An Ode To Nirula’s, Delhi’s First Home-Grown Fast-Food Restaurant
Image Credit: Instagram @ritikajhanjijagtiani

Established in the year 1977, in Delhi’s Cannaught Place market, Nirula’s emerged as the face of capital’s ‘cosmopolitan’ dining behaviour, through the late 70’s and 80’s. A plush Nirula’s outlet near South-Extension used to be my parents’ favourite haunt during their courtship days in 1985. About 14-15 years later, we as a pack of four, were visiting Nirula’s for a completely different reason.  

To encourage young scholars, Nirula’s started offering free ice-cream Sundaes to those who scored straight A’s in their final exams. For at least three or four consecutive years, I would carry my report card to the counter while my very proud ‘desi’ parents would explain fellow, unassuming customers the reason why they pushed a tiny toddler towards the counter. Before handing over the free ice cream sundae, the person on the counter, would smile and put a stamp on my report card that read ‘I am a Nirula’s scholar’, and then proceed to ask my father for the rest of the order.

Nirula's has touched many generations of the capital, but how did the restaurant become so iconic?  

A Brief History...

Nirula’s chain actually traces its origins to ‘Hotel India’ that opened in 1934 at the L-Block of Connaught Place, by “Nirula Brothers”, L.C. and M. Nirula, the hotel has 12 rooms, a restaurant and bar. This was their first massive breakthrough in the food and hospitality business. Further, they also started the Indian Coffee Shop (different from Indian Coffee House) in Janpath, wherein their Expresso coffee became the talk of the town. In 1950s, they opened the ‘Chinese Room’ which became one of the oldest and most renowned Chinese fine-dining destinations for Delhi.  

After gaining much success across different avenues when it came to food and dining, the brother duo, ventured into something that was unheard of. The first fast-food restaurant of Delhi, Nirula’s was established in 1977, it started with selling fast food from across different cuisines, many sections were added to the restaurant like a pastry shop, a snack bar and an ice cream parlour. At a time, it was the only restaurant with an ice cream parlour with 21 flavours on offer. The concept became a raging success in Delhi.  

What many people do not know is that Nirula’s was not just Delhi’s, but perhaps the country’s first fast-food restaurant, selling pizzas, burgers, and fries, 19 years before India’s very first McDonald’s outlet opened in Delhi’s Basant Lok Market. Ironically enough, the American eatery was built in place of an old Nirula’s outlet. Over the years, countless Nirula’s outlets have pulled down their shutters. Lack of profitability and stiff competition from modern, international QSR chains are often cited as some of the reasons by experts.

Despite the topsy-turvy journey, chilli chicken pizza, veg burger, cake and pastries continue to find takers old and new. One of the most hot-selling items of Nirula’s is the Hot Chocolate Fudge, or ‘HCF’ as it is famously known. Served in a Sundae glass, this combination of vanilla ice cream, nutty, dark chocolate brownie, chocolate sauce, and crushed peanuts, HCF is truly one of the most exquisite Sundaes you can find in Delhi and/or Nirula’s outlets across UP, Haryana, Punjab.