Sakhawat

Near Awadh Gymkhana Club, Qaiserbagh

‘Sakhawat’ means ‘munificience.’ Haji Wahid Ali set up a stall selling kababs and biryani in a narrow lane beside the Oudh Gymkhana in 1911, named after his son, Sakhawat Ali. There was a begum sahiba’s mansion facing the main road then. Wahid Ali was given space in the garage. In 1975, Sakhawat Ali converted this space into a restaurant. Sakhawat Ali’s son, Faizan Sakhawat read Law (Ll. B.), but prefers to carry forward the family occupation. Food is cooked here in the traditional way. Herbs and spices are ground on a stone. Copper vessels are used for cooking on a coal-fired clay oven. This is why the taste of the food is the same as it ever was. Preparations begin at 9 AM. If paaye (trotters) are on the menu, preparations begin 48 hours in advance. Apart from the weekly holiday on Tuesdays, the restaurant opens from 3 PM to 10 PM. The menu changes every day. If Seekh kabab is served on Wednesday, there will be Fish on Friday and Nargisi Kofta on Sunday. Their Shami Kabab, Baatay, Rolls, Biryani and Pasanday remain perennial favourites. Many famous film stars and politicians have patronized Sakhawat. Faizan particularly recalls how full of praise Rajnikant was for the food. To maintain standards, he says, it is equally important to be strict about the quality of the ingredients and the hard work required for preparation. He himself has learnt the importance of hard work from his father. Once, when he was small, Sakhawat Ali was to cater to a wedding in some very rich family. Faizan tagged along with him to where the food was being prepared. All the workers hard at work. Little Faizan, awed by the glitter, stood by gawking. Suddenly, his father’s ‘munificience’ manifested itself as a blow from a spatula and a dour injunction: “Are you here for the wedding? Get to work!”