Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Spice Route And More

Satish Gujral's Nandi at the Lalit New DelhiDuring my two days in New Delhi, I spent most of the time shuttling between hotels, from one meeting to another. While The Imperial in Connaught Place has existed for ever, I remember the Lalit too, but by a different name. Until recently, this hotel was the Intercontinental, and before that, I think it was the Sun-N-Sand. What do you think of a hotel that changes identity that often? Rather shady, methinks! However, I liked the new coffee shop at the lobby level and the stunning scultpure by Satish Gujral of Nandi, Lord Shiva's mythical bull.

During the ten years I lived in New Delhi, I hadn't ever ventured into The Imperial. The hotel with its lavish, regal interials first opened its doors in 1936, in the years after King George V declared New Delhi the new capital of India. Those days, the Janpath - on which this hotel is located - was called the Queensway, the place to see and be seen. The Imperial has hosted many leaders including Gandhi, Nehru, Jinnah and Lord Mountbatten. In more recent times, heads of state and Hollywood celebrities have made a beeline here during their visits to India. After a recent renovation, this place has been restored to its original glory and is among the best hotels in this city of djinns.

The Imperial in New DelhiThe Imperial is also home to one of the finest Southeast Asian restaurants in the city, The Spice Route. This restaurant was heralded as one of the top ten restaurants by Conde Nast Traveller some time back. The menu traces the journey of spices from the Malabar Coast of Kerala through Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. However, what strikes you most when you enter this restaurant is the overwhelming decor - I felt I was entering an ancient temple. There are elaborate ornate carvings and artwork on the roofs, walls, everywhere! They also have an open-air courtyard designed in the tradition of the Chiang Mai region of North Thailand.

The Spice Route New Delhi
The Spice Route New DelhiThe chef made us a special charcoal-grilled tiger prawns with a hot and sweet Thai sauce (not on their menu). We followed with the Thenkay Kozhi Curry from Kerala, boneless chicken legs in a thick red curry with whole spices. Both of them were excellent! The prawns were crunchy, smokey and went rather well with the sauce. The curry was very hot - the way I like it - and fantastic with the very flaky Malabar Parathas.

Charcoal Grilled Prawns at The Spice Route New Delhi
Thenkay Kozhi Curry at The Spice Route
Malabar Parathas at The Spice RouteOther interesting items on the menu were the Kukulmas Temperadu, a Sri Lankan curry of chicken and bell peppers, and Irachi Stew, a Kerala style stew of boneless lamb cooked with potato and coconut milk.

We ended by sharing a dessert of Thai Mango, with coconut sorbet and tangy tropical fruit salsa. As yummy as it looks (and sounds)! This restaurant also has an excellent wine list for those special dinners; btw, their wine glasses are almost a foot tall!

Thai Mango Dessert at The Spice RouteAnd finally, back at the Taj Palace - where I was staying - a quiet dinner at the end of another busy day. As a musician belted out pop hits from the 70s and 80s, I nibbled on an platter of mustard-marinated fish tandoori tikkas followed by a tri-chocolate mousse that was rather uninteresting on the palate. The lunch buffet in this restaurant is actually a lot more interesting with excellent desserts to boot. Note: Like always, hover over the pictures to get a description.

Mustard Marinated Fish Tikkas at Cafe Fontana

Tri-chocolate Mousse at Cafe Fontana
Lunch Buffet at Cafe Fontana
Desserts at Cafe Fontana New DelhiI had a flight to catch the next day. The departure terminal was still the old one but not too busy on this day; they are opening the spanking new one in early April which should improve the travel experience to New Delhi considerably.


Aathira Nair said...

Was in Delhi for 6 years, and I have ventured into the Imperial. For some reason it looked like the big mean kinds!

Maybe I shall now when I visit Delhi next, and I shall go to the Spice Route specifically!


tempting as usual


sorry to bother you. Few days back you had suggested me restaurant in Kalyani Nagar, near Royal Orchid. Could you please let me know the name again.

Anonymous said...

@Aathira: Big, mean kind? Ha, ha! Really?

@Harekrishnaji: BBQ Nation. Click on "Eating Out? New Options" under Pune Posts on the sidebar for details, contact, etc.

Deepti said...

As usual Yummy post .. I did have a chance to try out the dining area at Stone water grill .. Came back impressed :)

Anonymous said...

@Deepti: Quite a coincidence. I saw this message even as I was getting my dinner right at the Stone Water Grill.

Lakshmi said...

very tempting..I know where to stop over when Im in delhi..

In a very different note, i was in a land of spices too..pepper, cardamom

Anonymous said...

@Lakshmi: There are many options in Delhi. And yes, I did see your post. :)

Vamsee Modugula said...

As usual, great review. Will be in Delhi in a few weeks. Will check out these restaurants if I get a chance.

On another note, I have a food related post on my blog.

Anonymous said...

@Vamsee: Please do and let us know here how you found them.

Anonymous said...

The spice route... just the name makes me dream!

Anonymous said...

@Zhu: Hi, good to see you back here!

Kim McGowan said...

Living in Delhi for just 6 months, this was THE restaurnat I wanted to visit, and it far surpassed my expectations... Incredible food and wonderful setting. Going back for supper this weekend before we leave... want to taste those prawns again!

Shantanu said...

@Kim: Thank you for sharing your experience here. Hope you enjoy it here the second time too!