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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Bombay Brasserie comes to Town

As a teenager, on a visit to Bombay, my parents and I were taken to a restaurant called Bombay Brasserie, and I recall it being upscale and with good food. So, when I heard that an eatery of the same name was opening in Bangalore, I wondered, “any relation”? Turns out yes, the Bombay Brasserie that resides in a beautiful old bungalow on Indiranagar’s 12th Main, is, indeed, a revamped outlet of the same Bombay chain, though that city no longer has one. Now, Indiranagar is absolutely the place to open a restaurant in Bangalore, and what with 100 Ft. road having reached saturation, 12th Main has taken over as the go-to real estate.

The entrance, as with the interiors is all white and blues, with accents in bright colors including flowering pots and vivid mosaic flooring. Seating is both indoors and outdoors, and since we were there on a sunny and beautiful January afternoon, we chose to sit outside. A good decision, since it made for great photographs, and was the perfect setting for a ladies who lunch moment. Nothing like good food, cocktails, and a pretty setting to make for two very happy ladies! Like the menu, the table too was in hues of orange and blue. This is one place which I would recommend visiting in the daytime just so you can appreciate the beauty and brightness of the decor and the space.

We started the afternoon off with the establishment’s signature Pauwa (quarter) cocktails, with the drink presented in a cool looking 180ml bottle with a tag announcing its name, and a big glass tumbler to pour it into. I knew even before I visited what my first drink would be, having spied pictures of the Nagpuri Santra, a concoction of orange and citrus, and immediately wanting one! It was citrusy and refreshing and a good way to start the proceedings. My dining companion ordered the Janta Bar, a spicy drink with whisky, coke, chili and chaat masala, and she loved it.

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Each Pauwa cocktail is accompanied by a serving of ‘chakna’, aka snack food, adding to the feel of ordering a quarter and some snacks at the local bar! In much more rarefied surroundings, of course. I liked both the peanut masala and the black channa that came with our drinks. Next time I visit I will order the Memsaab’s favourite pink gin, a potent and lovely drink that I tasted after my friend ordered it as her second, while I sipped on the special Hot Toddy the bartender whipped up for sniffling me, who was nursing quite a cold.

This was one of the times when I wished we were a larger party, since the BB menu is vast and between the two of us, we tried just a fraction of the dishes. BB, by the way, sources some ingredients from their place of origin, like aam papad from Amritsar. Thus, from the ‘Bites’ section of the menu we started off with the Aam Papad Paneer, which is sure to be a hit with many, especially accompanied by a cocktail. From the smalls came the Marathi Jhinga Mirch, which caught my attention thanks to the mention of mirch ka thecha (a chunky chutney I was introduced to while living in Nagpur) peanut, green chilli chutney, and grated coconut. The prawns were perfectly cooked and crunchy, and the bed of coarsely ground peanuts and the chilli thecha gave the dish both texture and fire.

The Chili Cheese Kulcha I will likely order on every visit to BB – small kulchas stuffed with melted chilli cheese – its cheese in a kulcha, what could be wrong with that?! The Naga Ghost Pepper Wings were something my companion, who loves her some madly spicy chilies, like the Bhoot Jhalokia that was in these wings, just had to order. I wasn’t sure I would be able to manage more than a bite, but these were mercifully not the burn a hole in your tongue level of spice, but manageable and very well balanced.

Kashmir Naan Kebab (Hot Plates and Street Grills) is minced lamb fashioned into a long kebab, served with saffron brushed and Kebab Chini aka Java Pepper encrusted naan, served with Doon Chetin, a Kashmiri yogurt dip that had walnuts in it. I really loved this dish, from the presentation to the beautifully cooked tender meat, and that delectable dip. After this we only had space for one more, and so regretfully skipping over the Mains, we went with the manager’s recommendation of Mario’s Mango prawn and Coconut Rice (Paired Curries section). A coconuty red prawn curry that was served with a leaf packet of coconut milk rice, this dish was a bit too much of coconut for us.

It was now time for dessert, and we were each very clear on what appealed to us. Amritsari Kulfi, which was a triple threat of Kulfi topped with rose flavored Falooda, in a sea of Badami Phirni, was her choice, and as I am not a Kulfi fan usually, I didn’t expect to like it. But oh, this was a mild and non cardamom infused Kulfi, and the additions of the Phirni (not too sweet or thick) and the Falooda meant that I dug my spoon in a few times. The presentation, with a little molecular gastronomy, only added to the charm. My choice was the Bombay Ice Cream Sandwich, which takes our childhood favorite biscuits of Parle G, Bourbon, and Jim Jam, and replaces their cream centers with ice cream! Presented on a black slate with sprinkles, Gems and Jujubes strewn across, and the whole dusted with icing sugar, this dessert was playful, colorful, and delightful for the eyes and tongue!

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Now, both us gals are tea addicts, so the fact that Bombay Brasserie has a special High Chai menu made us happy, but given the big lunch we’d just eaten, we contented ourselves with ordering just Chai, after promising we’d return for the snacks on that section of the menu. Charminar Chai – like a Suleimani, with brewed tea + spices + lemon, was my friend’s choice, and I went for the Chandni Chowk Chai – a Cardamom tea that was sweet and strong. The teas were served in cutting chai glasses placed in adorable drawers, with biscuits/rusk accompanying them. A lovely way to end the meal! I am already conspiring to go back to Bombay Brasserie – anyone wants to join me?

Details: Bombay Brasserie; INR 2300 plus taxes for two people