars, and was often visited by Sunil Dutt, Dilip Kumar, Rajesh Khanna, Nargis even Jackie Kennedy.
So then what happened, whats the problem, though I know the original genesis was in independent India, are all the Motimahal's in India part of the same group. With a comprehensive research, we find out that the biggest mistake Lala Kundan Lal Gujral made was that he did not register the trade mark and proprietary rights.
Original - One
The Original site at Daryaganj which was establisheed in 1947 and claims it has no branches is now owned by Vijay Chadha, who bought the tenancy rights in 1992 and also claims to be the original.
Then there is the Moti Mahal India Or Moti Mahal group, pioneered by Amrit Lal Kohli began with Moti Mahal Deluxe in Greater Kailash I in 1975 , South Extension, Noida, Ashok Vihar and so on followed. They claim on their website true decendants and blue (sorry butter) blood. (5/6) restaurants)
Original - Three
Moti Mahal Deluxe Hospiatality Limited owned by Ashim Gujral has Moti Mahal Restaurants and Bar directly owned or in the franchisee model (nearly 19 of them) across India, Jammu, Chandigarh, Mumbai Bandra West and so on. The food claimed to original, however is not obsessively puratanical.They also include sizzlers, continental and other cuisine in their menu.
Moti Mahal Management services Ltd, pioneered by Monish Gujral, who got immensely active in 2005 and has opened 52 restaurants primarily in malls across India with the brand name Moti Mahal Deluxe- Tandoori Trail.This group has the media's attention and share of voice. Newspapers and showhosts are eating out of his palm, without perhaps knowing the entire truth.
All across nthe world from Calgary to Warsaw, Singapore, Toronto, Melboune, Chicago, several in London there is a Moti Mahal all claiming to be the real Mc Coy. The real thing with the real lineage.
However, in our reserach Original Number Three and Original Number Four are as close in family name to the original and can claim to be the decendants of Kundan Lal Gujral and therefore of Moti Mahal. But hang on! it does not matter, if , its a belligerent rooster or a timid chicken, the taste is in the eating and in the sauce, if you like it and enjoy the experience thats the original one for you. I had to demystify things, I think I have come close.........
p.s parting shot can any one recognise amongst the two dishes (in the photos above) which is more authentic
p.p.s Hindustan Times Cafetaria (my previous employer the newspaper and not the Cafe) called News Cafe is catered by Moti Mahal (wonder which one)