I am no alien to kitchen gardens. They have been a perennial part of my hotel and
I am no alien to kitchen gardens. They have been a perennial part of my hotel andhomestay visits. Sometimes, they end where they begin (gimmick alert) and, at other times, like during my March 2017 visit to The Goat Village, they never seem to end. They beautify a property and are an absolute joy to saunter and smell. (Ah, the lemony scents of the herb garden at Spice Village, Thekkady, still linger in my nostrils.)
The 5,000 sq ft kitchen garden at Pullman New Delhi Aerocity Hotel, however, stands out for an entirely different reason—it is neither the largest I have seen, nor the prettiest, but it is incredibly diverse and well designed. In the Aerocity potpourri of business hotels, where everything is boxy and 50 shades of pale, this is the Garden of Eden. Find here five kinds of lettuce, plenty of edible flowers, chillies, bell pepper, cauliflower, herbs such as oregano and ajwain, lemon, and even pomegranate. And that is barely shovelling the surface. The chefs tell me it is more than enough for their kitchens, which isn’t surprising.
One of those kitchens happens to be that of Pluck—a restaurant known for its modern and unique European and Indian fare. Here, food is innovative and relies a lot on the chemical-free garden produce—call it a five-star-interpretation of a ‘farm-to-fork’, if you may. But, more so, I dined here at a time when a new chef, Shyam Dhar Rai, had come on board and rejigged the menu with his own signatures. Thus went my tasting:
I was admiring the giant petal-shaped light installations (after figuring out what they were) that hung from the ceiling, and the eclectic-yet-classy interior, when a waiter tugged at my shoulder and said, “sir, lobster bisque.” I knew was bisques were (shellfish soups), but had I not, I would be wondering, “but where’s the lobster?” Answer: in chunks inside a scoop of Chantilly cream, placed in the bowl. Also, in the soup’s flavour. Also, in the orange-coloured butter to-die-for, served alongside. I did not even spare a drop.
After what was surely the best soup I had tasted in my life, came the ‘texture of amaranth’, essentially a green salad in yuzu and ginger dressings. ‘Texture’ was the keyword; after all, one could savour three textures in the same dish—fried, crispy and boiled. Though this became an idea-trumps-execution matter, and too sour for my liking, it turned out to be a good salad day.
Next I had the curry leaf podi dusted braised lamb. I am not a fan of anything braised—and neither did this dish convert me—but it was a flavour riot. Maybe that was because of the nihari jus, or the right spices, or the accompanying salad (with ingredients ‘plucked’ from the kitchen garden).
At this point, I put my vegetarianism on hold and took a bite of the sepu vadi, which is Chef Shyam’s home recipe. Made with black gram flour and served with salsa and couscous upma, it had a fine texture, but a finer taste.
And, finally, came the ‘pliable chocolate’ and the mushroom meringue. In terms of taste, the latter, with its welcome mushroom twist, matched the former’s clayey dark-chocolate goodness. But since I could not decide which one was better—both were.
For Pluck, however, the verdict was clear: it is a breath of fresh, kitchen garden, air.
Where: Pullman New Delhi Aerocity Hotel, Asset No 2, Aerocity Hospitality District, IGI Airport, New Delhi
Pocket pinch: Rs. 4,000 for two (without alcohol and taxes)
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