It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, 1947. On the eve of independence, closer to the stroke of midnight while the world slept, guests at The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai dined on a three-course French menu set to cabaret entertainment at the renowned Shamiana to usher in India’s dawn of independence.
And now, 70 years later, Taj is recreating that momentous occasion at its flagship hotels across India (Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Hyderabad) by recreating the menu that was served that night. Interestingly it was all French fare. Salt to Taste was invited to Encounters at Taj Krishna Hyderabad to sample the present day interpretation of that menu. It was a surreal experience to say the least, to be able to be re-living a moment in time even before my existence.
Food is completely sensorial to me so went through an entire gamut of feelings through those 4 courses – right from incredulousness at the indulgence given the gravitas of that moment, a guilty decadence, to gratitude. Lets start with the soup – Consomme al indienne (cardamom enhanced chicken clear soup). When the beautifully plated orange green and white combination of carrots, French beans and chicken were placed before me and the consommé artfully poured onto the tricolours that disseminated to stay afloat, I couldn’t but think of a parallel universe where displaced millions at that very moment were crossing a line with almost nothing except the fire in their bellies.
Next was Delicacies a l’Hindustan, three flavoured cottage cheese steak with mint chutney. This is a new addition to the original three-course 1947 menu which made no adjustments for plant-eaters. Executive Chef Nitin Mathur has added some vegetarian options to this new menu to make it more egalitarian. Needless to say every dish is executed par excellence by Chef Mathur and his team.
For the main course I chose the Paupiette de saumon joinville (salmon roulade, soft cream mash, wilted spinach, turned vegetables and joinville sauce. Loved the subtle flavours and artistry that went into creating and plating this delate classic dish. As I looked around me at my multinational fellow diners at Encounters, it made me realize how privileged we are today to be enjoying the freedom and equal opportunities that our forefathers sacrificed their lives for.
The Taj played an integral role during India’s independence movement. It was founded as an Indian hotel made for Indians in 1903. You could say it was the first-mover of Make in India, and set a benchmark in services that were the first of its kind for a new nation finding its feet.
Dessert was Vacherin de peches liberation (peach infused apricot sorbet served in meringue semi-domes. Both halves equally appealing, parted yet undivided in their perfect rendering. To be able to re-live a part of history through this vintage menu priced at Rs1947 AI for dinner is indeed the chance of a lifetime. It’s available only till 15th Aug.
I’ve shared the thoughts and associations that came to my mind through these dishes. Who knows what they’ll conjour up for you. I suggest taking along a dear family member or friend who has lived out those years, and let them regale you with their experiences from that era as you relive those memories through your palate. After all, history is all about Encounters, and in this case, the Taj Krishna kind.