A little bit of France - The Tres Magnifique at the Raj Pavilion, ITC Windsor

For those of you who've been following the blog, and not just all the delightful pictures on Instagram, I'd like to re-assure you that I've not gone rogue and become a 'social media influencer' type person. I still love good old-fashioned writing. I've just been on a break from writing for the last few months, mostly thanks to absolute fatigue from writing and reviewing restaurants. I've been spending my time travelling, sorting things out at the new job and most importantly re-evaluating where I want to go with this blog considering how these days it's more about fake numbers than about engaging content or even an understanding of it all. Anyway, I'm back now and what better place to get back into the writing groove than with the Raj Pavilion at ITC Windsor.  

I'm going to be honest and admit that I still don't completely understand the world's fascination with French food. Even copious amounts of Chef's Table and MasterChef hasn't quite helped me understand the appeal. That being said, it was one of the primary drivers for me to accept an invitation from ITC Windsor to come over and sample the fare that will be part of their recently launched French food festival at the Raj Pavilion titled 'Tres Magnifique'. Given the reputation of the Raj Pavilion, expectations were high. Dinner began with the Vichyssoise, a creamy soup made from potatoes and leek. Traditionally served cold, the soup we were served went for a modern twist and was served hot. I'm not a very big fan of the Vichyssoise in general owing to my dislike of potatoes. But given the slight cold that's setting into Bengaluru, anything warm was good for me.  

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The next course comprised of a savoury souffle, served with a creamy paprika sauce, and a Vol-au-vent aux champignon. Maybe back-to-back creamy dishes was the problem, hence the souffle didn’t quite pique my interest. The Vol-au-vent aux champignons on the other hand was wonderfully done. A perfectly light pastry puff with delightfully cooked mushrooms whose earthy flavour was balanced out by the bitterness of the mesclun salad and the citrus from the orange vinaigrette. I'd have happily had another helping of the same. 

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The main course featured three dishes that we could choose from, each a classic of French cuisine. The first was the Sole meunière, a classic with two whole fillets of fish, served with a caper butter sauce. Personally, the flavour of capers is something that doesn’t quite go with everything. It didn't quite work in this dish for me. The second dish was the classic chicken dish of Coq au vin - perfectly cooked soft braised chicken served with fondant potatoes and a delightful red wine jus. It's always a hit or a miss when it comes to chicken in India where most places over cook and dry out the meat; that's where the class and skill of the Chefs at ITC Windsor makes them stand out. This dish would have been my favourite for the evening had it not been for the hearty and modern interpretation of the classic French dish, the Ratatouille de legumes. I remember the first time I had ratatouille when I was travelling abroad, and this dish would rank a close second. I'm overly critical when it comes to vegetarian dishes in general, but this dish was a clear winner for me.  

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Dessert was the classic Tarte Tatin Aux Pommes, a pretty looking plate that consisted of an apple tart with berry sauce, cocoa streusel, mascarpone cream and caramel sauce. Personally, I was hoping for a more delicate affair when it came to dessert because the previous course was quite filling. Each of the courses was accompanied by wine that complemented the dishes being served. (Wine remains a mystery to me... maybe, look at some beers from France?) 

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The Tres Magnifique menu will feature dishes as a part of the regular dinner buffet at the Raj Pavilion, priced at INR 1995++. The plates you see in the pictures were created only for the preview dinner. The festival is on till the 15th of December. I can't say that I'm convinced about all the hype of around French food, but I'll gladly go back just for that ratatouille!

The Raj Pavilion Looks East

This Republic Day Parade in India will be a historical first of sorts. Instead of featuring one head of state as the guest, the country has invited ten different heads of state from the ASEAN countries. Keeping up with the trend, the team at the Raj Pavilion at ITC Windsor have put together a short food festival that showcases delicacies from each of the participating countries, covering Singapore,  Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Brunei. I was invited on Monday evening to sample some of the fare.

Our meal began with the Larb Gai, a Thai-inspired chicken salad. Using classic Thai ingredients like kaffir lime, lemongrass, chillies, etc. the salad served was refreshing. It needed a bit more lime to push the freshness. While the real deal served in Thailand is a lot spicier, I wasn’t unhappy with this dish. The Larb Gai was followed by the Laksa, a favourite of mine which was introduced during the new menu launch. With versions from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, this Laksa was closer to what I believe is the Singaporean style. (Note to self – Singapore needs a backpacking trip). Simple, yet satisfying. 

