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Banaras 2016“Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together!”
Mark Twain

You might have heard a buzz online as a bunch of us decided to visit Banaras, or Varanasi as now called, for a food trip. It was Ruchira’s brainchild, a dream she had held for long. We were a strange mix of folk, different age groups, varied backgrounds yet with a common link – the spirit of adventure and love for food. We were game for anything, and under the well oiled machinery of Ruchira’s efficiency, we managed more of Banaras than we could ever dream of. Of course none of this would have been possible had Sangeeta not chalked out a day by day, or rather hourly plan for us.

Ghats, Banaras 2016

Banaras 2016

Ghats, Banaras 2016She couldn’t join us but was our virtual guide. And therein runs the common thread between our Banaras trip and ‘Rivaayat’, both of which had Sangeeta involved! Virtually in Banaras with us, yet here hands on at 361°, The Oberoi Gurgaon for a tasting menu curated by Chef Ravitej Nath and her.Banaras @ 361°, The Oberoi, GurgaonFirst our iconic trip to Banaras, memorable, action packed and absolute fun all the way {warning long post}. I was going to do a smallish post, but a load of folk on FB asked me for a more informative one, so here goes. In any case,  Banaras can never be a small post. I can see myself going there again soon. The city grows on you!Banaras 2016I saw a lot of the city when I was young. As a kid and teenager, virtually ever summer was spent in Banaras. I saw it very differently this time around. Clearly a lot had changed. My sensibilities too! Our food trail in the city was action packed with the chaos, culture, colour and magic. Banaras @ 361°, The Oberoi, Gurgaon is at the end of this post, a very calming ‘fine dining’ experience. Do feel free to jump directly to that if you like, though I hope the post will get you feeling like you’ve stopped by the holy city before the meal!

Banaras 2016That it was a first trip together for the four of us could have meant some hiccups, BUT, surprise surprise, we hit it off from word go. The minute the train pulled out of the station at Delhi, we {Preeti, Nivriti, Ruchira and me} lay out our table with all the yummies we had carried, and talked non stop until we reached Banaras. Not Ruchira though, who stole 40 winks while we had a midnight feast under her very nose, giggling and whispering incessantly; she DIDN’T stir. Yet she still denies she ever got sleep.

Ghats, Banaras 2016

Ghats, Banaras 2016That Banaras was going to be fun was certain. That it turned out to be a million times that was the icing on the cake. We talked non stop, ate non stop, covered every place on the itinerary that Sangeeta charted out for us. Then discovered more that perhaps was waiting to be discovered, shared an auto across the city until the locals recognised ‘those four mad women‘, two of whom were perched on either side of the auto driver. Then we ate some more! Oh yes, and we bought some beautiful saris too. Can’t go to Banaras and not buy saris.

Ghats, Banaras 2016The first thing we did was to dump our bags at a very sweet home stay, Granny’s Inn, and head out to the ghats within an hour of reaching Banaras. It was important to get a feel of the city, to breathe in. Off to eat kachoris, sabzi and jalebi, Banaras 2016That done, cameras in tow, we hit the food trail. Boy was it a good beginning to the day, what with fermented batter expertly meeting hot oil! A few minutes later, dunked into sugar syrup, that meant fresh jalebis! Sweet start to an exciting day!Jalebis being made, Banaras 2016We were going to make it a habit of dessert first, but who cared!! Next on the menu was kachoris, or lentil stuffed puris. Hot out of oil kachoris served with the most deliciously spiced sabzi, it was good to be in Banaras. Street food is best there, probably what the city is famous for as we were to discover bite by bite.

