Some cuisines reflect the days of the royals, some reflect the tastes of today, some are blended to match the past with the present
There’s something about the word royalty—the tales of princes, princess, elephants, gold, weaves, lavish palaces, exciting forts, armours and armoury, lots of revelry, dance, music, food–that makes you tingle. We didn’t find any armoury at Fairmont, Jaipur, but we did find lots of royal elements and food. And royal food—fit for the king and his army who liked to eat, drink and be merry, and really eat.
Rose petals showered as we entered, Rajasthani drums beat, tilak on our forehead, we walked through the Mughal-style courtyard. Sounds of santoor followed us as we walked into a lovely reception cum lobby area. A glass of champagne in our hands, we observed, and absorbed in the opulence of Fairmont. The architecture is an inspiration from the Amer Fort and the Mughal forts. But now it’s blended in to suit the global traveler. With all its colour, ambience and space, Fairmont has become a favourite wedding destination.
But we were invited for Zarin, though our food journey began at Zoya. That’s not a woman we met, it’s where we had our lunch. The menu had specially been crafted for our group and I would have given it the best presentation award, if it was being judged. The portions were just right, and the preparations wonderful. The one dish that I really liked was the Roasted Beetroot, aged balsamic, goat cheese salad with orange and extra virgin olive oil. And the tomato and cilantro consommé was what the tired bones needed. We had taken the six o’ clock shatabdi from Delhi, so this was a really good lunch. And we had it on the porch of the restaurant, near the pigeons and the water body.
Chef Manpreet Singh Malik is a soft-spoken chef who has been living in Jaipur for the last three years. His journey as a Chef began in 2000 and since then he has worked in leading hotel chains from England to Bangkok. At Zoya there are many cuisines but at Zarin, it’s the flavors of Persia. That’s where our royal journey landed for dinner after a short break after lunch and some drinks at the rooftop around sunset.
The Chef explained that he worked through many recipes before setting the menu for Zarin. Rajasthani food is aplenty in Jaipur, but Zarin is an attempt to recreate the royal era from another land in Jaipur. The décor is beautiful and the cutlery one of the most expensive, shines almost like gold. Even the menu comes on a crafted silver plate, adding to the glitz of Persia.
Right in the centre of the restaurant is the Emperor’s table. Here there is a fixed price per person, a seven-course meal and it needs to be reserved in advance.
So our Persian journey began with Sheesh kebab. These were soft delicacies made of chicken, olive oil, tomatoes and saffron. The Persians liked to eat, so if you prefer smaller quantities, then its best to try lesser dishes. Though most of the spices are bought locally, some do come outside, explained Chef Manpreet.
It was interesting to get a taste of Mahi Zameen doz which is fish in a desert state. The names of the dishes are catchy as well—Tabriz Koftey, Nadru ki Gullar, Kasare Pukhtan, Dal Adas. Nadru ki gullar is actually lotus stem which is minced, friend and mixed with paneer. It tasted really good. Dal Adas is certainly a must try too. Another interesting dish was the Iranian Haleem.
But my favourite was the firtri naan which is made of fennel, magaz, sugar, cream and yoghurt. Some might enjoy the Sheermal and naan-e-tanaq also which is made of sugar, cream, cashew paste and chironji. But the piece-de-resistance, atta raan, came at the end as it takes almost two hours to cook it. This is raan or thigh stuffed with spices, marinated for a few hours, cooked a bit and then wrapped in a fat layer of atta and put in tandoor for two hours. Its an art to cut it open.