Recommended restaurant in Leh? Bon Appetit

My recent trip to Ladakh was a delight on so many fronts.

Not only is this a super fabulous part of the world, with heavenly landscapes and lovely people, Ladakh will now forever be the place where I climbed my first “proper” mountain.
I was last in Ladakh in 2009, also on a trekking trip but boy, have things changed in 4 years. Not so much in the mountains and villages, to be honest, but in Leh, the capital, the changes are amazing. There are many more hotels, shops, internet cafes, and eating places than 4 years ago (many more cars, too, inevitably) but the great thing this time was that we actively ate well, as opposed to just eating. If you get my meaning.

One of the highlights of my time in Leh, on the eating front, was lunch at the appropriately named “Bon Appetit”.

It was a revelation.

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Gorgeous location, with views to die for.

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Lovely open airy spaces, both indoors and out.

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Great service. And the food…

My dears, the food.

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Perfectly al dente pasta –  my spot on choice for lunch (below) – loved the clover garnish.

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Delicious rocket salad.

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Equally deliciously presented and tasting pizzas.

Great cold coffee.

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We were a party of 6, and everyone declared their meal/beverage to be a winner

 

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Below is the outdoor tandoori & kebab area, as well as the pretty aromatic herb garden through which you access the restaurant, which seemed much more Provençal than Ladakhi.  But gorgeous nonetheless.

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 Personally and enthusiastically recommended.

We paid our bill, and I did not tell anyone at the restaurant that I blog and review.

The Potbelly restaurant in Delhi’s Shahpurjat village

If you haven’t already been to Shahpurjat, one of Delhi’s many urban villages, you need to do so pretty pronto, for this is a village that is changing rapidly, before one’s very eyes.

From being pretty unknown and off the beaten track just a few years ago, it is now buzzing with activity and (rather sadly) demolition crews, eagerly ripping down quaint old structures to squeeze in yet another boutique.

There is a perfect way of seeing this village, by taking a guided tour – check out my review of one such walking tour in this blog.

There are shops, boutiques and eateries galore in Shahpurjat, but by far the best food I have had so far in the village was on a recent trip to the cutely named “The Potbelly” with my friend Sonam Dubal.

You need to ask directions the first time you go, for The Potbelly is squeezed into a narrow building and up many flights of stairs, but when you get there –  what a treat.

A lovely treetop perspective of the village:

 

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It is a pretty, light, airy little eatery with almost a beach-y feel to it (if that makes any sense in Delhi):

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Now for the main event, the food.

Whilst we chose our lunch, we demolished the attractively presented pakora basket:

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It’s always fun discovering dishes you don’t know, and this Bihari-based menu had plenty of those.

Sonam had the chicken stew which he pronounced delicious :

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I had the Ranchi ka pulao (I’m veg) and it was great.  A completely different taste to a “normal” pulao and I loved the presentation:

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Totally unpretentious with sweet staff.

Charming.

We paid our own bill and I did not tell the staff that I write reviews.

Recommended.

 

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Thirty-Nine, Hauz Khas Village

On the recommendation of our children who both work in Delhi’s Hauz Khas Village – known as HKV to the cognoscenti –  I went to the cryptically named Thirty-Nine for lunch recently with my friend Asha Framji.

We were the only 2 people eating there, one hot summer lunchtime, though I am told it is packed in the evenings. I can well believe it, since it is a great location, beautifully designed and done up, and with sweet service.  Our waiter was a tad vague, but I suspect he was shiny new on the job, but he couldn’t have been sweeter.

The restaurant is roomy, and is spread over 2 floors, and has the feel of an Olde Worlde English club.  And it works in a cute way.

Comfortable leather settees, with a suitably distressed appearance.

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Rugs, throw, fake fireplace and lots of olde worlde looking artefacts, but it all manages not to look kitschy:

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And now for the main event, the food.

Salsa dip to start while we decided what to order:

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Asha had mulligatawny soup, which she pronounced very good

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and a grilled cheese and tomato stack which she was less impressed by.  Said it was all a bit bland and ordinary, but we did demolish the French fries between us :

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My sun dried tomato and artichoke salad was excellent and the asparagus were cooked perfectly.  Al dente, and so crisp and delicious :

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So far all good.

