The Raj Cuisine
Period recipes come alive at
By Ravi V.Chhabra
Not often does one get the opportunity to savour the delicacies of the Raj created meticulously and authentically such as the elaborate menu being offered at the fine dining restaurant Daniell’s Tavern at The Imperial Hotel.
The recipes revived from the places reviewed by the British landscape artists Thomas and William Daniell have been passed on in their original form and recreated at this posh restaurant that has been recently refurbished with a Live Kitchen and a well stocked bar inside. Back in the year 1786 when little was known in England about India, this famous uncle and nephew team set about experiencing and painting the rich culture and culinary tradition of India’s picturesque locations, in the midst of colonial era, to assist the expanding British Empire.
The Daniells started work in Calcutta and then moved North towards Garhwal. Travelling along the Ganges as far as Kanpur, they also visited the Moghul cities of Agra and Delhi, capturing the essence of these places on their canvas. On their way back, they stopped at Lucknow, followed by Madras and then Mysore. They touched upon Bombay before they returned to England. An imposing number of 144 sceneries of India titled ‘Oriental Scenery’ was the outcome of the fascinating journey that the Daniells embarked upon. The restaurant walls adorn the original lithographs by the Daniells with a brand new look. Noteworthy amongst them is the lithograph of Jantar Mantar, painted while camping at Delhi, from the exact spot where Daniell’s Tavern stands today.
Daniell’s Tavern, the Imperial’s colonial hangover, relives the odyssey of Daniells and is an ode to their adventures and expedition. The restaurant celebrates this epic journey of Thomas and William Daniell savouring and documenting the finest regional fares from all those places and cuisines which left a lasting impression on their minds.
The culinary palette that panders to the discerning palette is wide, ranging from South-East Asian, Indian, French and Multicuisine. The restaurant has an interesting tale to tell and offers a breathtaking setting encompassing thematic décor, fine points in architecture and great works of art.
Marrying legendary Indian heritage, meticulous local craftsmanship, cutting edge design and tracing the unrivalled scenery and architecture of Hindustan, Daniell’s Tavern comes alive with a brand new look now showcasing a Live Kitchen and a menu that revisits India from the eyes of Thomas and William Daniells. The new menu seeks to define their gastronomic expedition with unique old world specialties from all the cities they visited.
Also the Live Kitchen has an intriguing coin story displayed with finely crafted brass coins placed on the front side of the kitchen. The native Indian coins represent the commemoration of the initiation of the first formal written peace alliance between the Wampanoag tribe and the European settlers (Wampanoag Treaty 1621) in USA. It is also a mark of respect given to the natives by the European settlers.
With art spread across the restaurant revealing the beautiful journey of Thomas and William Daniell, white hues, dark blue cutlery, intricate wood work on the ceiling, together lend an elegant feel. Live kitchen, creative cocktail list drawing inspiration from Indian flavours, a live band every day except Tuesdays and food that folklores are made of, all make Daniell’s Tavern a curiously appealing fine dining restaurant that romanticizes the era gone by.
Speaking to fnbworld, Vijay Wanchoo, Sr. Vice President & General Manager The Imperial, New Delhi, said “Imperial restoration experts have worked tirelessly to return the ‘culinary tradition of our ancient land’ and to revive its legendary opulence. A strategically designed Live Kitchen promises to stir the imagination.”
He emphasized, “The specially crafted and well researched menu from the bygone era, takes one to the footsteps of Daniells and bring alive the taste of each of the places they visited. These include the East India Soup (Jehangiri Shorba) or Mulligatawny Soup (for the vegetarians), which are excellent orders before the actual ‘Journey Begins’. The ‘First Tour’ includes Nawab of Oudh’s Pride (Bhune murgh ke parche), Shamiana Prawns (Sunheri jhinga) and Benaras Special (Tandoori phool). Clive’s Order (Kasundi paneer tikka), Viceroy’s Favourite (Chicken Chettinad) and Chingri Malai Curry (Bengali prawn curry) are other favourites. Other similar delights are the Angrezi Sahib’s Choice (Kosha mangsho), Burra Memsahab’s Favourite (Pepper mutton) and Barrackpore’s Favourite (Mochar ghonto). The Shahi Tudka, the dessert with roots, perhaps, in kitchens of the Nizam of Hyderabad, is an absolute must!”
The soup section has an interesting mix of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian and my favourite is the William’s Delight (Tamatar dhania ka shorba). The prawns from Madras, scented with fennel (Eral Curry) were flavoursome and tasted delicious. However, the Bengali fish curry does not come up to the expectation and the Chicken tikka lack the fineness of the Royal marination. The lamb dish (Aishbagh Koormah) and the Gosht Dum Ki Biryani are worth a try. The Matka Kulfi (Hasting’s Choice) comes as a pleasant finale to an overall average food, perhaps, more suited to the European palette. The restaurant is open for dinner only, starting as early as 6:30pm and a meal for two costs approximately Rs. 4000, without hard drinks.