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ITC Grand Central, Mumbai

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Aurangabadi Food Festival At Hornby’S Pavilion

Posted by: Alok Verma in September 2015

Source: https://allaboutthatpalate.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/aurangabadi-food-hornbys/

Tags: Dining

Creative aesthetics form a key component of ITC restaurants always deriving the pleasure of the immeasurable experience and talent of the powerhouse chefs that it has boasted of since its existence. Precisely after being endowed with a covetous Padmashri just a while ago, ITC chefs are looked at with an enviable respect in the fraternity. Anything short of transcendence is not an ITC trait and they’ve strived forever to humbly maintain their regard in the society. Chef Farooqui was last seen sharpening his knives in the truffled nest of Kebabs & Kurries. His latest perch, Hornby’s Pavilion in ITC Grand Central, has been a well-defined comfort zone for him. Hornby’s has never been a fan of clichéd indulgences & introducing an underappreciated and lesser known genre of Indian cuisine by going all the way catapulting handfuls of confetti in the form of intense spices and flavours places it in the forefront of delirious nostalgic cooking, at an affordable price.

 

Poised as the cafe hosting an Aurangabadi Food Festival from 19th to 28th February, the place has an edgy energy, cozy, sapid interiors, a seriously great wait staff and a wildly interesting crowd. Being a former military base during Aurangazeb’s rule, lighting a fire to cook at night was strictly forbidden to prevent enemies from tracking their location, as a result of which, the style of slow cooking in a tandoor for long hours was developed, a custom which is practiced even today. Aurangabadi cuisine is a blend of Mughlai and Hyderabadi food. This city is a paradise for non-vegetarians and its Qaliyas, fragrant Pulao and Biryani have an influence of the spices and herbs of the Marathwada region. In earlier times, chewing food was considered an indignity amongst the aristrocrats. Hence their cooks were forced to make tender, melt in your mouth kebabs, which became a symbol of grandeur in that era.

All this and more was apprised to us by Jr. sous Chef Aditi Chatterjee, who with a professional yet friendly demeanor, ensured that all guests get the whole experience and feel of dining in a traditional Aurangabadi kitchen. She gave us a whole tour of what we could expect to indulge on, providing bits and pieces of information we certainly wouldn’t have gathered elsewhere. We were also informed that Chef Farooqui and a few others went on a culinary expedition to Aurangabad for well over a couple of months to learn more about the cuisine by dining at residences and foraging spices in the nooks and corners of the region before curating the menu.

The meal commenced with Mutthi kebabs, which comprised of lamb mince, moulded in a mutthi (hand) and thrown straight on the tawa. It was irresistible and had no gimmick with a burst of flavour and a melt-in-your-mouth consistency. I didn’t have to put nose to plate to get a whiff of the intoxicating scent of the Murg Boti Kebabs marinated with rich spices and cooked in a tandoor, being ever so succulent. The Aurangabadi Shammi Kebab, with no guise, was mashed vegetables moulded with hot spices and thereby a vibrant vegetarian option.

 

An elegant puzzle with playful and inspired dishes formed the salad bar. Now it’s not like any predictable salad bar where poverty in taste because of excessive garishness is visible. It is this indulgence that is a rare sight with dishes that can be panegyrized. A minced mutton salad with acidity and freshness balanced to the T formed the Zafrani Gosht Salad which had alongside papads was a cracker of a dish. Just as delightful and unique was the Eggplant with Olives Salad that was pretty as a picture and brought out flavours without appearing to be played too much with. A refreshing basa fish salad with a vinaigrette and a chicken pickled salad were praised enthusiastically by us.

 

An excessively large roomali roti is called Mande, the preparation of which was witnessed by us on the terrace adjoining the cafe. Chef Farooqui and 2 of his trainees demonstrated the entire process of having a perfectly cooked Mande, on this ginormous hot half-spherical tawa, which was a sight you just wouldn’t want to miss. We grabbed this opportunity to pick his brains on what inspired him to curate this exceptional menu, to which, in the simplest terms, he replied that if you’re diet conscious and believe that modern equipment trumps human hands and traditional pans in the kitchen, you’ll never be able to appreciate the assiduousness that goes in extracting the flavour of Aurangabadi spices and produce and that’s exactly what he wishes to focus on in this food festival.

 

We got back to our seats and focused on the main course which ensued. I made certain to grab a little bit of everything so I could extract the most out of the myriad of flavours. I started with Qaliya, a spicy red mutton curry, which was slow cooked all day. A very filling dish which is a delight to the palate as well, you will find this dish in almost every roadside dhaba and restaurant of Aurangabad. A vegetarian alternative, Aloo Qaliya was just as satisfying. What followed this delved into the intimacy of this cuisine and put us into food coma with the first bite. Manda Gosht comprised of mutton cubes cooked with whole spices, whole chillies, yogurt and milk forming a thick gravy and you could sense a real joy in the effort gone into the dish.

 

Murgh Korma is quite typically Aurangabadi since it has an influence of both Mughlai and Hyderabadi cuisine and consists of boneless chicken pieces cooked with almond sauce and spices and garnished with roasted almonds, which was understated and had a beautiful aroma to it. Sabz Korma, being the vegetarian alternative was unlike most Veg Kormas I’ve eaten in Mumbai being quite subtle and filling. Bhindi Masala had this layer of oil which was flavourful and you’d be a fool to discard it. Despite being a carnivore, I had a substantial portion and thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

Aurangabadi cuisine traditionally does not consist of biryanis but pulavs that are layered with minced meat and aromatics and slow cooked for hours together before a dum is given. Dabbling with depths of fiery flavours that still retain separate notes, rather than blowtorching your mouth with a storm of heat was witnessed beautifully while devouring the Minced Meat Aurangabadi Pulav.

 

Trailing streamers of success after the highly satisfying mains arrived the desserts. Seamless quality in the desserts is noteworthy and there was nothing that I could complain about. Be it the sinful Jalebis with creamy and decadent rabdi or the glorious Rose Kheer, the increasing calorie intake was conveniently being overlooked. My favourite Indian sweet, Gajar Halwa was beyond perfection and I’m not even exaggerating. Just as good was the Chocolate mousse which had the apt texture. Khajur Barfi and Mawa Barfi besides the chocolate pudding, Pistachio Butter Cake, Fresh Fruit Trifle, Blueberry Panna Cotta and Sugar free Berry Panna Cotta were toothsome. Pot de Creme in the porcelain cups was inscrutably incroyable.

 

The long menu is dreamy with dishes being a Shakespearean triumph of flavour and texture, adding another feather to their cap. Special thanks to Chef Farooqui and Chef Aditi for being so remarkably hospitable and thereby providing us a knowledgable experience within these 3 hours.

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