Here we were, seated inside a conference room that seemed straight out of the early 1900s, listening to the Palace Chef tell us about the Princess’ penchant for very high standards when it came to the food she ate and served her guests. We wondered if we were in a dream as tales of mouth watering recipes sourced from old farsi journals were served to us by Executive Chef Arun Sundaraj from the Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad. He has had endless consultations with the Princess, trawled homes in the old city, and done lots more to reference the historic flavours of Hyderabadi Royal kitchens. The culmination of all of this was a delicious repertoire that we were about to experience. Just as he was telling us about how Hyderabadi people take their time for everything especially food, he caught us glancing at our watches. Obviously seeing our earnestness to begin, he retreated to his kitchen, from where he would take us on a journey into a royal past.
Adaa, Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad
So with great expectations, we tried to walk in a slow dignified manner (while trying hard to disguise the skip in our step) towards the Gol Bungalow, a small arrangement of the most private tables at Adaa on a balcony overlooking the entire city. We were ushered in past a circular foyer at the centre of which sat a marble fountain. The entire verandah was bathed in a beautiful purple hue from the gold and blue lights, allowing the Versace tableware to sparkle in the same colours.
We had already enjoyed the chef’s signature Jasmine Martini and a Smoked Berry Mojito that were among the most well made cocktails we’ve had in India. So when the sommelier asked if we’d let him have a free hand at pairing each course with a wine for us, we readily agreed. (Now when you see the fuzzy pictures towards the end, blame the sommelier.)
We started with a Rose Champagne to accompany the most amusing amuse-bouche we’ve eaten. The Dahi ke Kebab (Kebabs made from curd) looked yellow with turmeric but these morsels of hung curd, cottage cheese and roasted cashew nut echoed with the sweetness of cardamom that began a long serenade to our taste buds.
Up next was a Reisling to go with a terrific trio of pre plated starters. First up – Patthar ka Ghosht, an authentic Hyderabadi lamb creation that takes 48 hours to marinate with mint brown onion mace and turmeric and kebab chini. We could inhale the smoked flavour of its cooking over the granite and were lost between just inhaling the aromas or eating it. The Shikanpuri was more like a Shammi Kebab with more lamb and less dal, so it’s soft to cut through. They also serve a Zimikand Shikanpuri made with Elephant yam as the vegetarian option, which is rumoured to look just like the non vegetarian distant cousin thanks to browned onions. The Sunehri Jhinga shrimp with til chutney and a small quenelle of pineapple and star anise murabba (relish) wasn’t very Hyderabadi, but so delicious that even Charles, who hates anything sweet or fruity with savory courses, enjoyed it.
We were looking forward to the Haleem with a bit of trepidation. It has a notorious reputation for being a heart attack on a plate, and while we’ve enjoyed several ones before, it leaves you feeling disgusted with your gluttony. Here, the Haleem was not overloaded with ghee (clarified butter), but still rich and divine.
The tamarind sorbet was a most refreshing palate cleanser (even for someone like me who doesn’t normally enjoy Indian flavoured sorbets) but the real stunner was the ceramic Faberge style egg it was served in.
The mains, understandably weren’t pre plated, so they arrived in gleaming vessels piping hot, straight off the fire. The Dum ka Murgh sang with its 20 ingredients, rendered soft by the sous vide cooking. What followed were equally delicious Dum ki Nalli ka Ghosht, Onion Kulchas, Pudina Parathas, Dakhn i Ratn (Lobster in tomato) and then the piece de resistance that Charles had been saving his appetite for – the Ghosht ka Biryani. One of the 23 recipes Chef Arun had managed to source from that ancient Farsi recipe journal. It was everything we expected and more.
The dessert wasn’t really my cup of tea, but Charles who enjoys his Indian sweets wouldn’t stop gushing about it. A tasting plate of rich and rather sweet traditional sweets were quietly cleaned up by him.
As we do after any chef’s tasting meal, we staggered out of the Gol Bungalow, our taste buds tingling for more, our bellies protesting in fear. Thankfully our room was a bit of a walk away, and a midnight stroll through the palace gardens was just what the doctor ordered.The Chef’s Tasting Menu is a prix fixée feast (only for dinner) at Adaa, Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad. This post was made possible by the lovely people at the Taj Falaknuma Palace but the views as always are our own.