As India celebrates 70 years of independence, and people get together to sample special tricolour fare at the many hotels and restaurants offering special Independence Day buffets and dishes, several properties of Taj Group hotels have recreated the menu served at the Taj Palace Hotel in Mumbai, just hours ahead of the night India gained independence. The three-course dinner that was served on August 14, 1947, was essentially French, as was the culinary trend at the time, with influences of Indian flavours.
Discovered by chance in the Taj archives, all today’s chefs had were the names of the dishes on the menu to help them recreate it for today’s diners. They made a conscious effort to infuse Indian elements into classical French cooking, hoping that’s what their predecessors did seven decades ago.
(Know more about what happened that night, on the eve of India’s independence, here.)
“We think we’re doing fusion now, but they did a fusion of French and Indian cuisines back then,” says Abhijeet Thakre, Executive Sous Chef, Taj Palace Delhi, explaining how they recreated the menu drawing from conversations with one guest who was present at the 1947 dinner, and then doing spin-offs based on the names of the dishes.
Of course, in line with the economy practised in the 1940s, the menu card then categorically stated that people could only choose two items from the list. Thankfully, the restriction does not apply to the recreation.
Priced at Rs 1947, plus taxes, the current menu is being served at some select Taj city properties – The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai; Taj Palace, New Delhi; Taj Coromandel, Chennai; Taj Bengal, Kolkata; Taj West End, Bangalore; Taj Krishna, Hyderabad, and Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad – across India, and St James Court, A Taj hotel, London, between August 9 and 14. Taj Palace Mumbai will serve the menu on August 15, for lunch, as well.
indianexpress.com had a chance to sample the dishes at Taj Palace New Delhi, and this is what the impressive and delicious line-up looked like.
The special menu started with a welcome drink, Jaam-e-Gul, which was essentially a take on the rose-flavoured Roohafza.
This was followed by the consommé – there was a vegetarian and non-vegetarian version. I tried the latter – Consommé a L’Indienne – and it was sumptuous, like someone was ‘drinking’ chicken, infused with cardamom to balance the fattiness. The other option was an almond soup.
Entrée comprised ‘Delices a l’Hindustan’, which the chefs interpreted as two cottage cheese tikkas, roasted beautifully, slathered with the perfect accompaniments of tamarand and corriander chutney. We did get a hint of the play on the Indian tricolour here.
For the mains, or Plat Principal, there is a choice of Crepes aux epinards l’ail, sauce au tomates (Garlic flavoured spinach crepes, makhni gravy) for vegetarians, or Feuille de Curry Tempere Legume Rosti, sauce au curry (curry leaf tempered veg roesti, curried sauce). While I couldn’t try the former, the latter tasted much like the filling of a masala dosa, and let’s face it – that’s pretty yum!
Non-vegetarians had to choose between Paupiette de Saumon Joinville (a salmon patty with Joinville sauce) and Poularde souffle independence (a three-egg omelette with chicken). Both flavourful, my choice of the two would be the salmon, which was baked to perfection and the subtle creamy flavour of the accompanying Joinville sauce rounded off the fishiness of the salmon.
The highlight for me was the dessert, Dessert Vacherin de Peches Liberation (poached peaches with cinnamon ice cream and creme anglaise), in which the refreshing and subtly flavoured cinnamon ice cream was absolutely brilliant.
The meal closed with Friandises of liquor chocolates with a hot cuppa, and one could not have asked for a more perfect end to such a historic meal.