Priyadarshi Kumar Sehgal has had an enduring relationship with the Hyderabadi biryani. PK, as he is known, has feasted on the dish no less than five times a month. This Hyderabadi knows his food and for over two decades, Paradise has been his chosen restaurant. PK nostalgically remembers the time he paid Rs.15 for a plate of his favourite mutton biryani in the early 1990s. “It tastes as good even now. Good biryani leaves no oil on the fingers and this does just that,” he says.
For folks in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, the biryani is a necessity, and a visit to Paradise a ritual. Started in 1953 as Paradise Café and seating 100 people, it has now grown vertically within the same structure to accommodate 1,500. With time, its presence has moved outside Secunderabad, where it has become iconic, to another 10 outlets in the twin cities apart from venturing outside the state as well. In all, Paradise Food Court, the company that houses the business, has 22 outlets, with 12 in the twin cities, six in Bengaluru, two in Chennai and one each in Visakhapatnam and Gurugram.
Apart from biryani, Irani tea is a huge attraction to Paradise, as are its biscuits and samosas. These, with the biryani and kebabs, accounts for a substantial portion of Paradise’s food offering.
There was actually a movie theatre called Paradise in Secunderabad that gained prominence for being the first one with an air cooler. At a stone’s throw away from the theatre, Paradise, the food joint, opened in 1953 a month before the theatre did. Anjaiah Goud who owned the theatre, was looking for someone who could run a canteen to serve patties, popcorn and beverages. This contract landed with Hussain Hemati and his brother-in-law, Gulam Hussain, the owners of Paradise Café. Today, Hemati’s sons, Ali and Kazim run Paradise but the movie theatre succumbed to entertainment taxes and modernisation in the early ’80s. Till 1978, the café looked no different from what it did when it opened. Ali, the older sibling, returned to Hyderabad after he was done pursuing his masters in political science at the University of Mumbai. According to him, the café was in a shabby state and had to be renovated quickly — the first serious change it was to go through. “It took 6-7 months and we worked only during the ni