Last wednesday I was invited by Zomato,London to join a bunch of other food blogger who are also on the board of Zomato reviewers to Gaylords in Central London. Going by the weather that day I was not very sure I would reach my destination without being blown away first. At times like this I have a decided advantage over my featherweight foodie friends, after all it would a rather strong gust of wind to blow me off my feet 😉
Luckily I made it to the venue alive and without getting drenched! A warm greeting later – from the ever so thoughtful staff at Gaylord’s who continued to really pamper us all through the evening – it was time for some welcome drink – a fizzy pink- Passion Bellini and an optional Virgin Tamarind Mohito for those abstaining from alcohol.
For starters we were served – Tandoori Tiger Prawns – succulent and smoked on the tandoor very juicy, Lamb Shammi kebabs – minced lamb patties with a minty yogurt dip -lipsmackin delicious,Murg Malai Tikka – Tandoor roasted mild chicken tikkas – honestly not my fav but heck nothing to complain about either , Amritsari Macchi – very delicious tilapia fillets fried in a gram flour batter seasoned with paprika and carom seeds – one word EXCELLENT!,Tandoori paneer tikka- huge chunks of cottage cheese – chargrilled with onions and peppers in a saffron flavoured marinade,Murg Gilafi Sheekh- minced chicken,smoked ,topped with bell peppers & chargrilled on skewers – all these served with 3 different types of Indian Bread – plain naan, garlic naan and mini onion kulcha.
To my absolute delight we were then served some very authentic in taste Indian street food snacks in a posh and innovative way.
These pani puri or gol gappa shots were utterly glorious and made me wish I was standing outside Elco at Bandra in Mumbai eating their ice cold pani puri .If you ever visit Mumbai then this is the place to go to for the BEST pani puri in town!I loved how they were served in these shot glasses.Boiled chick peas and tiny cubes of boiled potato are stuffed into the tiny puffed savoury puri and a sweet date and jaggery thick sauce is poured into it followed up with a green liquid which is a coriander ,mint and spice mix chutney and this has to be gobbled in one go ! They explode in your mouth enveloping your senses with an unforgettable sensation of taste,spices and aroma leaving your taste buds playing the guessing game.Sigh…double sigh…
Next up – Bhel – or puffed rice spiced with chaat masala,chopped red onion tomato and a sprinkling of yellow sev or fried gram flour savoury and topped off with tamarind chutney and a green mint coriander chutney – bursting with flavour these were !Aloo Papri Chaat – spicy bite sized boiled potatoes in spices mixed with sev and served on a crunchy flat puri base.
5 main courses with 5 accompaniments were to follow – by this point I was not very sure I would make it past the front door after this meal. But lucky for us the glasses magically seemed to top up each time and the conversation ,easy banter and laughter flowed almost as smoothly as the wine – leaving no room to ponder over such minor ,seemingly frivolous details or worry about the last tube back home – perfect.
Main Course favourites for me were the creamy coconut flavoured Prawn Curry which I polished off my plate with some Zaafraan Basmati – fluffy long grain basmati rice with saffron and the Chana Peshawari – chick peas cooked in their secret spice mix eaten with a steaming hot bhatura which a massive puri puffed and let me warn you has to be handled with care as it is very very hot. Now all I need to do is figure out a way to get the Gaylords chef to let me in on this secret spice mix – which I am quite sure they will never let go of , and why not , after hasn’t Coca Cola for years led us to believe that their secret ingredient is the one that has generations hooked onto their cola?Sadly, even so Coca Cola is no comparison for this Chana dish – honestly!But guarding the secret spice mix with their lives folks is serious business – after all heads have rolled and hands of artisans chopped off in medieval times to guard secrets of cuisine and architectural wonders alike! ( In her delightful and brilliant book ”Shark’s fin and Sichuan Pepper” author Fuchsia Dunlop has described how many generations of chefs took brilliant recipes to their grave for various reasons and am sure everyone has heard the myth about one of the 7 wonders of the world – the magnificent and many splendored Taj Mahal in Agra , India – that Emperor Shah Jahan got the hands of his sculptors and architect cut off after they built the Taj Mahal which was dedicated to Mumtaz Mahal – wife of Shah Jahan. It is said he did this so that they would never again be able to build anything quite as splendid as the Taj Mahal!)
The mains also included Butter Chicken – an indulgent and creamy sauce with Tandoori Chicken strips- ummm,Lamb Chops Anardana or Chargrilled Lamp chops in a ginger infused spicy mix with pomegranate seeds,Lamb Rogan Ghosh – tender lamb cubes cooked in a fiery garlic ,tomato and onion masala and of course Palak Paneer – a spinach and cottage cheese combo that would get even Popeye’s nod of approval! All this accompanied by Dal Bukhara – a traditional lentil dish from the northern most state in India – Kashmir served with an assortment of Indian breads puffy and hot off the charcoal oven – mind blowing – advance warning – best eaten by rolling up your sleeves and breaking large chunks of the naan with your hands scooping a shameless quantity of dal from your plate and shovelling into your mouth as if no one is watching – believe NO one is – when surrounded by food so good , what else can one focus on I ask ?!An innocent looking raita or yogurt flavoured with cooling cucumber and pomegranate helps do the balancing act of heat,spice and grease.
Now I was supremely satiated and stuffed to the point I could explode but no self respecting foodie can resist a good gulab jamun and if that is flambeed with spiced dark rum , even the best defences shall crumble !To wash away any signs of guilt or gluttony we were served by this charming gentleman a 5 grape south african Red – a fine smooth wine ,delicious and fabulously lush – evidence of a good red I was informed is in the residue left behind in the wine glass – humm I learn new things every day 🙂
This beautiful cocktail is called Saffrontini – a signature mix of saffron gin,cointreau,lime cordial and tonic.
As if this indulgence was not enough we were served with Malai Kulfi – an sweet frozen dessert that cements the most difficult deal and makes the grumpiest of humans grin – smothered in pistachios and cardamom it is definitely what can be described as an Indian Ice cream!
It was great to meet some familiar faces @Le__binh and @LeyLaLaa , infact I had a blast of an evening chatting up a wonderful bunch of Londoners. Loved meeting new faces – @AnomalousLondon ,@wildscribe ,@inher30s ,@LadylovesCake ,@sshaikh .
Now that I think about it , @Gaylord_London was packed to the gills with hungry guests and the same team that fussed over our table,ensured our wine glasses never ran dry and explained how their chefs had expertly combined the various complex and glorious Indian spices and used them to create the spectacular special menu for the evening , the other guests seemed equally pampered ,happy and errr happily tipsy to say the least ! How do you do it folks ?!Keep it up! I think this is great ”Hospitality AND Food Karma” and this is very important to me when I dine out – and I suspect is the case with any discerning diner, foodie or not ! Especially since am so far away from Indian and given my regular cravings for authentic tasting Indian cuisine I am always on the hunt for the next best Indian dining experience. I would hate to have that spoilt by a grumpy staff , high handed attitude, over priced sub-standard food or a menu which is considered fusion food but is basically authentic Indian food murdered by some nutjob who thinks they have created a masterpiece – beware of such places I’d say!All I ask for is a fabulous service and one great course after another dished out in perfect rhythm and harmony – just splendid food with a smile really.
Lucky for me Gaylords is short journey from home – Lajawab !
Zomato London and Gaylords – you spoilt us – royally! Many thanks to both parties and Of Course would rather shamelessly like to admit that am very eagerly looking forward to more foodie meets, great food and good company! Cheers!