By Zaffar Iqbal
Srinagar, Jan 21 (IANS) Amid economic gloom after the revocation of Article 370, there is some good news emerging from Kashmir as the iconic Ahdoos Hotel in Srinagar, a symbol of Kashmir’s unrivalled hospitality and culinary delights, is all set to expand its business and open more branches.
The 102-year-old hotel has played host without fail to tourists, foreigners and domestic, and locals even when the dread of militants had turned Kashmir unsafe for travel.
Although many new hotels and eateries have come up in Kashmir in the last three decades, Ahdoos continues to maintain a lead over them due to the sheer quality of its menu.
It’s founder Haji Mohammad Sultan first started a bakery in 1918 under the patronage of Maharaja Hari Singh after learning the fine art in Calcutta (Kolkata) in West Bengal.
The venture, a novelty in those days, hit the ground running, allowing Sultan to set up a Wazwan restaurant in Srinagar.
Two years on, Ahdoos served the choicest mutton dishes to its guests spurring the demand for mutton dominated Kashmiri cuisines.
After Sultan, his son Ghulam Hassan took over the business. The baton then passed on to the next generation. Along the way, Ahdoos became synonymous with the best of Kashmir Wazwan.
At present the hotel is being managed by Sultan’s grandson Hayat Bhat.
“We plan to streamline the business and open more branches now,” Bhat told IANS. “We renovated the hotel but retained its ethnic charm. We didn’t shut even for a day during renovation.”
More than a century after Sultan started the venture; the hotel continues to wow the guests with its design and sumptuous menu.
Little wonder that it has found mention in food journals across the world.
“There is no compromise on the quality,” Bhat stressed.
Beside Wazwan, the other offerings of Ahdoos are tea, patties, barbeque and kebabs.
Even in the trying times, the hotel continues to attract guests that include journalists, bureaucrats and commoners.
“It is the most favourite eating joint for locals,” Bhat said .
The hotel has also been the preferred venue for press conferences by separatists.
Ghulam Nabi, the oldest staff, has been with the hotel for more than four decades.
“People have changed, building designs have changed, but we have retained our standard and touch,” Nabi said. “The bakery has been re-branded so that gen-next could relate with it.”
When film crews camped in Kashmir for weeks, visiting Ahdoos was a must for them including the actors.
“For Raj Kapoor and Pran, a Kashmir trip without a visit to Ahdoos was incomplete,” recalled Nabi.