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Metiaburj Dawaat at ITC Sonar

Posted by: KolkataCurry On Monday, April 18, 2016


Tags: Dining

Which place is the origin of the famous ‘Kolkata biryani’?

Well, it is one of the least discussed parts of the city- Metiabruz. However, this place has the distinction of having been the home of the last nawab of Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah, since 1856 when he was exiled from Lucknow by the British. The nawab spent more than the last three decades his life here.

The nawab brought with him a large entourage. His team of bawarchis guarded the true culinary treasures of Lucknow which came with the Nawab. However, the recipes for tikias, kebabs, biryanis and kulfis soon started accommodating the locally available ingredients and as a result emerged a cuisine which is familiar in texture yet unique in flavour which this city can call its own. It was in this period that potato was added to the biryani but there is a many a story explaining the reason for that. If you are interested, you may check out this post published earlier this month on this blog.

Under the name Kitchens of India, where ITC Hotels showcase India’s wealth of unique, undiscovered, royal and forgotten cuisines, ITC Sonar is holding a food festival showcasing the above-mentioned royal cuisine, so aptly and interestingly named Metiaburj Dawaat at Eden Pavilion till 23rd April 2016. “The festival is in keeping with our ethos to celebrate the indigenous offerings of this region, part of our initiative towards Responsible Luxury.”, said Atul Bhalla, General Manager, ITC Sonar.

I was invited along with other bloggers and mediapersons to sample the spread a few days ago at the dinner.

We met the chief guest Mr Shahanshah Mirza, who happens to be the great-great-grandson of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. I arrived in time and found the soft-spoken, tall and fair Mr Mirza talking to the bloggers about the cuisine and answering their queries at the other table.

Our welcome drink was Aam Panna, the local summer drink made of raw mango and spices.The dinner started off with Murgh Reshmi Kebab and Paneer Tikka. The reshmi kebab was unusually subtle but tender and good in taste. It’ll be much appreciated by those who want their kebabs less spicy. I’m not an admirer of paneer dishes. The tikka tasted  good and was rightly spiced. I also sampled and liked the Veg Jalfrezi- rich, dry and spicy with a dash of sweetness.

The main course had Paneer Champ, Aloo Dum, Dal Fry, Machhi Tikka Butter Masala, Chicken Chap, Gosht Tikka and Mughlai Parantha. The staples were all biryani- Aloo Chana Dal Biryani for the vegetarians and Gosht Matiabruz Biryani for people like us. They were accompanied with Dahi Pudina Ghol, Subz Raita, Burrhani Raita and Dahi Ka Salad.

The Machhi Tikka Butter Masala was rather dry. The tikka was rightly done, but the thick and dryish gravy didn’t appeal to my palate. The Ghost Tikka (actually tikia) claimed my attention right from the first moment thanks to the tantalizing aroma of ghee. The first bite told me that it was different from the tikia we are familiar with. All I felt was succulent minced lamb masterly marinated and tawa-cooked. A masterpiece indeed! The ordinary tikia feels of dal first and meat has a secondary presence. Chana dal probably has been used for binding this one, for it was quite brittle and serving it in full was a bit of a challenge.

The tikia partnered well with the Mughlai Parantha. Some of us bloggers asked executive sous chef Gaurav Lavania (one of the two men at the helm of the kitchen) why it didn’t have a stuffing. Gaurav’s answer was a revelation- The Mughlai Paratha popular among the Bengalis is, in fact, a creation of them. The original Mughlai Parantha is flat like any other parantha. Lachchha was used in this one and it was cooked in ghee. 

At this time, we met Chef Manzoor Alam, the other one supervising the food. Manzoor was born and raised in Metiabruz and comes from a family of bawarchis. So he has grown up seeing all this food being cooked at home. I asked the chef which dish demanded most of his effort. He quickly answered- Ghost Tikia (Gosht Tikka). Because first the lamb mince is marinated with poppy seed, onion, green chilli and spices for four to five hours. Then it is fried on the tawa with ghee for about forty minutes. I told him that his effort resulted in a wonderful dish.

The Gosht Matiabruz Biryani came next and it too had a distracting aroma of ghee and basmati rice. It looked moist- a little different texture compared to the familiar version of biryani. The first spoonful in the mouth felt, to put it simply and precisely, divine! Chunks of succulent lamb cooked on dum with basmati rice, potato and egg, fried onion slices and spiked with cardamom mace powder. It had a subtle taste with a delicate balance of spices and a moist feel- the hallmark of excellent biryani. The entire dining experience was elevated! Blogger friend Sammya Brata said the taste was similar to the biryani he ate in Metiabruz. The sips of Dahi Pudina Ghol in between perfectly complimented the spoonfuls of biryani.

I took a reluctant bite or two off the Chicken Chap. It seemed good too. But by that time I was at a different sensory orbit thanks to the tikia and the biryani, so couldn’t do justice to it. We rounded it off with Phirnee, Lachchha and Zarda Pulao.

It was a pleasure to meet and have a brief chat with Riju Basu, a senior journalist in Anandabazar Patrika, who I have been friends with on Facebook for long. I consider him one of the best food writers in contemporary Bengali media.  

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