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 Home > City Resources > Food & Dining > Khyber

 Mumbai's only Khyber Pass 

Mumbai is full of surprises. You don't have to go to the North of Pakistan at the Afghanistan border to visit the historic Khyber Pass. Its right here, recreated in the heart of Mumbai's art district, Kala Ghoda. While the original Khyber Pass has been a silent witness to countless events in the history of mankind from the Aryans descending upon the fertile northern plains in 1,500 BC, armies of Alexander the Great, the terror of Ghanghis Khan, the Scythians, the Parthians, the Mughals and the Afghans, the more contemporary Khyber Restaurant is no less famous. The latter stands as a silent testimony to many an event in modern history - the launch of the Miss World logo, numerous fashion shows and top film and entertainment related events.

"Originally Khyber was not designed on the lines of the Khyber Pass. It owed its name to the exotic and ethnic ring to the word, Khyber. When my father, Om Prakash Bahl, started the restaurant 40 years ago, it was purely functional. Today, we question all that. Once the restaurant was gutted in a fire in the year 1985, we worked on making it a 'brand'," says Sudheer Bahl, who has got the dynamics right and made this restaurant a landmark in the heritage district of Kala Ghoda.

Khyber is on the 'must visit' list of foreign tourists and visitors. It is the place to be for the rich and famous, not just for its exclusive decor, but also for the great food that it serves. This is the place to catch Leander Paes, Ravi Shastri, Anil & Tina Ambani, Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Amir Khan, Kajol, Rani Mukherjee, Gautam Singhania, Vinod Khanna, with their hair down.

In 1958, Khyber was a middle-priced value for money eatery, with a seating capacity of 60 people, covering an area of 800 square feet. It was later expanded to seat over 300 persons. Tragedy struck in 1985 when the restaurant burned down one Sunday morning. Three years later, it rose from the ashes under the supervision of Bahls son Sudheer Bahl, celebrity designer Parmeshwar Godrej and one of Indias leading architects, Hafeez Contractor.

Parmeshwar Godrej was responsible for retaining the looks of the earlier Khyber. She suggested that restorers paint directly on the surface of the original wall of the restaurant, a wall that had been badly burnt in the fire. Memories of the old Khyber were incorporated into the re-risen restaurant, creating a more earthy feel. In 1988, the restaurant took on a more upscale ambience and expanded to an area of 6000 square feet. "We took a conscious decision to reduce the capacity of the restaurant to 175 people, to maintain the privacy of the patrons and provide the best service," adds Bahl.

The resurrected Kyber was recommended by 'Time' magazine in its book on 'The Best Of Asia'. It won 'Best Restaurant of the Year (Indian Cuisine)' for five consecutive years, 'The Regional Tourism Award (1996-97)' awarded by the Department of Tourism and many national and international awards.

Today, Khyber, with its Mughal ambience, arches, urns and paintings, serves the finest North Indian cuisine with grace and style. Paintings by M F Husain and Anjolie Ela Menon go a long way in providing the image of exclusivity to the restaurant. While M F Husain has the privilege of a 'M F Husain Corner' for his lifesize painting, Anjolie Ela Menon's work welcomes one on entry into the restaurant. Though its menu has stayed largely the same over the years, some of the big favourites at Khyber are Chicken Makhanwalla, Paneer Korma, Pomfret Green Masala, Mutton Chaap Moghlai, Khyber Raan and Bheja Green Masala with crisp rotis.

Exclusive spaces for private parties, receptions and functions are also available at Khyber, which is designed on three levels. In 1991, the 1500 square feet Casbar was added as a banquet hall with an informal atmosphere. Designed as a self-contained entertainment unit with a DJ cabin, bar, dance floor and video screen, Casbar became a favourite of the corporate circle. Casbar is derived from the Arabic word casbah, which means hamlet. In a sense it is a small niche or a hamlet within a large restaurant, capable of comfortably accommodating 200 guests. The interiors of the Casbar are done up with an Afghani-Turkish theme. The room is dominated by a large painting by Subhash Awchat and Arabic scriptures by Khayyam. The poetry is engraved in stone, creating such a strong Arabian mood that you can almost hear the thundering hooves of stallions pacing across a parched desert.

In 1993, Yashab, which means jewel in Persian, was designed on the floor above Casbar. It is capable of accommodating upto 250 people. Yashab has a regal ambience with a large dance floor, plush leather couches, paintings and a light cheerful colour tone. It is an exclusive space for private parties and events. Beautiful murals adorn Yashab adding style to the decor. There are also wall paintings by Gurcharan Singh. There are two bars and two main rooms furnished with low white sofas, white marble tables, murals, iron The original Khyber Pass in North Pakistancandle bras, marble flooring, concealed lighting and a dance floor that could accommodate up to 400 people.

So, if north Pakistan is not on your iterinary, make sure you reach Kala Ghoda for that Khyber experience.

Address: Khyber, 145 M G Road, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai - 400 023

Phone: 267 3227 / 267 3584 / 267 1605



By Anupama Vinayak

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