Kachori with Sabzi, Banaras 2016The kachoris with the sabzi on the side is the best ever street food you can dig into. Deep fried kachoris with spicy delicious vegetables to dip into, words can’t describe the pleasure. We soon discovered kachoris in every form, on every street, around every corner, quintessential Banaras. That’s what Banaras is known for! Also for something else which is creamy and delicious!Pahalwaan Lassi Wala, Banaras 2016

Pahalwaan Lassi, Banaras 2016Kachori and jalebis later, we descended on the famed Pahelwaan Lassi Centre at Guru Ravidas Gate. It serves the best lassi Banaras has to offer, both sweet and savoury. Creamy, rich, bursting with flavour and just too addictive. Boy,we were hooked on lassi for the rest of the trip. Another great lassi joint was Dugdh Sagar near where we stayed. When we had a free moment, we slurped lassi like there was no tomorrow! You will not find lassi like this anywhere else. BHU Banaras 2016You’d think we’d have called it  a day, but wait, we weren’t quite done! Quick stops happened that morning. Banaras Hindu University. We barely stopped by the outside of the temple, then headed straight for some jhalmuri. Yum Yum Yum. The man tossing it together has been doing this for as long as he can remember, 1960’s onward, under the very same tree.Jhalmuri, BHU Banaras 2016

Jhalmuri, BHU Banaras 2016With deft fingers, he pinched this masala and that, onions, sprouts, green chilies and a squeeze of lime. Finger licking good as we licked our grubby fingers and leapt back into the auto. The good thing about auto drivers in the city – they are honest, always game to talk, and have a deep knowledge about the culture of the city. Some weave spells of 10ft tall ghosts and white witches that shriek into the night etc, but that’s up to you to believe it or not!Sunrise over the Ganga, BanarasWhen in Banaras the early morning arti at Assi Ghat is a MUST see, MUST! They say the colours of Banarsi sarees are inspired by the sunrise. You have to see it to believe it. A trip to Banaras just to see the sunrise over the Ganges is worth a trip.Sunrise over the Ganga, Banaras

sunrise 5

Sunrise over the Ganga, BanarasThe sky changes colours every few seconds, and we just couldn’t get enough of it. You must get to the ghats before sunrise, an uphill task for our sleep deprived exhausted group, but we got there once! If you can get there every single day, nothing like it. It’s an experience of a lifetime, and in many ways time with nature. Ghats of Banaras

Ghats of BanarasAssi Ghat is possibly the best of the 87 ghats the river front has, most used for bathing and pujas, a dhobi ghat, and a couple of cremation ghats. We didn’t have time enough to explore all 87 of course! Banaras is a city built along the ghats, so it’s fascinating to just hang out there. Practically every narrow lane of the old city leads to a ghat one way or another, and each ghat is abuzz with activity.

Mallaiyo in Banaras 2016Banaras in winter means a dive into a seasonal sweet foaming delicacy called Malaiyyo. It’s a must try, a traditional winter dessert of Banaras, something like the Daulat ki Chaat of Old Delhi, though richer and more flavourful. You can find it only in the winter months though, and we were lucky to spot quite a few vendors.Malayyio in Banaras 2016 We went to Gopal Mandir waali gali and started walking through the streets. 7.30 in the morning is a beautiful peaceful time to be there, the mallaiyo walas, chai walas and kachori walas all ready and setting up for brisk business. The grinding stone for saffron, the earthenware pots, huge woks, wooden spoons, brass servers all lent local flavour to our food trail.Malayyio in Banaras 2016 We tried several Mallaiyo walas, also met the old man who runs one of the of best there. Yet the very best came from this man sitting high up at a window in the street, almost a hole in the wall as Sangeeta suggested. Thick, rich, saffron high, sweet enough and absolutely delicious. As we slurped through our many servings, locals frequently stopped by buying potfuls of this delicacy from him. He served the most memorable mallaiyo ever! It was like an upside down meal. Banaras 2016 With dessert done, we tripped along giddily and dived into more kachoris and jalebis, chai too, and this was pretty much the norm in Banaras. Walking through the street was a great experience. I stayed trigger happy throughout. The odd sadhu, flower sellers, food stalls, chai waalas, locals, colourful doors. Little vegetable sellers would randomly pop out of tiny holes in the wall, the colours and old world charm amazing!Streets of BanarasThen we ate some more. It was a foodtrail after all! How can we do Banaras and not devour chaat, so we caught a 30 minute nap at the home stay and then descended hungrily on the Kashi Chaat Bhandaar. Banarasi cusine is often synonymous with chaat, the very best, and the most different. Kashi Chaat Bhandar, Banaras 2016The first thing was Tamatar ki chaat – spicy, flavourful, addictive, colourful and truly yum! Thereafter we didn’t stop. Palak ke patte ki chaat, papdi chaat, pani puri, dahi bada, everything. The guys there were so happy, they made sure we tried every single thing on the menu, desserts included. Was the best chaat in a long long time, especially the famed Tamatar ki chaat! We couldn’t stop talking about it.