The only snafu was when Asha took the lift down, while I went to the bathrooms (nice and clean) –  the lift jammed, and there was no mobile signal in it.  Luckily since it has glass doors, someone spotted her mid-floors and helped her out.

That needs to be dealt with.

So, as I then walked down in the absence of a lift, guess what I spotted?  This sign at the bottom of the stairs, which explained everything about the décor :

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But we had already figured it all out, pretty much.

Prices were reasonable, especially for HKV.

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Cute place.

Recommended.

Where to have a round-the-world breakfast in Delhi?

In Baywatch in the WelcomHotel Sheraton, New Delhi, that’s where.

Located in Saket, right near the malls, the ground floor coffee shop of this business hotel is currently offering the world on your breakfast plate.  I was invited to experience this buffet along with a fellow blogger, traveling companion and young friend, Charis, who runs an excellent food-centric blog.

A leisurely 2 hour breakfast, much of it in the company of the charming, knowledgeable chef Neha, was a great way to ease into the weekend.

Being a complete caffeine addict I stuck –  somewhat unadventurously, I admit it – to coffee, and had a very acceptable cappuccino :

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Charis, however, got into the spirit of things and had a cup of “cutting chai”:

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Love love love the coloured glasses.  So much prettier than the usual clear (and probably smeary version) you see in the street.

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Our round the world over breakfast tour started in Japan, and we were treated to miso soup, grilled salted fish, sticky rice and a delicate Japanese omelette :

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I enjoyed this selection, though the fish was perhaps a weeny bit dry, but the miso soup was delicious.  Felt odd having soup for breakfast, but this was not meant to be a conventional breakfast, now, was it?

The next stop was Sri Lanka, with dodol and beef curry.  I skipped this, since I do not eat meat.  Correction, I skipped this, and then shamelessly shared Charis’s gravy –  the sauce of the curry was utterly, utterly divine.  Since my not eating meat is nothing to do with religion, I had no hesitation in depriving my companion of the sauce. It was too good.  Probably my favourite thing on the menu, if the truth be known :

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There was a piquancy and peppiness in the sauce that was fabulous.  On a personal level, it showed me how far I have wandered from my own cultural roots that I could find a spicy curry so delicious for breakfast.

From Sri Lanka we moved onto China, and were served delightful un-stodgy “bao” :

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I have eaten many a “bao” or steamed dumpling, over many years of traveling in China, and these were some of the nest I have ever eaten.

Firstly, they were small and bite-sized, as opposed to the usual large, difficult-to-manoeuvre ones I have eaten in the past.  Also, they were less stodgy tasting – perhaps a factor of their smaller size.  And because they were small, the filling didn’t fall inelegantly out.

Charis had pork bao and I had vegetable, and mine were delicious.  The accompanying bean sauce was seriously fab.  And, for the first time ever, I liked congee.

So all in all, an eye-opener.

The bean sauce (below):

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And the congee:

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From China, we flitted over to Spain, for a tasting of Spanish tortilla :

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These were generously filled with olives and tomatoes and peppers, and were tasty.

We stayed with the Latin tradition, and next tasted Mexican “chilaquiles” –  salsa poured over  crisp tortilla triangles, and the whole topped with cheese and a fried egg :

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An interesting mix, and the crispness of the tortillas was unexpected and nice.  I had imagined they would go soggy with the cooking and the egg, but no.

England and Lebanon were next on the menu, both offering sweets.

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I am not a sweet eater at all –  well, I used to be, hugely so, until the need to trim the flab became pressing and so for –  what? –  some 3 or 4 years now I haven’t tasted a pudding or a cake.

Not even birthday cake.

So I surprised myself by taking a bite of the Lebanese “kunafa” which tasted baclava-ish.  Nuts, honey, raisins and topped with a rather crunchy shredded wheat.  Nice, but not my cup of tea.  Ditto the carrot cake .

I had no space left to even think of seconds, but had I done so, it would have been for the Sri Lankan curry sauce.  Too good.

 

World breakfast is part of the regular breakfast buffet and is on a rotational basis, with a different country being showcased on a different day.

Timings- 6:30am- 10:30am
Price- Rs 850 plus taxes

Delicious, good food, and it makes you think beyond your usual cultural limits, which is fun.

Where should I stay in Siracusa in Sicily?

First time visitors and therefore unfamiliar with Sicily, and faced with a slew of similar looking hotels on the many internet sites we browsed, we were more than a little spoiled for choice, and ended up getting thoroughly confused.

