The family served as cooks to the Moghul Emperors. The last in the line was the chef for Bahadur Shah Zafar. Then royalty was never the same again – and the family decided in 1915 to open Karim’s.
The main establishment is spread over many buildings in an alley opposite Jama Masjid, and there is a brach in Nizamuddin. And yes there is a “uniformed” guard at the entrance to the alley! There are degchis of cooking Korma and grilling seekh kababs with an aroma that will tempt a converted vegetarian back to being a carnivore!
The royal dining relates more to the taste of the food and not the style itself, which is plastic tables and paper napkins and quantities of the ordered food thrown at you at a furious pace. And, the crowds mean you will have to wait, unless you go with an insider, which we were lucky enough to do! The tandoori roti is to die for, and the korma and roghan josh are stunning. One understands perfectly Kushwant’s Singh’s POV after the meal:
It was late evening as we left but the hubbub of Chandni Chowk was unabated and the Royal facade of the Jama Masjid towered over the square and the people milling about. Definitely worth going back for a second meal the next time. And as a vegetarian I mostly had the Paneer Tikka but will be more adventurous on my return trip, try more vegetarian dishes and more gravies beyond the korma and rogan josh!