Banaras 2016We were ready to burst, but then again, there’s nothing that a meetha paan can’t fix! Delicious meetha paans later, which are really addictive I have to say, we set off in search of recycled glass martabaans or jars. Sadly we didn’t find any, walked through a million narrow alleyways, were hungry again, then headed for the evening arti…Banaras 2016 … the pompous and ostentatious Dashashwamedh Ghat arti at sunset which is quite an experience in itself. Teeming with millions of devotees and tourists, it’s a very different experience from the mornings calming atmosphere. It’s a more social affair, with all the bells and whistles {read sea shells being blown and bells being rung} that an arti can promise. Dashashwamedh Ghat arti, Ghats, Banaras 2016The night air resonates with deep throated vedic chants that transport you to another world if you shut your eyes. Also, a boat ride at night on the Ganges is another experience altogether. It’s a new face of the river, a new look at Banaras, it’s rituals and it’s culture.

Dashashwamedh Ghat arti, Ghats, Banaras 2016Maybe it is just that the morning draws fewer people since 5.30am is not the most convenient time for one and all to reach the river. Yet, it was an experience in itself as we took a boat ride by a few of 87 ghats, including the Harish Chander Ghat, or the cremation ghat considered most auspicious for Hindus for the final journey.Ghats, Banaras 2016

Ghats, Banaras 2016It was an eerie and uncanny ride by that ghat. Even though the pyres burning into the night sky paint for a dramatic picture, the solemnity of the final journey is unnerving. We didn’t stay there for long.

Vishwanath ki gali, Banaras 2016We even bravely ventured to the Kashi Vishwanath temple, where the number of cops probably match the number of devotees given the high security profile of Banaras holiest site. No cameras allowed within, only prasad and money. Banaras had changed beyond belief! A thousand shops and shrines dot the narrow Vishwanath ki gali, a place that was so different from what I remember visiting so often as a kid.  Buy some supari from here, some beads, knick knacks. It was the best pan supari in our opinion.!

Aloo papad with garlic quark dipWhile on that topic, buy some Aloo Papad {potato papad} too. Great gift to carry back, and grab some lal mirch ka chaar/stuffed red chili pickle also if possible. My paternal grandmother used to make a mean red chili pickle, I still remember the taste from childhood, but sadly the recipe has been lost forever. These are things quintessential to the Banaras region that you might not find elsewhere. Preeti recommended the aloo ka papad, and she was spot on. One of the best ways to serve them is to pop the into the microwave for a couple of minutes, allow them to crispen up as they cool, then serve them with dips. Almost like crackers, these are addictive. They popped up at the Oberoi later, fried of course, and just as delicious!

Sarnath, Banaras 2016Surprisingly enough, we managed a sideways trip to Sarnath as well. The first thing we did there was eat of course. Tumbled out of the cab into the waiting cart of a chana jor garam wala, flattened crispy chickpeas tossed together with onions, tomatoes, green chilies, spice with a dash of lime. Best and largest chana jor garam ever, probably the most expensive thing we ate in Banaras! Then again, they say chickpeas have become really expensive, and making chana jor garam is a laborious task.Lal Khan ka Rauza, Rajghat, Banaras 2016Another quick trip we managed was one to Rajghat to see Ruchira’s mothers school. Also stopped by the bridge across Varuna river, and found a fascinating monument overlooking the river, one of the best preserved and well looked after mausoleums. Built in 1773, it houses 11 graves. Lal Khan Tomb is one of the many tombs & mausoleum built during Medieval Period in Varanasi city. Lal Khan ka Rauza, Rajghat, Banaras 2016The tomb was constructed in 1773 to commemorate the memory of Lal Khan- a Mughal Noble. It is one of the finest representations of grand Mughal architecture. The building is protected by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). This was quite a find!

