Gulshan-e-Karim, a restaurant in Moradabad, is famous for its Mughlai food.
At Orchard, in Dehradun's Rajpur, lunchers eat quietly marvelling at the sights.
Tables are lined nicely in a row in the restaurant, arguably the best in the Doon Valley, and at the maitre d' signed books by Ruskin Bond are available. Bond, his fondness for poetry known to all, has left his signature on a collected volume of Rudyard Kipling's verse.
Across the sylvan restaurant, emerald green foothills are visible, looking splendid as the morning mist has now cleared the noon sun.
The restaurant celebrates the Doon of the old, the green, leafy, calm and meditative valley Bond has written so elegantly about in his earlier books.
Going to the city from the largely undisturbed suburb of Rajpur, the capitalist blight is visible. Gigantic malls, flashy brands, jiggling neons and gaudy eateries have sprouted on both sides of Rajpur Road.
Dehradun is now slowly going to seed, a city fast losing its character, a city that just can't cope with the new advances a GDP-obsessed India is bringing in its wake. It's only in places like leafy Orchard, where the food is great, that the city of past can still be remembered and reminisced about.
More food for thought
Living in the crowded Capital, if you think Karim's is the best example of Mughlai cuisine, think hard again.
The best Mughlai food is available in small, dusty and smelly cities such as Amroha, Rampur and Moradabad. Food so delicious your stomach can growl for days remembering every morsel of it.
On the sly, if your hunger for it is acute and if some of your Muslim friends are generous, you can also partake of partridge meat. And then there are innumerable varieties of biryani, each one more tastier than the other. Yes, morbid fears of cholesterol and obesity and indigestion trouble looking at the rich, sumptuous, scrumptious and oily display of dishes, but vanish soon as you dip your roties in the gravy and start chomping.
A beautifully done mewa malai chicken can transport you to houri-filled heaven and a great mutton korma can stay with you for months, if not years. And the best dessert, if your luck doesn't desert you in the gullies of these pokey, lagging and languid cities, you can have is kheer cooked overnight in sugarcane juice.
Western UP, during elections, offers food and food for thought in equal measure.