One hotel, however, stood out from the bunch.  Because it is a convent.

And so we took the plunge and discovered the wonderful, unbelievably charming “Domus Marae.”

With a brilliant location right on the sea, charming gentle staff, on-street parking, a lift, lovely rooms and – oh joy of joys –  an “in house” chapel, this delightful hotel was a true find.

We opted for B & B, and most mornings the local bishop had his breakfast at his own little corner table, adding to the distinctly different feel to the place.

There was a delightful sense of peace and serenity about the “Domus Marae”, in large part induced by the classical music gently playing in the background.

Personally and highly recommended.

The entrance :

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The view from our room.

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The delightful “in-house” chapel:

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The breakfast room

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Night view of the annexe, just across the tiny cobbled street.  This is literally a stone’s throw away.

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The entrance to the pretty Domus Marae at night :

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I admit to being enchanted by the chapel, and would push open the unlocked door and just go and sit there, all alone amidst such gilded splendour.

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Contact details below.

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Edward’s in Delhi’s HKV

Despite being a tad underwhelmed by Edward’s when I went there for lunch in March, I re-visited it last week for lunch with the same friend as last time, Asha Framji, as well as with our friend Sonam Dubal, whose first visit it was.

Sonam loved it, and I certainly liked it better a second time round, partly because the service was so much better, and way more efficient than the last time.

No major (read obvious) changes in 2 months, with the same cute décor, though it was certainly busier – oh, wait, yes, one noticeable thing – they have seriously nice take-away bags.  As in very smart and eye catching.

Sonam had the Caesar salad which he said was very good :

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Asha and I shared the brie salad and the pasta, and both were generous portions and very good.

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I am veg, so didn’t eat the ham (somehow missed it on the menu, as I would then have chosen differently) and neither did Asha, as she said it was a tad on the salty side, but the rest of the salad was excellent:

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I had the ginger ale, which was delicious and I loved the quirky glass.

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So, better meal and therefore a better “feel” than my earlier visit.

But I still think it’s pricey…

 

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Last Mughal Festival at Baywatch, WelcomHotel Sheraton New Delhi.

I was asked to go and try the latest food promotion at the WelcomHotel Sheraton New Delhi, and since I had no idea whatsoever as to what the last Mughal emperor would have eaten, I was obviously intrigued.

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The information we were given sounded even more intriguing :

“The last Mughal emperor of India, Bahadur Shah Zafar, reigned from 1837 to 1858. His table had Turkish, Persian, Afghan, and Indian flavors of different regions and also some of the European confectionaries. Bahadur Shah’s table was rich with food made with dry fruits and aromatic with different herbs, roots, flowers and leaves. There was also use of betel, maple leave, orange rind, orange blossoms, jasmine flowers, rose petals, edible camphor, khas ki jad, pomegranate juice besides saffron, mint, coriander, basil and fennel.”

Whew.

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The buffet for the Last Mughal festival was set out a little separately from the regular buffet, and the dishes had different labels, in red with a crown (obviously) but I am not honestly sure how much the regular hotel guest would’ve been able to differentiate the special food (as it were) from the regular buffet.  Sad, when so much research goes into the planning of these food festivals.

I do not eat meat, so my comments on the food will be limited to the vegetarian fare on offer, as well as the fish.  My dinner companions were all omnivores.  They were all also intimidatingly knowledgeable about food and cooking, and very experienced food writers so I kept v-e-r-y quiet over dinner…

Overall, I enjoyed the food, which was very different from anything I had ever tasted before.  Logical, since these were recipes from the Mughal era, according to the charming chef who joined us for a chat at the end of dinner.

I think I shall start with my favourite thing of all from the buffet, Bharta Telai :

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And here it is, and it was truly delicious.  2nd-huge-helpingly-delicious :

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It’s at moments like this that I realise the food photography really is an art in itself…so you are going to have to trust me when I say that the bharta telai was excellent.

