Celebrating 35 years: The Royal Afghan, ITC Windsor

Before it was ITC Windsor, it was Windsor Manor, a hotel my parents and I visited for special occasions when I was a child. I remember at least one meal at The Royal Afghan. So, when this restaurant, which has never changed its menu, dishes, or recipes, turned 35, and decided to celebrate with a month long special, I had to join in!
The special signature chef’s choice menu, crafted by Chef Riyaz Ahmed and team gives diners a chance to try almost all the restaurant’s North West Frontier offerings – so be prepared to eat a lot, and really well! The menu at Royal Afghan isn’t vast, but curated, presenting the best dishes, with special spices and techniques handed down and honed over the last three and half decades and with the aim of maintaining the exacting standards and flavors. Now, here’s a pictorial journey of our beautiful lunch, for day or night, the poolside setting affords a lovely ambience.

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Tandoori Jhinga – Tiger Prawns farmed by ITC Foods itself, this was heavenly!

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Kadak Seekh Kebab – you won’t be able to stop eating this!

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The delectable Tandoori Chicken (made with yellow chilli powder)

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The rich and smoky Barrah Kebab

 

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A medley of the vegetarian starters: Subz Seekh Kebab, Tandoori Aloo, Tandoori Phool, Paneer Tikka, Tandoori Simla Mirch

 

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Indian Breads, including a Khasta Roti, a family favorite

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Dal Bukhara and Butter Chicken – traditional dishes that complete the meal

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The Sikandari Raan – the restaurant’s specialty and a favorite with diners

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Kulfi – oh so good! Light in flavor and consistency, this was

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Gulab Jamun – need I say more?

Details: The Royal Afghan, ITC Windsor; Anniversary signature menu INR 3300 plus taxes (non veg) & Rs. 2800 plus taxes (veg) per person; Available through Sunday, 30th November, 2017.

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Now at the Pavilions (Raj Pavilion New Menu)

Au revoir, 2016 – it’s was an all over the place year, but as always, dining experiences stood out and made for some very satisfying and good times with my food-loving, food-blogging gang. The time has come to end the year, my first as an independent food blogger, and this post on the new menu launch at ITC Windsor’s Raj Pavilion is a fitting end to a(nother) year of good food. One, it brought together the madcap group; two, it was an interesting and delectable lunch; three, it allowed us to wallow in the luxurious old world charm of ITC Windsor, and all that lovely glass at the Raj Pavilion. Which, by the way made for some lovely photographs, with the natural light streaming in from the side and overhead.

 

In keeping with their mandate of “responsible luxury”, the menu gives diners information on the danger level of the fish so they can make informed choices, alongside having symbols against the different dishes that mark them as locally sourced, gluten free, containing nuts/pork, etc. Did you know that ITCs serve water that’s zero mile and purified in-house? Just another way they do their bit to reduce carbon footprint. #TrendingAtPavilion was the hashtag of the day, as this luncheon was not a solitary affair, but held across multiple ITC Pavilions all over the country, with bloggers and food writers participating and posting on their social media.

As we waited for the new menu to be brought forth, we were served Pulled Lamb Cornettos and Tomato and Feta Wonton Cups along with two mocktails. The first dish to make an appearance was the Burrata with Anise-poached Pears, and what a grand start this was! Father Michael (Vallombrosa Cheese Shop), a local priest who is known in food circles for his fantastic cheese making, was the source of the Buratta. The anise spicing on the pears was judicious and in combination with the creamy cheese and the bread and salad greens on the side, it was a great set of flavors. Next up was another cheese starrer, Molten Brie with Pretzel Crusts, accompanied by roasted beets and a green apple chutney that had some heat to it – this dish had a number of elements, but they all came together wonderfully.

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The next dish was a seemingly simple Shrimp Cocktail, but elevated to unusual with a Curry Leaf and Kokum Mayo, which gave it an interesting color and most delicious and unexpected taste – the boiled eggs on the side added a certain something too. Soups were next, and both the Singaporean Laksa and the Mushroom and Barley were packed with great flavor. The mushroom soup is one I would want to reach for on a cool winter day, and the injection of celery and leek that came in a little plastic tube was a fun element. The Laksa won more favor at the table, with its shrimp, chicken, fish , noodles, boiled egg, tofu, and coconutty broth.

