The Paragon restaurant in Kozhikode exudes an old-world charm and remains popular even decades after its inception. Photo Credit: K Ragesh
On ‘festival days’ – Onam, Vishu or Eid – the Paragon restaurant in Kozhikode sells 700 to 1,000 kg of biryani. This is high praise from a city that treats biryani as a religion. The cherry on the cake for Paragon has been ranked 11th on the Top 150 Most Famous Restaurants of 2023 list by the experiential travel online guide Taste Atlas.
“The restaurant has been called legendary and the biryani iconic. However, I would like to add four other items to our list [Paragon’s] Among the best – Fish curry made in coconut gravy, Chai, Parota etc. Sambhar,” says Sumesh Govind, managing director, Paragon Group, over phone from Kozhikode. Tunde Kebab (Lucknow), Peter Cat (Kolkata), Amrik Sukhdev Dhaba (Murthal), Mavli Tiffin Rooms (Bengaluru), Karim’s (Delhi) and Ram Aashray Mumbai ranked 12th, 17th, 23rd, 39th, 87th and 112th respectively .
The company that started as Paragon Baking Company in Kozhikode in 1939, known all over Kerala for its plum cakes, has today transformed into the Paragon Group, which has more than 25 branches across Kerala and Dubai catering to various cuisines. But it still retains its original location in the heart of the city. “That place is more than a building for me. This is a temple!” Sumesh says. She remembers her grandfather telling her how townspeople flocked to the Paragon Bakery to see the fancy cars like Chevrolets and Impalas parked outside. “People came from as far as Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam [Kochi] For our Christmas Plum Cake.” It was started by his grandfather PM Govindan and father PM Valsan.
no secret ingredients
Mutton chops (more popularly known as chaap) and bread, chicken biryani, mutton/vegetable stew and appam were non-snack items on the menu in those days. ‘Paragon Biryani’ is the result of nearly eight years of work by Sumesh and Chef Vijayan Pillai, who worked together – sampling and working with Biryani in Kerala and elsewhere maestro To find the right recipe.
“Note, there are no secret ingredients in this!” Sumesh laughs.
Bombay Hotel, another hotel in Kozhikode, which inspired him to find the perfect recipe, used to sell 300 to 400 kg of biryani for lunch every day. “While we were hardly selling 20 or 30 kgs. I thought ‘Why aren’t we selling as much?’ This was one of the factors that inspired me to make the best Biryani,” he adds. it meant getting biryani maestro To understand Biryani. In this, he also had to eat Biryani every day. “I started waiting for 12 noon when Chef Vijayan would inaugurate power, There was also feedback from Muslim friends, who immediately picked up on the small, missed nuances of the flavours.
Paragon Biryani | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
“It is a combination of Thalassery and Malabar Biryani. The spices are procured locally from the Valyangadi market and are freshly ground daily,” says Chef Vijayan, who has been with the group for the past 33 years. while the meat is cooked prior to coating power-Cooked, the meat is not pre-cooked for later. “Partially cooked rice is power– Cooked with meat. What sets us apart is that we still use the traditional method power– Cooking using burnt coconut shell on the lid Chembu (Utensil). All our chefs from other branches are trained here,” he adds.
Within a month and a half of launching it in a Kozhikode restaurant, in the late 1990s, Sumesh and Vijayan learned that Paragon Biryani had arrived.
Sumesh says that the determination to serve great food is the secret of Paragon’s growing popularity. “The dishes on the table are just the tip of the iceberg. A lot of other things go into making this happen – customer feedback, our HR department’s work with the team, hygiene audits and employee appreciation, to name a few,” he adds.
Paragon, Kozhikode is renowned for the hospitality of the staff. Waiters are known to encourage guests to eat what they want Appam more or Pazampori To go with their tea. “I tell my staff that kindness goes a long way,” laughs Sumesh.
He is inspired by the food culture of the city that is his home. Sagar Hamzakka, owner of Sagar Hotel [Kozhikode] It was a great inspiration. food and chili chicken aside, meen porichathu (fish fry) was a trend setter like parotta. Then there was the Bombay Hotel, which was famous for its biryani. Then there is Rahmath, which is famous for its beef biryani and Komala Bhavan, which is famous for its mutton. varttiyathu,
Sumesh confesses that initially he was not interested in joining the family business. His father passed away when Sumesh was 14 and his mother took over the business. He was away from the bakery business. “My mother was adamant on handing over the business to me. It was unheard of to have a woman on the billing of a small restaurant in Kozhikode or anywhere in Kerala. But he did what had to be done. “At 29, he brought innovation and creativity on board. He started doing things differently, adding new items to the menu, interacting with customers: “In the meantime people called me crazy!” He says.
Thirty years later, it looks like those innovations have paid off as Sumesh Govind is all set to open the newest branch of Paragon Restaurant in Bengaluru.