It was back in 1922 that a small shop by the name of Bombay Cloth House was established at Bank Road, downtown Rawalpindi. Today, after more than 90 years of its establishment, the offsprings of the family spread its wings, diversifying the family fortunes by making an entry into the culinary business.
The eatery, originally named House of Bombay at the time of its opening in 2010, has gone through a makeover. Along with a change in premises and a revised menu, the House of Bombay is now known as HOB.
HOB stands for Hot Out of the Bowl, and appropriately enough, most of the fare at HOB is served in a bowl, not a plate.
Where to go
HOB is located opposite Islamabad's famous Chaaye Khana on the first floor of the United Bakery building in F-6 Markaz.
When to go
The eatery is open from 11:30 am to 11:30 pm.
What to order
It's difficult to choose just one or two items off of the menu at HOB.
The multi-cuisine menu offers Burmese, Chinese, Arabic and Thai mains, but what dominates and deserve mention are the desi items.
Ignoring the dim sum, crispy chicken pillows and sea food basket and finding no desi substitutes in the appetizers, we went straight to the main course. Chicken achari qeema, HOB special daal, Bombay biryani and tandoori chicken curry were a few items that we mutually agreed to order.
The Bombay biryani arrived on a silver platter. It looked and smelled every bit of the Shahi delicacy that it is. A biryani's authenticity is judged by the use of spices, ingredients and the quality of rice and meat. Bombay biryani at HOB passed with flying colors.
“It’s my mother's recipe," revealed Nida, the entrepreneur and chef behind HOB. "The curd and smell of saffron is what sets the biryani apart from the rest. I try to keep everything balanced, even the meat portion.” And sure enough, we were served a well-marinated piece of chicken accompanied by a large portion of spiced potato.
“Tandoori chicken curry is one such item that is very popular in all Indian restaurants in Dubai and India, so I added that in our menu," continued Nida. The creamy curry was rich in butter but not very spicy, but we were appeased by the spice level of the chicken.
The secret to HOB’s cuisine is its homemade recipes and infusion of ingredients, tells Nida's husband Amir, who runs the operations of the restaurant.
“I buy vegetables from the big sabzi mandi every morning, dairy products from the farm and raw ingredients are delivered to the crushing machines on a weekly basis, so there is no powder or packet masala used in our desi menu," he told us.
Chicken *qeema achari* was served with piping hot wholewheat tandoor roti, thus confirming Amir’s claim of going organic.
“I don’t use achar from the market, it is all homemade which I have infused in the chicken masala,” informed Nida. The minced chicken, herbs and a hint of achar made the not-so-popular dish succulent and the source of much heartburn after dinner. But it was worth it.
The morsels of pickle and lemon brought the achari taste alive soon after the first bite. The achari whiff revealed the richness and spices that this concoction is known for. A savory must try, indeed.
Damage on the pocket
Given the fact that HOB is located in a more high-end part of Islamabad, the restaurant's prices are surprisingly reasonable and that is their USP (unique selling point), according to Amir.
The most expensive dish at HOB desi section is Bombay biryani, priced at Rs600, which feeds two hungry mouths! Fried qeema, chicken achari qeema, tandoori chicken curry are priced at Rs400 and daal at Rs300.