I visited Peshawari at ITC Grand Maratha for the first time around 10 years ago…and fell in love with the food there! The love still remains – for the same, luscious fare: the Dal Bukhara, the Paneer Khurchan, Vegetarian platter and the naans/kulchas.
Amongst all the eateries across that I have been to; and even the ones within ITC, Peshawari is probably a league apart. The simple, concise menu of the choicest North-Western Frontier food consisting of kebabs, tandoori delicacies and the bukhara recipes with rich gravies and mild spices, leave you gastronomically satiated; but asking for more. Being a vegetarian, I of course do not have the privy to comment on the non-veg platters, kebabs and curries; but whenever I have had friends and colleagues join for a meal, have only heard how they have gotten bowled over (and mocked at what I am missing!).
And despite being a widely travelled person, my husband (V) was yet to witness this place; and have his share of his all-time favourite: the Dal Bukhara. So, this was yet another of the special days…his birthday; and I had a list of surprises through the day for him. Of course, the top on the list was this gorgeous lunch venue. I made reservation and then played this game of surprising him to the T: started navigation on my phone, and asked him to follow the directions and drive!
It was a working day, and except for a group of work colleagues in deep discussion with their overseas counterparts, the place was relatively unoccupied…Once we were ushered to our seats, V was pretty happy with the sight – simple, chic, rustic decor with metal & wood artefacts, round stools (for tables of two), bench-like seatings for groups, beaded curtains and vibrant colours adding charm to the wooden furniture. And the best part is they encourage you to eat with your hands; no brandishing of fine-dine cutlery and tableware tamasha here!
Image courtesy: ITC Hotels
Lunch was ordered: Veg platter, Dal Bukhara, Paneer Khurchan and Onion Kulcha. The drinks ordered were simple lime sodas. The sodas, were well, forgettable…the taste of the old, preserved lemon juice stands out; and does not definitely go with the whole ITC image.
The veg platter came in first with the following:
- Tandoori Paneer: The paneer was soft, fresh and cooked well; with a nice crispy layer (cooked well). The spices were well balanced; this was served with capsicum, tomatoes and onions on the grill. The best part about this cuisine is its genteel spice usage – not to overpowering, yet flavourful
- Tandoori Phool (Cauliflower): Few large chunks of cauliflower, coated with flour and then fried partly, grilled partly – I was frankly not to impressed with the flavour in there…I was expecting them to be a little more succulent…
- Tandoori Aaloo (Potatoes): Large halves, with a filling of paneer, mashed potatoes and cashews/raisins. Outer coating was cooked well, crisp and soft at the same time. The stuffing was mild, but the accompanying chutney added a lot to the flavor
- Tandoori stuffed capsicum: Two halves of capsicum stuffed with cabbage, a little unusual stuffing. Mild, not very overpowering taste again, slightly bland by itself; but went well with the chutney and onions on the side..V didn’t like it too much though
By the time we finished the platter, we were almost completely full! Then came in the real deal – the creamy, delectable Dal Bukhara, hands down the best I’ve eaten anywhere; the onion Kulcha neatly cut into 4 quarters; the savoury Paneer Khurchan. The texture of the Dal Bukhara is so good, it melts into your mouth and leaves the rich, creamy flavours playing with your taste buds. The stuffing in the kulcha is nice and flavourful; and adds to the taste of the simple fare. The Paneer Khurchan had soft fingers of paneer in a dense, piquant gravy, with slices of capsicum: not totally unique to ITC, but nevertheless, a great accompaniment.
Now it was time for some sweet delight! (When I walked in I checked if a last minute request for a cake would be accepted, as I had forgotten to pre-order! But it was politely declined as the ITC does not have an in-house bakery with ready stuff; and only bakes to order)….But we were pleasantly wowed, when a last minute birthday cake was arranged by our host – Chaitanya. Kudos to him for going that extra mile and absolutely blowing us away! The chocolate cake was fresh, and just perfect to end the perfect lunch date! And needless to say, V had the best lunch in a long, long time.
V and his birthday cake!
So, my take on Peshawari –
Taste: 4.5/5 (Their Dal Bukhara can take a 6/5!)
Portion size: 5/5 (Too much for a 2 some!)
Presentation: 4/5 (The rustic dishes can get a classier makeover)
Variety: 4/5 (Concise, curated menu is the thing here – no confusing choices)
Ambience: 4/5 (The 2 seaters are a bit uncomfortable)
Service: 5/5 (The hosts ensure you feel at home and even recommend portion sizes!)
Revisit quotient: 4.5/5 (Heck yes, after 10 years if this place still manages to appeal my taste buds!)
Unique factor: Eat with hands; no fancy fork fights here!
Pricing: Well, a luxury hotel cannot be measured by its rate card, but this one will take you down by at least 6K for a veg meal for two.
Overall, this will remain a favourite every time I would want to revisit the classic taste of the simple fares…