There was only one fish fish on the menu, Mahi Badam Qaliya, which was nice, but I found the texture a wee bit odd but it was good overall, with a nice almondy surprise inside :

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Another dish which I liked, though I found the texture a little reminiscent of dhokla, was Tursh-e-Paneer:

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Another dish I took seconds of was Subz Haleem. And once again, you are going to have to trust me here, since the photo doesn’t for a moment capture the great taste :

 

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Loved the presentation of the 3 different raitas :

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My dinner companions declared this chicken dish to be excellent :

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Since I don’t eat pudding, I have to let my fellow diners do the talking,  The phirni was “delicious”, “excellent”, and “sooo good”, so there you go :

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And of the mithai, the fudge-y one on the top plate (below) was the favourite :

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Verdict ?

Enjoyable and what I especially enjoyed was the chance to eat completely different food.

Dinner buffet at INR 1750 plus taxes, till 21st April.

Edward’s in Hauz Khas Village, Delhi

Hauz Khas village in New Delhi is changing at the speed of light.  My trip there yesterday for lunch, after – what? –  about 2 months revealed more shops, more eateries, sadly more old buildings pulled down, but what a hive of activity.

I went with a friend, Asha Framji, for lunch at Edward’s, on the joint recommendation of our children, both of whom work in HKV.

Very cute but expensive was their verdict.  And mine.

The place is tiny but it really is cute and the décor can’t be faulted and the view onto the neighbourhood park is lovely.

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But the fact remains, cuteness aside, that Rs 900 for 2 sarnies and a bottle of water is expensive.

Here is Asha’s Pesto chicken which she said was good :

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And my Humus sandwich (I am veg) which was OK. Nothing more.

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Lovely bread but far too crumbly for the contents, which spilled out at the first bite  – and what was with the waiter taking my sandwich back from the table and adding lettuce to it as an afterthought ?  That was after mixing up our orders initially?

I am not one to nitpick in young restaurants run by young people, truly I am not, but when you are charging Rs 450 for a sandwich and there are only 2 other people in the restaurant, you take note who has ordered what, surely ?

I also thought bottled water had to be at the MRP ?

Conclusion ?

Cute but way too expensive for a sandwich.  Which is exactly what our children had told us.

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Peshawari at ITC Mughal Agra for great food

Last week I was the guest of ITC Hotels at 3 of their properties, as part of an exciting initiative called TheDuoEscapade.  Along with a seriously accomplished food blogger, young Charis Bhagianathan, we ate and travelled and ate and shopped and ate and…you get the picture.

So, yes, eating was a big part of this trip, and never more so than at lunch in the gorgeous ITC Mughal in Agra, where we ate at Peshawari.

The cuisine of the North West Frontier is the obvious speciality here, and so as a long-standing non-meat eater I was a little –  well, not exactly worried – let’s just say a little puzzled, as to how my dining experience would be.

No need to worry, since the ever efficient staff at Peshawari simply substituted fish for me.

And in any case I could have made lunch out of nothing but their signature dal.

But I am getting a little ahead of myself.

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The decor of Peshawari both here and (as we would later discover) at the ITC Rajputana in Jaipur is reminiscent of the ITC group’s flagship Bukhara, and like Bukhara you are asked to eat with your hands.  And, as I have done on the 2 earlier times I ate at Bukhara, I requested cutlery.  30 years in India, and I still cannot eat dal or paneer with my fingers.  There is a nice rustic feel to the place, with much use of brass and copper, and a boulder-y feel to the walls.  Long wooden dining tables, and a hefty wooden menu card :

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But we took the lazy but oh-so-informed way out and let the charming Chef Amruth do all the choosing for us.

Chef Amruth was a delightful and helpful guide through the culinary lanes of Peshawari food, telling us about what was being cooked for us, and spoiling us with treats and surprises all the time.

Papad and snacks to start with :

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And then, in an indication of the serious things to come, we were each given a bib to wear.

Charis looking happy in her bib (but then again, I never found her anything but smiling in a week of travelling together):

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Probably to everyone’s frustration, Charis and I photographed everything, all through the course of our long, leisurely delicious lunch.

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Seriously delicious lassi, by the way,

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Raita :

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Vegetarian kebabs to start with for me :IMG_3955 1

And meat with everything for Charis and Anchal, our long-suffering PR guru.

They both pronounced everything delicious.

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Told you –  we photographed anything and everything :

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The fish was absolutely fab.  Ate far too much of it…

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Then, as if we weren’t already seriously over-eating as it was, out come The Signature Bread –  a fabulously shaped Turra Naan –  & the oh-my-goodness-me utterly fab Signature Dal Buhkara :

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To my shame I ate every last morsel of the dal, and most of the turra naan, too.

