Everyone Loves A Good Osmania
Image Credit: Osmania biscuits

“Ek plate Osmania aur Irani dena”, is a common refrain often heard at any Irani café in Hyderabad, irrespective of the hour. There is no way a Hyderabadi is going to savour his Irani chai without dunking a couple of those plump, flaky, golden-hued and drop dead delicious Osmanias in it. Several versions around its genesis exist in local folklore and one of them is that the seventh (and last officially ruling) Nizam of Hyderabad Mir Osman Ali Khan wanted a snack, which was part sweet and part salty and his royal pastry chef came up with this delight. 

Another version is that the Nizam was a big patron of these biscuits, which he would have his driver pick up from a Parsi-owned café Vicaji in Abids every evening. The owner named these biscuits after his royal client and the name stuck with other bakeries around the area that had started baking these biscuits too. Yet another version goes that the dietitian of Osmania Hospital (named after the Nizam who founded it) had improvised these as light and nutritious snacks for convalescing patients and soon bakeries outside the hospital also started selling these as Osmania.

Irrespective of how the lovable Osmania originated, it is the single most popular biscuit in Hyderabad and in fact the rest of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. In fact, it won’t be an exaggeration to state that Osmania has its place in the Hyderabadi hearts up there, with biryani and haleem. Be it humble Irani cafes or the poshest star hotels, one is well-advised to offer Osmanias on the menu.You might spot other unique notable cookies like chand or moon biscuits (called so because of its crescent shape), khara, fruit, tie, fine pistachio, and dry fruit versions too, but the star of the bakery, hands down, is Osmania. Maybe it’s the part flaky, part crispy, melt in the mouth texture or its part-sweet, part-salty taste with a rounded feel on the palate, who knows why Osmania is so loved?

Here is my list of top five favourite destinations to go to in Hyderabad for a good Osmania and this is by no means the ultimate or final list, there are so many unknown nuggets in and around Old City.

1. Subhan Bakery

This tops the Osmania fave list for most Hyderabadis, going by the long, serpentine queues at their one and only branch in Nampally. The current store dates back to 1951 when owner Syed Irfaan’s grandfather started it, but their bakery dates back to the pre-Independence era when his great-grandfather used to provide bread loaves and pav to the British regiment in Secunderabad. 

Irfan, who is sixth generation into the business, shares that Subhan, as of today, bakes around 5-6 lakh biscuits a day, and at least 70% of the batch comprises Osmania biscuits. These are baked in the same old eggless recipe proportions as he would see his father mix in the mornings. His strong distributor network ensures that the Osmania boxes reach his loyal clientele in Vijayawada, Guntur, Bengaluru, Hubballi, Chennai and Coimbatore. Subhan’s Osmanias are also exported to Canada, Saudi Arabia, and the US.

While there is also huge demand for Subhan’s Roat, a rarer, richer (with ingredients like ghee, saffron, semolina, nuts etc) and pricier cousin of Osmania, it is the latter which rules the roost as far as customer needs go. A ½ kg box of golden Osmanias costs ₹170, while a 250 gm box costs ₹90.

2. Nimrah Café and Bakery

This tiny but bustling cafe opposite Charminar, and next to Mecca Masjid as well as adjoining the famed Laad Bazaar, is a pitstop for tourists and locals alike, who are taking a break during their sight-seeing, shopping or just doing their business in the area. An added bonus is clicking selfies against the grand Charminar and watching it light up in the evenings. The bakery has an impressive range of around 40 varieties of biscuits and pastries such as date, honey-oats, sesame, and dilkhush, but it is Osmania which rules.

Be it a humble daily wager or the CEO of a blue-chip company, every client is given equal service. Aslam, the second-generation owner, says, “It is my father Abood Bin Aslam’s motto that love for fellow humans is what keeps our café going and growing.

Don’t be too surprised to bump into chef Ranveer Brar or Instagram-celeb baker Shivesh Bhatia here. A 500 gms box of Osmania at Nimrah costs ₹120 and a plate of 5 Osmanias costs a mere ₹20. You may also order one at ₹4.

3. Café Niloufer

There might be a posh premium Niloufer lounge today in Banjara Hills, which came up ironically during the lockdown, but old timers recall the original one in Lakdi ka Pul near Old City known to be frequented by theatre artists and creative people for their Irani chai-Osmania fix. During lockdown, the newly opened lounge in Banjara Hills did full house and one of the most-ordered items on Swiggy and Zomato was Irani chai and Osmania biscuits. There is an interesting story behind the current owner of the café Babu Rao, who started out as a sweeper at the café which had an Iranian owner.

A ½ kg box of Osmania costs ₹161 and less (depending on store location). 

4. Paradise Bakery

While its brand name is synonymous with biryani, the main and original branch in Secunderabad has a bakery on its ground floor, which does brisk business the entire day. This is where the Hyderabadi in the vicinity comes for his ‘kadak’ Irani chai and fluffy-light Osmania biscuits, he might also order tie or fine biscuits or even fruit biscuits, the other notables but Osmania is mandatory with his Irani chai, it’s a combo made in heaven, as far as any Hyderabadi is concerned. Osmania at Paradise Café costs Most branches of Paradise, especially the bigger ones like the one in Begumpet have a bakery section offering Irani and Osmania, besides the other snacks like puffs and pastries. A box of 400 gms of Osmania biscuits at Paradise costs ₹185. 

5. Karachi Bakery

Karachi Bakery is among the most visible of Hyderabad’s biscuits brands because of its presence across the length and breadth of the country. It was not only the first bakery to open an outlet at the newly-created Shamshabad, but also among the first to open a shop outside Hyderabad. Recently, it was clouded in controversy with the moral brigade owing to its name but legions of fans around the globe sprang to its defence and the row died down. 

Ironically, Karachi Bakery bakes only eggless biscuits and desserts, including its Osmanias. The bakery has recently undertaken a major expansion and modernization of its product portfolio to include stuff like Vegan Pistachio/Blueberry Millet Biscuit, Almond/peanut Biscotti, Rose shortbread biscuits and the like, but you will always see customers make a beeline for the warm and fresh from the oven boxes of Osmania at the store. The price of a 400 gm box of Osmania at Karachi costs ₹150 and can be bought online from their website too.