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Next up, mains – four dishes were presented and shared by the group. From the local love section there was Bisibele Bath, which was served with half a dozen sides including expected ones like boondi and pachadi, and more unusual ones like Parmesan cheese and dried carrot shavings. The dish was appreciated by everyone, especially the unique cheese topping. Personally, Bisebele Bath is not something I like, so after a tiny taste, I moved on. The other and biggest hit of the mains was the Slow Cooked Mushroom and White Bean Soup, with crusty bread and garlicy broccoli on the side – again, this was a soul satisfying soup for a winter’s night.

The other two mains, unfortunately, didn’t translate well to the plate. The Gratinated Meatballs in a Makhani sauce with cheese was actually lovely – didn’t expect to like Indianized meatballs but it worked. However, the accompanying spaghetti had been tossed in curry leaves and that marred the overall taste – somehow, the curry leaves in a pasta dish just didn’t resonate with any of us. The Lamb Rib and Broad Bean Tagine, served with couscous and stewed apricots, was actually the most anticipated dish of the main course, and its presentation in a Tagine was flawless, as was the couscous. Unfortunately the lamb and stew itself was altogether over spiced, and the overpowering cinnamon taste made it difficult to eat. We of course passed our feedback on to the kitchen and Chef, and I am sure that there will be a lot more care in the making of this hereafter.

The piece de resistance of the meal was the desserts, courtesy ITC’s pastry chef, Chef Alrich. I am a cheesecake lover, through and through, so the fact that I took just a couple bites of the beautiful cheesecake that came to the table and concentrated on the other two offerings should give you an idea of just how good those desserts were! Milk Chocolate Parfait with Darjeeling Tea Namelaka and Raspberry sorbet was beautifully plated and presented, and the finishing touch of a rich chocolate sauce poured at the table. I actually went back on New Year’s eve for lunch to Raj Pavilion, just so I could order and once again savor this dessert. From the halved hazelnuts to that decadently delicious chocolate sauce, the tart raspberry sorbet and the parfait – this was all kinds of awesome!

The Pavilion Chocolate Fudge with Jaggery Caramel Sauce was equally wondrous and wonderful – and we shamelessly took our spoons and dug into the tureen which held the sauce, unwilling to leave a single drop! We ended our meal thus in dessert bliss, and then spent a few enjoyable minutes takin in the beautifully decorated lobby, complete with working model train amidst the Xmas decorations.

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Britain in Bangalore (Taste of Britain Fest at ITC Windsor)

Food festivals are always fun, especially when they showcase something that would otherwise not be on my plate. From July 19th to 24th, ITC Windsor, in association with Curry Life magazine, is playing host to Chefs from across Britain, and is holding not one, but two food festivals in the process, concurrently at Dublin and Raj Pavilion. Raj Pavilion’s buffet features a range of Balti and Curry (Brit style) food of the subcontinent, while Dublin has a special menu featuring dishes by Michelin star Chef Mark Poynton, who helms a restaurant (Alimentum) in Cambridge that I just happened to visit last summer (and didn’t even make the connection until we spoke!).

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The performance of Taming of the Shrew

ITC got the festivities off to a grand start with a launch on Monday night, and the British Deputy High Commissioner was in attendance and gave a lovely speech. The evening also featured half hour enactments of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Taming of the Shrew by students of Christ University, Bangalore. It’s his 400th death anniversary this year – what can I say, the words endure and appeal evermore!

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Cuisine of the Navaithas: Food Fest

I enjoy the food festivals that the hotels in town put up as part of their buffets, for the simple reason that they are a departure from the norm – sure there’s a good meal to be had at any of the all day dining restaurants in the 5 stars, on any given day. But, add in a short term, week or ten day long food fest that takes over a section of the buffet and showcases a particular cuisine or culture, and you get that something extra. Raj Pavilion at ITC Windsor just hosted a festival that celebrated the cuisine of the Navaithas, a Muslim community from Gingee, brought to Bangalore during the British Raj, whose cuisine features a mix of Nawab and Mughal influences. That means kebabs and biryani, so snagging a dear friend visiting from Delhi whose heart always beats faster for biryani, we made our way over on the festival’s opening night to sample its wares.

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