The most famous art series of lithographers Thomas and William Daniells most famous art series,Oriental Scenery,takes on a culinary interpretation at Daniells Tavern at The Imperial,Delhi. The entire restaurant has been refurbished keeping in mind the uncle-nephew teams journeys through the country from Kolkata all the way up to Srinagar,and the second leg from Coorg to northern India,via the western region. The restaurant is understated and elegant,dominated by their lithographs,which are displayed on the wall. Interested patrons can request a tour wherein a taluqdar takes you around to explain the history behind these paintings and other artefacts scattered around the restaurant.
The show kitchen is where kebabs and breads are served up,while the main curries are made in an interior kitchen. The menu is a visual treat,richly illustrated with lithographs and snippets from the Daniells journey. The names of dishes are entertaining colloquialisms and are actually based on the duos diary entries,detailing their journey.
For example,the sole fry is called Governor Howells Order as it was a favourite snack of the erstwhile governor. Also,for once,the restaurant actually does live up to the boast of being pan-Indian as the menu features dishes from across the country.
We start with the sole fry and Narkel Posto Bora,which consists of shallow fried coconut and poppy seed diskettes. The sole fry is so simple but so good. A spartan mustard and curd marination and fresh fish are all that make up this succulent starter. The vegetarian starter is unusual but good,with the poppy seeds playing off the distinctive tender coconut flavour. Despite being fried dishes,both starters are surprisingly light.
For the main course,we have Railway Chicken Curry,Aishbagh Koormah,Mochar Ghonto and Keerai Masial,accompanied by vegetarian biryani. The chicken curry is based on a recipe used by British Indian Railways for their first-class passengers,whereas the Koormah is a simple preparation incorporating lamb,onions and ground spices with some curd. The Mochar Ghonto is an East Indian preparation using banana flowers cooked with traditional Bengali spices,while the Keerai Masial comprises spinach and lentils sauteed with mustard seeds. The hallmark of all the dishes is their simple preparation and execution,with emphasis on flavour rather than fancy presentation. The results are delicious and a breather from the elaborately plated,almost vertical dishes that seem to be the fait accompli in fine-dining restaurants today.
Meal for Two:Rs. 4,000 (inclusive of taxes,excluding alcohol)