A taste of Lucknow was what Chef Abid Qureshi wanted to give to the people in Kolkata. So, he created a menu which would boast of 12 kinds of non-vegetarian biryanis, and 8 kinds of vegetable biryanis, along with some of the most well-known dishes from Lucknow, and so I hopped over to have a taste. The chef had brought an assortment of spices from Lucknow, which he proudly displayed to us before sitting down for a chat.
The event is held in two parts – there’s a set menu for lunch, and a dinner buffet. During the dinner buffet, the guests can listen to live ghazals performed, and there is a considerable range of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies.
Chef Abid Qureshi had specifically come down for this event, and he talked about the different kinds of food on offer. Lucknow has a huge range of good food, and the idea is to showcase some of the more popular ones, including the dishes which take hours of backbreaking work, because of the sheer amount of work they need during the process. Once a very lovely person I know, Rajen Bali, had said to me that in Lucknow you would find something which is rare – people breaking their back to cook one dish, so that it would taste the same year after year. I think that’s one of the most beautiful things that he could have said.
We start with a bowl of nourishing Marag, lamb bones cooked overnight to ensure the marrow melts and mingles with the broth. A chiffonade of cilantro gives it a bit of refreshing piquancy, and its a rather nourishing start to a considerable meal.
The Lal Mirch ka Paneer Tikka was a spicy affair, with a good deal of red chillies and pepper on the outside, and creamy, white paneer within. I liked the coating but it would have been even better if the paneer was softer.
The Sarson Machhi Tikka was a crowd pleaser, with people around me asking for seconds, but somehow I felt the fish had overpowered the dish, and there was a bit too much salt in it for my liking.
But then, the Galawati Kabab made it better – the slight smokiness which laced the meat which broke at the touch of my fork – and had the delicate lacing of allspice and pepper which went rather beautifully with the ulte tawe ke parathe, and I started missing Lucknow with a vengeance.
For our mains, we were served an assortment of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. If I had to pick one, I would pick the Paneer Qasar-e-Pukhtan, with chunks of creamy paneer cooked in a gravy which was spicy, with lashings of tomato, fennel, and mustard. A very robust dish this was, and went rather well with the vegetarian pulao.
Speaking of Pulao, the Aloo Chutney Pulao was a rather nice, if slightly bland for its name. I did love the soft, tiny baby potatoes, which were soft and rather spicy.
The chicken Sham-e-Awadh was, unlike its rather glorious name, soft pieces of chicken cooked in a mild gravy which was quickly demolished with some Warqi Parathas. I have to say, the chef was really good with the breads – I had to have a second, flaky piece, because it was crumbly but not chewy.
But, if I am given the option I would pick the Mutton Korma to be the star here. What I absolutely loved was the clean, precisely cut pieces of mutton shanks which were cooked till they were soft but still held a bit of texture. I might have asked for second and third helpings, mixing the rather rich gravy with some of the Lucknow Dum Biryani.
In Lucknow, generally, the biryani would be coloured with artificial colouring. Here, that wasn’t so. However, out of Lucknow, this is the closest I have come to the flavours of that city’s biryani in the last couple of years, and the mutton was cooked till it was ridiculously soft, and had that melt-in-your-mouth quality which is so elusive nowadays. I would happily return for this – over and over again.
For dessert, we had some Lauki Ka Kheer, which wasn’t overly sweet, and had the crunch from the almond slivers on top which added a lovely textural difference. The Luckn0w-e-Lazzat festival would be continuing till the 24th of this month, so head over to Novotel for a rather decadent dinner or lunch. The dinner buffet is priced at INR 2150/- plus tax, and there is an a-la-carte menu available for lunch at a special price.
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee dined at Novotel at the kind invitation of the management.