Pizzeria Vaatika Cafe , Banaras 2016We spent more time eating in Banaras than we did anything else. Ticking off things from the list Sangeeta put together, we had fabulous wood fired thin crust pizzas late into the night by Assi Ghat. The Pizzeria Vaatika Cafe is also very famous for Apple Pie. Strange as it might sound, turns out that this was the best apple pie we had ever eaten, ever! The pastry was crisp, light as air, had great taste, the ingredients shone. We carried a pie back each as well because it was sacrilege not to carry some back for the folk at home.

Caciotta, Artisan cheese, Banaras 2016The other thing we carried back, all thanks to Ruchira’s eagle eye, was artisan cheese, caciotta. As we were driving out of Assi Ghat one morning, Ruchira literally flew out of the auto because she saw this.

Caciotta, Artisan cheese, Banaras 2016The rest was history. Before we knew it, we were in deep conversation with the Banarsi owner, he who spoke chaste Banarasi, then English, then cut over to free flowing Italian. He got the Italian cheesemaker, Emilio Marconi to drive in to meet us, after Ruchira insisted that we wanted to buy cheese even though the guys at the shop said it was sold out.

Caciotta by Emilio Marconi, Artisan cheese, Banaras 2016Call it perseverance, but cheese eventually showed up, and we happily grabbed some to carry home. The very sweet Emilio even made a fresh batch of ricotta for us, and with fresh baked bread from the same shop, our journey from Banaras to Delhi was naturally delicious!

Banaras 2016 We did have very amused co passengers who were thoroughly entertained by our nonsensical non stop banter, our hunger pangs, that we made for a very eclectic bunch. And thus our little journey wound up, chugging our way back into Delhi, sleepless in many ways! Happy, ticked off our list of things to do, shopped and lived it up. There was only one thing we missed, and that was a true Banaras ki thaali, or a local meal. Strangely enough, that was one thing we couldn’t find there, despite Ruchira googling for it endlessly.We needn’t have bothered, because here, back home, that is just what Rivaayat served up with Banaras @ 361°, The Oberoi, Gurgaon! A delightful, fuss free, home style menu of Banaras cuisine curated and presented with  passion by Chef Ravitej Nath along with Sangeeta. That Banarasi cuisine could offer such hidden gems was amazing. The food was simple and special, delicately flavoured, light on the tastebuds, and offered a lot of variety.

Banaras @ 361An array of cocktails and mocktails arrived first, my fave the Gullabo. Refreshing, lilting, summery almost like a local Ro, it teased the palette. The Panchamrit was a divine beginning, then delicious aloo and sabudana papads with an array of exciting chutneys. Wadiyon ki chutney and Tomato chutney were both addictive and different. Of course my favourite course was starters with chaat with Chivda matar, Banarsi tamatar ki chat, Chenna ka dahi vada and Aloo tikki. The Chenna ka dahi vada was amazing, as was the chivda and aloo tikki. The Tamatar ki chaat a little  low on tang and flavour as compared to what we had just experienced in Banaras.

Banaras @ 361°The fritters, Harey chane ka bhabra and Bajka both finger licking good, as were the dumplings, Masoor ki bhapouri and Fara. With chutneys, everything was elvated to delicious levels. Of course I was too full already, so I barely had a bite of the main course. I loved the homestyle Arhar dal, the Turai ki sabzi and Kaddu ki sabzi. All finger licking good. I also loved the aromas of mustard oil which stood out celebrating this simple cuisine. The Mutton kaliya was a little tough, yet I was happy with a simple vegetarian meal.

Murabba from Oberoi @ 361°The sweet Mallika chatted away with us happily through the meal. Already past being too full with such a sumptuous menu, it was time for dessert. Fresh back from Banaras, I did feel that the much awaited Malaiyyo was a tad disappointing as compared to what we had experienced there. It was far too light, quite foamy and not sweet enough. I believe it’s got something to do with the milk here as it’s difficult to get the fat content in milk locally that Malaiyyo demands. Maybe it’s best had in Banaras. The laddoos from Sankat Mochan Trust were rich and delicious, as was the peda. I heard lot about the khush khush ka halwa but didn’t get to taste that.

