..with foodie bloggers Nikhil Merchant, Arpana Gwalani, Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal and Snigdha Binjola Manchanda.
How did I, a total gourmand, end up in the company of these gourmets you might ask, dear reader and rightly so. The answer, of course, is completely by fluke. So there I was with the child, and food glands salivating in unseemly manner in anticipation at the ITC Grand Central on Saturday afternoon. The child, brought along because of no babysitting at home on that afternoon, had wisely packed along his PSP to keep him company, and on reaching there, Rushina’s earnest 10 year old, Aman, kept him busy too.
The ITC Grand Central is a lovely property, in the true tradition of elegance. The building itself, designed by architect Hafeez Contractor, is very turn of century, imposing, with a warm and cosy lobby area, passages connecting various parts of the hotel to each other and a lovely courtyard with a water fountain that the children had much fun playing around.
Arundhati Ghosh, PR in charge of the hotel welcomed us and took us to Kebabs & Kurries where she introduced us to Chef Ishmeet Kapoor who had designed the special menu for us, Amitabh Acharya, the Food & Beverage Manager at the restaurant, Bhaskar Sankhari Executive Chef and Chef Farooqui, who came from a long lineage of Lucknowi cooks and was the man in charge of ensuring that the food in the restaurant stayed true to the tradition of royal cuisine. We were joined later by the very charming General Manager, Kuldeep Bhartee who turned out to be a foodie too.
The open kitchen had various tandoors for veg and non veg separately, and the dal bukhara was simmering temptingly on slow fire and is famous for taking 48 hours to get cooked to perfection.
Our service started with a slew of kebabs, the first being a succulent sikandari raan which is whole leg of spring lamb, marinated in a mixture of malt vinegar, cinnamon and black cumin, braised in the marinade, skewered and the finished in the tandoor. Tandoor Jhinga, which were jumbo prawns marinated in ajwain flavoured yoghurt, red chilly, tumeric and garam masala mix and then skewer roasted over charcoal was impeccably done, with the smokiness that comes from the charcoal adding to the flavour. The Pudina Paneer tikka was pleasant, but the best of the lot for me were the Murgh Shammi which were chicken mince pies which were completely melt in the mouth buttery smooth, and subtly flavoured, and with raw mango to add a hint of tanginess, as well as the sabut tandoori alo. When they served the aloo, I had no expectations from it, being a meat eater myself but the alu was delicious, the crisp jacket, the insides filled with raisins, spices, cashews, coriander and chillies making it completely sinful.
Also, off the menu but brought for our tasting since Nikhil and Rushina mentioned them were the kakori kebab and burra kabab.
For the main course we had Murgh Handi Qorma, which was a subtly flavoured yoghurt and onion based Chicken gravy, flavoured with lazzat-e-tum, which is a special aromatic spice powder, Gosht Hari Mirch, which I skipped because I am not a mutton eater and a most divine Kalinga Fish Curry. Chef Sankhari explained that they had steered clear of Goan and Western coast fish curries because the theme of the restaurant was that of food from royalty. The Channe Raunaqdar, which were basically black chickpeas flavoured with mixed spices and dried mango were an interesting side to the gravies.
We ate these with warqi parathas, roomali roties and naan-e-baakhumach.
This was followed by Gosht Dum Pukht Biryani, layered basmati rice, with special braised lamb, topped with fresh green herbs and brown onions cooked sealed in a handi and finished on dum. I passed on this, since I was sure I would split a button given the amount I had ingested. The brat’s advice to me to wear a jersey dress that morning, which I had disregarded was suddenly seeming very sensible.
I must make a special mention of Sommelier Rajiv who first offered us 2009 Australian Shiraz by Peter Lehmann, which was a robust red, which perfectly complemented the kebabs and chatnis being served at that point.
He next suggested a Chardonnay as the second wine we tasted. Given we were having red meat and curries, one wouldn’t have expected a Chardonnay to go well with it, but Conundrum, a Californian Chardonnay (2003) went just perfectly with the dals and kurries, having aged wonderfully.
All in all, it was a fabulous afternoon of indulgence. Here’s us at the Chef’s Table, fed and sated and reluctant to move an inch.
(All pictures courtesy Nikhil Merchant, thank you Nikhil!)