Larb Gai

Larb Gai

Laksa

Laksa

Laksa

Laksa

Next up, was a trio of satays spanning chicken, lamb and vegetables. I’ll admit that the vegetables were my favourite. And the peanut sauce was spot on. The Soy Glazed Chicken with Singapore Noodles was my favourite dish of the day. The soy sauce was immaculate. The chef described a rather detailed process which I can’t quite remember, but the proof of the pudding… or the sauce... was in the eating. We were rather generous with the amounts of sauce we poured over the tender morsels of chicken. I’d definitely go back for seconds.

Satay

Satay

Soy Glazed Chicken with Singapore Noodles

Soy Glazed Chicken with Singapore Noodles

The Chicken Rendang with Burnt Garlic Fried Rice was just a tad disappointing for the simple fact that all the rendang I’ve had in the past was with lamb or the bovine animal that shall not be named. While the spices and overall flavour was good, the replacement of the meat with chicken didn’t quite work for me.

Chicken Rendang with Brunt Garlic Fried RIce

Chicken Rendang with Brunt Garlic Fried RIce

Dessert brought us back to Thailand with the Thapthim Krop. The dish brought back delightful memories from my trips to the country.

Thapthim Krop

Thapthim Krop

These dishes are integrated into the regular dinner buffet at the Raj Pavilion. We were served it in the manner you see in the pictures.  This festival is the first time I recollect the team venturing into the Asian food territory. It’s a definitely a step in the right direction. The festival is on till the Republic Day weekend at the Raj Pavilion. 

35 Years of the Royal Afghan, ITC Windsor

My first experience at the Royal Afghan, at the then Windsor Manor, was way back in 1992. A young boy of eight, who never expected that his love affair with food would go on well into his thirties, I knew the evening was a special one. Immaculate service, perfect music, a pool side table… and of course food that blew my mind in ways my young self couldn’t comprehend. I also remember being reprimanded later on for behaving like I had never seen food before; that too in front of guests. Anyone born in an Indian household knows the gravity of the consequences when you don’t behave appropriately in front of guests. I digress. The Royal Afghan was among the top restaurants the family would go to for really special occasions.
 
The Royal Afghan recently celebrated their thirty-fifth anniversary. In a day and age where restaurants struggle to make it past the two-year mark, the Royal Afghan stands tall and proud. Sticking to a menu that I don’t think has changed in ages, the sole focus of the Royal Afghan is to offer its patrons food that’s prepared with the best ingredients and offers a consistent top-notch flavours every time.

I was invited a couple of weekends ago to indulge in some of the best that the team at Royal Afghan had to offer. From delicious Reshmi Kababs to nearly-rhapsodic Tandoori Jhinga, to tender morsels of lamb with the Barrah Kabab, we were served the best of everything Royal Afghan had to offer.

Tandoori Jhinga

Tandoori Jhinga

Reshmi Kabab

Reshmi Kabab

Barrah Kabab

Barrah Kabab

While everyone at the table were staunch non-vegetarians, we were served a platter of some of their best vegetarian dishes that covered tandoori aalo, tandoori simla mirch and more. The tender and delicious Murgh Tandoori was skewered with a mix of yellow chillies and turmeric instead of the regular red chillies was wolfed down by yours truly in a matter of minutes. Not to forget the Sikandri Raan. I’ve only once had the pleasure of savouring that delicious whole leg of lamb when we had gone with a much larger crowd. It’s one of those times I wish I had two stomachs and four times my current metabolism.

Tandoori Murgh

Tandoori Murgh

Sikandri Raan

Sikandri Raan

Vegetarian Platter

Vegetarian Platter

If you’re already thinking it… yes, there was a main course. Because no trip to the Royal Afghan is complete without their classic Dal Bhukara. And not to forget the rich and creamy Murgh Makhani. Dessert was some delicious Kulfi,  Phirni and Gulaab Jamun.

Daal Bhukara

Daal Bhukara

Murgh Makhani

Murgh Makhani

Kulfi

Kulfi

Phirni

Phirni

Food at the Royal Afghan is one of those things that words can’t quite describe. One needs to experience the perfection and elegance that sings tradition. Chef Riyaz Ahmed and his team have continued to do a spectacular job of keeping the flavours consistent. While we see restaurants changing their menus every few months to keep the crowds coming back (not that I am complaining), there’s something to be said for consistently good food that delivers on all counts.