And that’s how we came full circle on Banaras, satisfied on all fronts of the food trail we set out to conquer!
Thank you Mallika @ The Oberoi for hosting us for this beautifully curated meal, and thank you Sangeeta for keeping the tradition going!

SPRING @ Radisson Blu Dwarka “Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.”
Ruth Reichl

Recently I spent a day at the Radisson Blu Dwarka to shoot a little for their all day dining restaurant ‘Spring‘. At Spring, lazy Sundays are made special with a lavish ‘Champagne Brunch’ carefully crafted by celebrity chef Rakesh Sethi and his team. Diners can experience a sumptuous spread complimented with an unlimited service of Champagne or soft beverage of choice. It was my first visit to the 217 room property and I was in for a pleasant surprise.

SPRING @ Radisson Blu Dwarka The Radisson Blu Dwarka, a bustling property in the heart of Dwarka, is situated in the capitals largest green residential area, strategically located a 15 minutes’ drive from Indira Gandhi international and domestic airport. All ten floors offer a panoramic view of the city on one side and a beautifully done atrium lobby on the other. For food connoisseurs, the hotel offers a range of dining and entertainment experience at the restaurants including: Spring – an all-day-dining restaurant; Rice – the Oriental restaurant ; Dvar – the gateway to India which offers contemporary interpretations of traditional Indian cuisines by Celebrity Chef Rakesh Sethi; Zeppelin the contemporary lounge bar and Atrium the pastry & confectionary store.

SPRING @ Radisson Blu Dwarka Sundays are made special at Spring, where they promise something for every taste from Pan-Asian to Indian Classics and Western cuisine. They assure that you’ll never have to settle down for anything less than a freshly made meal served from the live buffet counters or from the lavish menu of sorts available at the reataurant. ‘Tis the moment for Champagne indulgence!

SPRING @ Radisson Blu Dwarka

SPRING @ Radisson Blu Dwarka Located on the lobby level, Spring has a contemporary look and feel where dining is more of an experience rather than just a sumptuous indulgence. The pristine white interior of the place is flushed with natural light filtering through stylish floor to ceiling glass windows. Offering fresh and innovative food concepts, with dishes cooked à la minute by chefs in each of the five interactive kitchens, the restaurant promises to deliver food straight from the pan to the plate.SPRING @ Radisson Blu Dwarka Lazy Sunday afternoons might never be the same again!
For reservations, please call + 88608 09900

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“My two rules of cooking: keep it fresh and keep it simple.”
Mike Isabella

Unlock the destination with Chef Tanveer, Exc Chef, Le Meridien Gurgaon 600It did seem like a daunting idea to jump onto a chefs bandwagon at 7am. Yet with an itinerary that promised some fun unlocking of a destination, the journey was full of promise. That it was going to be so so fun was something I didn’t envisage. I would do this again in a heartbeat, so what if the mercury rose to almost 50C that afternoon as we literally spilled into the fish market! This is just a peep into the day we spent with the young, very affable, energetic, creative and impressive Tanveer Kwatra, the executive chef at Le Méridien Gurgaon.

We joined Exec Chef Tanveer Kwatra on a typical day as he took us on a culinary journey unlocking CR Park, microgreens, exotic seldom used local produce like phalsa berries and mango ginger etc. Later, he went on to create magic with the food we bought!

A step into the lobby, and the mood is set.  So pleasing to the senses, what welcomes you is a visual delight, a celebration of art! A Pareesh Maity work greets you as you enter, warmth exuding from the yellow figurine. A number of sculptures by Satish Gujral add to the character, as does the large  art wall behind the reception which illustrates natural forces weathering rock shores and land and has been beautifully depicted by PR Daroz.Le Meridien, GurgaonThe hotel has numerous art pieces which starts from the Tree of Life at the entrance by Vibhor Sogani to the chrome installation at the lobby that depict the transformation from day to night. Vibhor Sogani, Le Meridien, GurgaonCreative, creative, creative …it’s a feel good ambiance! ’twas a cracker of a start to the day as the three of us, Sangeeta, Ruchira and I, landed up in the well lit airy lobby, to be greeted by a bright and cheerful Tanveer. He’s one of those people you take an instant liking to – easygoing, friendly, enthusiastic, and as we learnt through the day, large hearted and very talented. Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, GurgaonWith Eye Opener shots that offered intriguing local flavours – ginger coffee {very new to me & refreshing} and mango jeera, we soon headed for a culinary tour of the property. Our first stop was Latest Recipe, the signature dining restaurant at the hotel. It offers bright, picturesque views of the garden outside the hotel and draws in natural daylight that lights up the space. We returned to the venue for all our meals that day!

Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, GurgaonWith a delicious double espresso shot and a smattering of fresh tropical fruit  to awaken our senses, we headed into the chefs den. Well organised work spaces, the men were all busy at work. With the breakfast service already underway at Latest Recipe, the lunch menu was being prepped. Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon We were in the ‘Indian’ kitchen, such a delicious space. Local produce, native ingredients, native cooking utensils and methods of cooking. Butter paneer, dhungaar-e-butter chicken {the gravy smoky, earthy, lip-smacking good; very rich too}, a kachchi gosht ki biryani had our taste buds on red alert. Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon The chef of course got dizzily busy {was hard to keep up with him} readying up a line of the Le Meridien Gurgaons signature breakfast for us. Duck Khurchan Dosa with Mulligatawny Soup, Brioche Burger, Crab Omelette! Latest Recipe at it’s very best. Great beginning. Need I say more?

Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, GurgaonLatest Recipe : An all-day dining restaurant featuring global cuisine presents guests with a sensory world cuisine experience. Located at the Lobby Level, the restaurant exudes a warm contemporary feel and a visual delight for the eyes; the bespoke music, styled to suit the mood of the day, the alluring aroma of food wafting through the restaurant, authentic & delectable world cuisine. It revolves around five interactive show kitchens displaying a sumptuous array of food, a dining concept that brings the excitement of cooking from the chefs.

Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon What strikes you is the creativity at every meal, the small touches, the rustic and earthy feel, above all the chefs personal connect with how he presents things. Bursts of colour from Stappu and Le Crueset dance in the daylight, fresh fruit to make your heart sing, eggs sitting sweetly in ‘nests, ceramic baskets of spice, live counters functioning.

Chef Tanveer KwatraA young lad from Agra who has studied Down Under, he gathers experiences from as far as Fiji to closer at home doing Marwari wedding cuisines, his stories reflect how he picks up and learns on the go. For someone who is as enthusiastic about Agra ki dalmoth and flash fried prawns, Benaras ki chaat and okonomiyaki from Japan, food talk lights up his eyes! Mind you, through the conversation, nothing escapes his eye, what his staff are doing, if anything is incorrectly placed, a runaway crumb. The place runs like clockwork.

Chef tanveer Kwatra It was a packed day. As you read on, {LONG POST ALERT}, you will wonder how much we packed into a day. The chefs day was busier actually. He took loads of time out for us. Before lunch we took a recce of his well organised and well maintained stores, , we sneaked into the pastry room, watched the pastry chef make a TON of choux, piped some wriggly eclairs, inhaled the sweet smell of soft buns baking, then saw them get slathered with butter, got heady with the aromas of lavender and tonka beans … we were welcomed into every nook and corner!Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon That worked up an appetite and ‘those’ colourful dishes with the lunch menu beckoned our famished selves. We ate right off the kitchen counter! Roasted thyme garlic pumpkin with Evoo and feta {we polished it off}…I think it’s the best pumpkin I’ve ever had. Potato daphnoise, fish in a citrusy burre blanc, meaty mushrooms with chicken were just some of the fare. We couldn’t stop eating, pampered under the chefs indulgent gaze…

…and yes, love him or hate him, he swallowed anchovies with great pleasure!

Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon Rolling out were colourful Le Crueset dishes prettily dished with dal, smoked butter chicken, gobhi masala, butter paneer…so much more. In the meantime the kachcha gosht ki Hyderabadi biryani that started cooking on dum in the morning was ready and was being lavished with ghee, saffron, vevetier. We dug in. WOW!! One of the best I’ve had, very authentic, fragrant and done right. On the side, their was a spicy, bursting with flavours mirchi ka saalan!

Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon A quick pit stop at the lab, nice and neat, where food testing is carried out, and we tripped along to stop by at the cafeteria. What a well organised place, with huge vessels with a finger licking good dal, chicken, paneer, boondi raita and the works. Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon Stuffed as we were, we queued up to taste the communal lunch served to all the staff. Completed with refreshing glasses of Roohafza and crisp cucumber, pickles too, it was yet another meal to remember! We were joined in the cafeteria by David Hopcroft, GM Le Méridien, Gurgaon.

Fish Market, CR Park, New Delhi

CR Park, New Delhi With the day flying by, it was time to hop into cars and head into the city. Tanveer was going fish and vegetable shopping to CR Park and even though it was 47C, or more like 50C, we leapt to it. I have a never ending fascination with India {in particular Indian markets and sadhus in no particular order}. My first time in CR Park, my first time at the fish bazaar, and I was fascinated!

CR Park, New Delhi Later when I shared a few fishy images on FB and IG, I was welcomed by the local Bong community as one of their own! “full Bengali accredited” as one said. I was loving it. Tanveer bought loads of fish for dinner that night – hilsa, seabass, rohu, sardines. He was in his element!

CR Park, New Delhi Being a non Bong meant getting the right royal ignore when I tried to buy some block printed fabric. Was far more successful shopping for kasundi and earthenware matkis after we dug into the best mishti doi ever on Ruchira’s recommendation. She knows!! Tanveer bought some more mishti doi for a surprise back at the hotel, while we continued the food indulgence finally wrapping up with an addictive radhabollobhi kachauri. Sigh, the deliciousness!CR Park, New DelhiJust a little more shopping, vegetables this time, and the spring in ‘his’ step was infectious. There too he was in his element – mango ginger, jamrul or wood apples, falsa/phalsa berries. There was a glint in his eye as he thought of what he would make with his loot! One more stop on the way back, a small microgreens unit, where we picked up some beautiful beet greens etc, and we headed back to Le Méridien Gurgaon.Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon While we were ready to expire and were packed off to a much needed and very relaxing spa, the good Tanveer zipped off to get dinner ready. How we were pampered all day! Daylight was ebbing, but not our appetite! An hour or so later, back to the ‘now bathing in sunset’ Latest Recipe, we were gobsmacked to see his creativity. Out of the box thinking, fresh ideas, great pairing, perfect balance of flavours, a party on the palette I tell you! Here’s what he bought that day … CR Park, New Delhi and here’s what he did…

Falsa berries – Burrata with Balsamico Scented Falsa and Ciabata Toast
Jamrul & Mango Ginger – Cabbage Onion and Edamame Bean Salad with Jamrul and Mango Ginger, Ponzu Dressing and Wakame
Seabass & Mango Ginger – Pan fried Seabass with Mango Ginger Chutney and Pan Roasted Sweet Potato
School Shrimps & kasundi – Crispy School Shrimps with Kasundi and Apricot Sauce and Burnt Garlic
Mishti Doi – Mishti Doi Eclaire topped with White Chocolate and Popped Amaranth

Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon Well here’s what we did. W I P E D  I T  A L L  C L E A N!! Not a crumb left. I thought I wasn’t a fish person. I’m not, but am certainly a cooked by Tanveer ‘fish person’! Gosh those school shrimps in the kasundi and apricot sauce with burnt garlic. Mind blowing flavours. Each and every dish was outstanding. I could eat that burrata all day. Paired with falsas & pine nuts, it was to die for! The edamame bean salad saw the flavours waltz off the palette, making magic with textures. And the sea bass with pan roasted sweet potato and beet greens was brought ALIVE with a sharp chili mango ginger ‘kutti’ chutney. AMAZING stuff and so well presented!

Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon …and an amazing way to finish the day! I LOVED that there is huge focus on local produce, an inclusion of native flavours in the menu, that as far as possible, the ingredients are locally procured. There is a system in place, efficiency is high and the place runs like clockwork. It was a day I will remember for a long time, twelve hours that flew by in a heartbeat in the peak of Indian summer!

Thank you Chef Tanveer and Le Méridien Gurgaon for hosting us.

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