Friday, August 02, 2013


This afternoon, I and a friend had the most delectable fusion-cuisine lunch at New Delhi's Indian Accent at The Manor Hotel. The hotel as well as the restaurant are such an aesthetically satisfying experience that for me anyway it was like being fed at many levels at once -- sight and sound plus taste and scent and whatever specialized sense is associated with non-intrusive-friendly service.

We hadn't made a reservation, but were easily accommodated at a table with a pleasant view of the room and its lush green exterior. We both chose the tasting menu, vegetarian for S and non-v for me, but got a tiny nibble right away, in the form of two miniature naans, stuffed with blue cheese. When I say miniature, I mean, really teenie tiny, like the smallest size of Nivea tin.

We each had non-alcoholic drinks: Lavendar fizz for me and unsweetened Lime soda for S. Then began a gently rolling tide of single-bite events. Pea-soup in a slender cylindrical "cup" -- so narrow that the word cup hardly suits it -- affording perhaps two swallows of soup. A single marble of crisp-fried potato-shreds that melted with a delicate crunch in the mouth, leaving a whiff of pani-poori flavours, a tiny spear of watermelon to set it off on the side. A spicy shredded chicken that smoldered in the mouth. Three bites of fish, so fresh that it felt almost immoral to eat something so recently alive. Followed by a single rib of pork, still sizzling, sweet on the outside, melting on the inside.

Each item was served on a different, artistically distinct dish. One came on a dimpled white plate, the next on a smooth black slab of stone-ware, the one after it on a curving strip of pure white porcelain. Strips of fresh green banana-leaf set off the food. We each had different crockery for each course.

The main dish for me was a black pepper prawn, served on a deep white plate, with a small meat-stuffed kulcha on the side, plus a single serving of black-dal and raita. S had a paneer "barrel" -- thin sliced, rolled and then lightly batter-fried -- with pickled-accents poured around it. Both dishes were perhaps six bites deep, so that we could finish them easily, without any sensation of heaviness.

But before the main dish arrived, we had a palate cleanser in the form of a conical section of kulfi-flavoured sorbet. From the corner of my eye, I had noticed other tables being served something that looked like small black iron claws -- but when it came to our table, I saw that it was minute replica of a coal-fired iron, with the cone of mulberry pink sorbet nestled inside it! Loved it.

Dessert was three separate items, a pistachio-flavoured crème brûlée, a tiny glass of frosted lemony ice-nuggets and a slender wedge of treacle pie. As a finishing touch, there was a tray in the shape of doll-sized string-bed, on which there were four small bowls of sweet-savoury treats.

Are you drooling slightly? That was my intention entirely! The Chef's name is Shantanu Mehrotra (I hope I've got this right; I didn't write it down though I saw it embroidered on his jacket) and both of us complimented him warmly at the end of the meal. The whole experience was playful and flavourful, both at once.

I forgot to take photographs while I was there, so the mushrooms featured at the top of this page are a red-(white?)herring, because they have nothing at all to do with The Manor. Instead, they're from my drive-way, growing on the old bougainvillea in this rainy season. What amazes me about them is their pure, fresh whiteness arising out of the old gnarled wood of the creeper. My picture does not in any way do them justice, because I've not learnt to get the lighting right. Fortunately, they keep growing, so I'll keep trying. This picture captures all three stages of the mushroom in one glance -- the extreme youth of the rounded knob, the proud umbrella of the mature phase and the drooping grace of the spent spike.

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