We then sort of went walkabout, to watch one of these fabulously OTT breads being made in the glassed-in kitchen.  Bear in mind, please, that (a) it was taken through glass and (b) with my iPhone…

So, we watched the chefs making a selection of naans and rotis, and here is the moment when the turra naan emerges :

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Great fun.

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I am not a fan at all of Indian puddings, so I let Charis be the taster here :

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Paan, which I didn’t have but which was excellent, I am told :

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And then it was back to the turra naan, which sort of processed its way round the restaurant with everyone taking pictures and posing with this ginormous naan – we would meet it again that evening, when it had cleverly been turned into our dinner menu card !IMG_3994 1

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IMG_3995 1Great dining experience.

Super friendly staff who put up with our photographing and wandering around with great good humour and great style.

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Dakshin restaurant, WelcomHotel Sheraton New Delhi

For a lover of south Indian food, the choice of Dakshin for dinner was inspired.  I had been invited by ITC Hotels to visit their Golden Triangle circuit, and our first port of call was their Saket property in south Delhi – the WelcomHotel Sheraton New Delhi.  After an afternoon wandering through Humayun’s Tomb and Qutb, we were ready for dinner.

To so many of us, South Indian food means essentially dosas and idlis, and delicious as these are, Dakshin was an absolute eye opener, offering as it does such a wide variety of food from all the southern Indian states – Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.

We were warmly welcomed by the charming Vel Murugan P, who is the Assistant Master Chef, and at our request, he designed a tasting menu for us, with small portions of a whole wonderful range of food.

What could be better, and right from the start, it was a winner.

As in even the papad was different.

The inadequate photo (below) does not do justice to the crispy papads and (a first for me) “murgh appalam” which are absolutely delicious fried, stuffed chillies.

Too fabulous.  I could’ve made a meal out of these!

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Our thali was first prepared with a selection of delicious chutneys – coconut, coriander, tamarind and tomato – into which we liberally dipped the crispy papads, all the while telling ourselves “This is just starters, save space for what is yet to come.”

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First on the menu was Kuzhi Paniyaram, delicious rice and lentil dumplings (below).  I am not usually a fan of fried food (she says, having wolfed the papads down) but these dumplings were so good :

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Dakshin Yera followed.  Deep fried prawns which were also delicious, so there goes my fried theory.

But the piece de résistance as far as I was concerned came next, Meen Polichadu, which is sole wrapped in banana leaf, steamed, and flavoured with tamarind, and which was melt-in-the-mouth delicious (below).  So delicious, in fact, that my dining and travelling companion, the young but very experienced food blogger Charis Bhagianathan, gently reminded me that we did have other things coming, and perhaps I should leave some space.

Not a chance.

I polished the whole thing off.

It was divine.

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More prawns followed.  I should perhaps here mention that I don’t eat meat and that the whole menu at Dakshin was designed to suit my whims, and Charis sportingly went along.  So more prawns followed, this time in a drumstick paste –  the dish was called Raal Poruma Kootu, and was followed by Vartiyat, a deliciously creamy and tasty mixed vegetable curry (below) which, yet again, I polished off.

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I cannot believe that we actually continued eating, but we did, and oh my goodness was the Meen Moilee so, so good :

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Since I love coconut and mustard unconditionally, this dish was bound to be a hit – tender fish cooked in coconut milk with mustard seed.  Perfection.  Accompanied by delicious appam (below) and especially the tomato pappu dal, the whole taste and texture combo was a success.

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A flaky malabar paratha (below) also accompanied the meen moilee but (a) I was too full to do it justice and (b) I am not the biggest fan of parathas, so this was a case of a quick taste, rather than scoffing the lot, as I had done hitherto :

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I drew the line at pudding, since I was too full of delicious prawns and fish, but Charis tasted the jaggery payasam (below) and declared it a winner :

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Even though I am addicted to coffee, I declined pre-bed coffee on the grounds that we had to sleep before the early start the next morning, but the demonstration was good fun :

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And the coffee smelled so good :

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Conclusion ?

Lovely setting –  small-ish restaurant but with an intimate, authentic feel :

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Service was charming, the staff were very informative about the food they were serving us, and Chef Vel was charming.

And the range of food and he new tastes and flavours were wonderful.