You simply cannot talk about Indian food and not mention butter chicken. It is one of the most, if not the most, popular Indian dishes that are savoured worldwide by people from all walks of life, all nationalities, and all cultures. Butter chicken was invented by a chef named Kundan Lal Gujral, when he was playing around with some leftover food at his restaurant ‘Moti Mahal’ in Delhi. So, what makes butter chicken so special? The answer is fairly obvious: Butter. Also, the splendid blend of cream sauce, butter, spiced-up tomatoes, and an array of Indian spices melts in your mouth instantly and provides the gravy base for this popular dish.
Delhi is known for its butter chicken and is also the birthplace of the dish. You are likely to find Butter Chicken in almost every corner street in the capital city and each will taste different from the other. However, there are a few legitimate places where you can get mouth-watering Butter Chicken that will leave an imprint of a lifetime.
Havemore Restaurant, Pandora Road
There is a long-standing rivalry between two restaurants in Pandara Road, in central Delhi, about which has the best Butter Chicken in the area. There’s Gulati and Have More, both offering spectacular Butter Chicken but a few Delhiites are loyal to only one. When it comes to Have More, it’s the unpopular option because the butter chicken is not sweet, but tangy and creamier. Best paired with sirka pyaaz (pickled onions), this Butter Chicken is considered one of the originals. You just can’t go wrong with it.
Gulati, Pandora Road
Situated right next to Have More on Pandara Road, and also the older restaurant between the two, Gulati’s Butter Chicken is richer (aka more butter!), sweeter and more palatable to the global idea of Butter Chicken. It has both boneless and regular options and it’s definitely one of the most popular restaurants that serves the iconic dish.
Aslam’s, Jama Masjid
If you’re a simple person, who likes food items to be exactly what their names mean, literally, then Aslam’s Butter Chicken is what you’re looking for. It’s literally slow-roasted chicken doused in butter with no additional gravy and only mild spices. Getting to Aslam’s may be a difficult trek, given the narrow and claustrophobic lanes of Old Delhi but the trek will be worth it for the buttery chicken that is sure to blow your mind.
Shikhara, Greater Kailash 1
Some Butter Chicken dishes can result in a serious dent in your pocket but Shikhara in South Delhi’s GK1 area is not such a place. Economical prices, hygienic food that is just downright delicious and the combination of butter naan, dal makhani and butter chicken (the holy trifecta) is absolute perfection in Shikhara.
Kake Da Hotel, Connaught Place
Kake Da Hotel is one of the original places in Delhi to get good, consistent butter chicken. No matter which Delhiite you ask, this is one place that is always on everyone’s list. But it’s also never the favourite - and that’s because this place serves a sweet, creamy butter chicken that is more foreigner friendly. The spices are low, and butter is the dominant flavour - and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s also not the most authentic Butter Chicken.
Bukhara, ITC Maurya
Bukhara is the kind of pricey restaurant that you would pick for a family celebration or birthdays and anniversaries. The butter chicken and dal makhani at Bukhara is a generational favourite, but is it worth the price? That totally depends on when you go to eat at Bukhara. For an annual celebration, this place is perfect. For a random Tuesday evening dinner? Not so much.
Spice Market, Saket
The cardinal rule about authentic Butter Chicken in Delhi is that the lesser the noise around it, the better it will be. All of the above options may be mentioned by most Delhi locals as they’re famous and frequently visited. Spice Market is a relatively newer restaurant, and it’s not particularly known for its butter chicken. However, that makes it even better because you are likely to order it randomly as takeout and not expect it to be absolutely spectacular Butter Chicken - but it is. Try the dahi kebab and lachcha paratha on the side for a holistic mughlai meal that will make your soul happy.
Special mention: There’s a nondescript dhaba in the PVR Saket (fka Anupam) locality, near the parking lot, that serves a delicious, creamy, hearty Butter Chicken with Butter Tandoori Roti fresh out of the oven. It’s the perfect mobile meal to have on the bonnet of your car after a night of partying or even before a long movie. Does the dhaba have a name? Yes. Does this writer know the name? No. It’s just one of those places you’ve been visiting your whole life but never bothered to learn the name of because the food is just so good - you didn’t need to know the name. It will forever be 'that place near PVR Saket in the parking lot'. To quote Shakespeare, what’s in a name and all that.