The Indian restaurant scene is full of hidden gems, charming spots in secret corners where you can escape from the rest of the world or the blazing sun with a glass of wine or cold beer, whichever tickles your fancy. But India also showcases the opposite: the glittering jewels that people all over have heard of, where a good table is a badge of honour and a visit an undeniable treat. I am lucky to have stepped into many fine establishments across India, but I would like to make a special mention of the following restaurants where the service is always excellent and the atmosphere unparalleled.
1. Bukhara ITC, Delhi
Culinary Excellence is at the heart of what the ITC Group does. The hotels have a reputation of playing host to visiting royalty and world leaders and their internationally-trained chefs are innovation leaders with a finger on the pulse of local trends, ingredients and flavours. Named after the ancient city of Bukhara on the Silk Road, it is a large restaurant, seating 134 diners. The Murgh malai tikka is excellent!
2. Dum Pukht ITC, Delhi
Another one from ITC, this restaurant is in the basement of the hotel, the decor is infused with deep sapphire blues, imparting an old world charm. The star of the show is the chicken biryani served, as it should be, in a pot sealed with pastry that captures all the aromas, and which are released when the pastry case is cut open at the table. The senior chef, Gulam M. Qureshi, has been there since 1977.
3. Indian Accent The Manor Hotel, Delhi
Chef Manish Mehrotra has put this restaurant and modern Indian cuisine on the gastronomic map. His cooking techniques see traditional food overhauled until it tastes new again. The restaurant has a warm ambiance with excellent food and friendly staff. I had the tasting menu, combining the vegetarian and non-veg menu. The balance of flavours and textures in each dish is simply unlike anything else.
4. Dakshin Park Hotel, Chennai
Dakshin showcases south Indian cuisine in all its glory. The different spices available reflect the tastes local to the states in the south of of the country. The staff are very knowledgeable and helpful; they will point you in the right direction if you are struggling with what to order. The live music is also a nice touch.
5. Masala Library Delhi
Masala Library is all about molecular gastronomy, with food that is presented in such a visual way, it’s flawless and unforgettable. The 19-course meal will fill you like no other. I loved the Masala Library cocktail!
6. Jamavar Leela Palace, Bangalore
Representing a melange of delicious north and south Indian cuisine, Jamavar does beautifully present dishes that reflect a variety of subtle and balanced flavours. The tandoori prawns are delicious. The restaurant has a traditional ornate ambience, with a romantic outdoor seating overlooking the gardens, perfect for late dinner with a partner.
7. Wasabi Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai
The ‘Iron Chef’ shares his passion for fresh, authentic, handmade Japanese tempura, teppanyaki, sushi and I love it! What strikes me the most is the ingredients used: the seafood and Wasabi are specially imported from Japan. The black cod miso, with its deliciously meaty black cod fish, is an excellent match with the sweet miso. It is the cutting edge of contemporary Japanese cuisine, a must try when visiting Mumbai.
8. San Qi at The Four Seasons, Mumbai
The Peking Duck is a good as you get in China, if not better. This split level restaurant serving three different cuisines, features open kitchens is a really swish place. Book a table there and get ready to explore some of the best flavours of Asia all under one roof.
9. Tea House of The August Moon Taj Palace Hotel, Delhi
What I loved the most about this restaurant was the usage of simple ingredients executed like no other. Although it has since been shut down, my experience still lives on in my memory. I am yet to try its replacement, the Blue Ginger.
10. Threesixty Degrees The Oberoi, Delhi
A special mention goes out to my old stomping grounds at the Oberoi Hotels. For those that love to people watch, Threesixty Degrees offers guests a delightful 360 degree view of the exterior nature, fashionable diners and the kitchens. It’s an all-day dining restaurant serving world cuisine and I am very excited for the reopening of the hotel next year, following major renovations.