It is easy to spell out a number of things that are evocative, often allowing you to reminisce about a place or even a memory. Food, however, has always remained a strong contender for the top spot in this list. Many will agree that nothing stirs up impressions of the past like a dish that accompanied you through jubilation, despair, or any other emotion that you might have felt.
For Delhiites, Nirula’s—one of the city’s oldest homegrown fast-food outlets—has always remained a nostalgia-evoking space, with a number of dishes becoming cult favourites for citizens (and others across the country). Launched as a 12-room hotel in Connaught Place (CP) by the Nirula brothers, Lakshmi Chand and Madan Gopal, in 1934, Nirula’s saw a major overhaul with the second-generation—Lalit and Deepak Nirula—taking charge.
The latter duo—both of them graduated from Cornell University in the US—were instrumental in giving the city (and probably, even the country) its first fast-food outlet at CP, transforming it to the iconic spot that it now is. Deepak—he contributed to scaling the business across North India and has often been hailed as a pioneer in India’s fast-food revolution—passed away at 70 on Tuesday. Though no longer a family business, Nirula’s will always remain a must-visit for nostalgia seekers (especially for those born in the 80s and 90s who’ve spent countless hours relishing hot chocolate fudge sundae, mutton chops, and other such dishes), and much credit for this goes to Deepak.
Zorawar Kalra, founder and managing director, Massive Restaurants, said, “I still remember whenever school ended, the first thing we did on the last day of exams or school was to go to the Vasant Vihar outlet, watch a movie, and obviously dine at Nirula’s. The hot chocolate fudge still remains, in my opinion, the best form of ice cream dessert in India.” Talking about knowing him, he added, “ Back in 2004 end, when I came back from the US after my studies, I needed mentorship before I started my restaurant business. I met Mr Nirula for lunch at the CP outlet, and he told me about the business, how to go about it, and what steps to focus on. He was a great mentor.”
Food historian Pushpesh Pant said, “An unforgettable food entrepreneur in Delhi, he belonged to a family that brought so many new things to Delhi. For a young person like me growing up in Delhi in the mid 1960s, Nirula’s was the place to go. It was pocket friendly, it was innovative, and it was casual eating... And it was brilliant.”
We also spoke to Anurag Katriar, the founder of Indigo Hospitality, who shared, “He is considered a pioneer of organised F&B in India; he really came up with the concept of what we now call QSR and modern dining, and making it like a large chain of restaurants.”
Not only have stalwarts from the F&B industry recognised Deepak Nirula’s contributions, even netizens took to social media to narrate their fondest memories of the food outlet, one that will always remain an iconic, nostalgia-evoking space.