‘Horn OK Please’ is the newest eatery from Radisson Hyderabad (Hitec City). Although it’s housed inside a star hotel, Hork OK isn’t a fine dine. Instead, it is being billed as a ‘drive-in dhaba’. The restaurant derives its name from the ubiquitous signage on the rear end of the trucks lugging on highways across the country. Radisson has cleverly repurposed its basement level parking into a rustic dhaba replete with khatiyas (cots), cheap steel chairs, and wooden tables.
A slightly miniaturised model of a truck that has been fashioned into the bar is the first thing that you’ll spot as you drive or walk down to the ramp. There are four signature drinks on offer. The Patiala is served in a tall steel glass and is a potent mix of vodka, gin, and run with triple sec and cranberry juice. After trying a sip from my adjacent, I ordered a glass of BC – a vodka-based cocktail with mint, jaggery, jaljeera, and ginger. Unfortunately, the concoction that arrived looked rather different from the one that I had sipped earlier. Loaded with ice but little of anything else.
There are over a dozen appetisers in the menu, including quintessential Punjabi dishes like Highway Murgh Tikka and Amritsari Machli. Although Punjabi cuisine is better known for its non-vegetarian fare, Horn Ok is replete with options for the herbivores that go beyond the usual Paneer dishes. Nimona Tikiya is a shallow fried patty that draws inspiration Northern India’s Mattar ki Nimona. This mash prepared by grinding green peas along with its shell that is a popular winter speciality in Northern India. Makai Pyaz ki Seekh is a vegetarian version of the popular mince-meat kebab that’s prepared from sweet corn kernels.
While all the four starters served to us were delectable, the kitchen stumbled in the mains and the accompaniments. The Dhabewali Daal lacked salt, while the balance of spices (namely cinnamon) in Khade Masale ke Gosht was not quite right. The Meethi Lassi was served warm, and the green chillies in Masala Chaas made it uncomfortably fiery. The creamy, eloquently spiced Nukkad ka Kukkad was quite easily my favourite in the main course.
Until a few years ago, Punjabi food, which has for long been one of the flag bearers of Indian cuisine, was surprisingly underrepresented in the city. However, the influx of professionals from different parts of the country has changed the culinary landscape of Hyderabad in many significant ways. One of them is the surge in diners offering dhaba style food. ‘Horn OK’ is surrounded by restaurants like Punjabi Affair, Dhaba by Claridges, and Gal Punjab Di. Yet, it has got all the elements in place to be stand-out from the crowd and be successful. Horn OK is spacious and sports an aptly loud and colourful decor peppered with paraphernalia. It’s among the few Punjabi Dhabas with a liquor license and a DJ. The portion sizes are generous and pricing is decent. The execution, however, isn’t quite perfect. The underground space is stuffy and uncomfortable during the summers due to lack of air conditioning and poor ventilation and the bar, the kitchen, and the service have plenty of room for improvement.