Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Small Mosque at Qutb Complex entrance
IWFS Delhi Agra Jaipur Day Three - Wednesday 1st March 2017

Another up and at 'em early off to try and beat the traffic (Ha! No chance. Ever.) This would be an hour plus on the bus to visit a place called the Red Fort, which apparently was home to the Mughal emperor from 1648 to 1857. The IWFS Blurb said "This fascinating red sandstone structure is home to many museums and provides much to explore."

Didn't go there. Can't recall how or why but something got changed along the way and we ended up at something called the Qutb complex. I think perhaps someone noticed we would be doing a different Red Fort further along the tour and figured one would be enough. Indeed. 

Alas, we did not get our front seats this time and we settled a few rows back. The Universe had determined that Joyless and Dippy would be on the same bus and as Joyless passed she decided to give me a piece of her mind for my apparent harsh words on the day before urging her to get on the bus so we could all go for lunch. "Wozz it yoo 'oo spoke to me yesterday? Down't yoo ever speak to me loike that again or Oi'll give you a roight telling orf, Oi will!" said she in her best Sarf Lahndun accent.  I half remember getting up and moving into her face space and firmly telling her to sit down, though I may be wrong. Whatever, we seemed to keep out of each other's ways for most of the rest of the trip (with one exception that left me mentally scarred for life). No bad thing. Strange piece of work, this one. My guess is she is ranting at the world for it not being fair and giving her what she feels she deserves and making everyone's life around her a misery as a result. Why can't the world conform as to how I want it? Why do I always have to scold my husband for him not being able to look after himself? O Lord why you make me bear such a burden? Me me me me me me me.  Dear Christ let me not end up like this...  nor like Dippy… 

Ornate stonework on columns
Not sure if I have said much about the IWFS people. In general terms, they (well, okay, we) have all sufficiently "made it" in their respective fields and have made a conscious decision to enjoy the best that this globe has to offer before the mortal coil gets shuffled off. Which means to indulge all travel and taste urges, and to engage all sensory and gustatory impulses along the way. We are pretty sure we only go round the lifecycle once and we had better make the most of it if we have the means to. We are a pretty outgoing and grateful bunch of souls, mostly recognising the great privilege and fortune to have accumulated enough means to satisfy the wanderlust and to be able to afford a decent table of food and wine with friends. We like the idea of getting gastronomically jiggy with like minded foodies and bibbers, and much enjoy the craiche of getting together to taste and sup the good to very good stuff. The tongue and the belly and the engagement of the senses by concoctions of food ingredients as paired with various styles and combinations of fermented grape varietals - sounds a bit technical and scientific for what is essentially a sit down at the table with (mostly) good humoured people and sharing experiences through decent conversation over a glass and plate of something tasty. Some great friendships get created at our Branch level, though I have yet to see too many at the International level. Reminds me of cruises and bus tours - friendly for the duration and warmer when you become a two and three timer, but not really enough to create a long term outside of it. I suppose it is Club Country; if you can afford to maintain the membership, the weather will always be fair and you will be welcomed as a friend. Fall on hard times and we'll have to see how it goes… different type of jungle, but still jungle. My take - enjoy it while it lasts cos it might all end tomorrow. And if it does, then pick yourself up and, as Churchill used to say, "keep buggering on". 

Smile please!!
The road took us back toward town and slowly grinding through more dust and incessant noise and then a U turn back and a lurch to the left and quite quickly we seemed to arrive at the place. I seem to recall lots of cows sat under overpasses and traffic all merging with impossibly narrow margins of clearance but somehow avoiding contact throughout. The bus parked up and we disembarked into a surprisingly cool area of trees and greenery toward a meeting point where we would divvy ourselves into groups around a leader before going off in different directions to avoid congesting the various sights on the grounds.  

Seeking enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. Ommmm......
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Wikipedia says the Qutb complex "is a collection of monuments and buildings from the Delhi Sultanate at Mehrauli in Delhi in India, which were built on the ruins of Lal Kot, which consisted of 27 Hindu and Jain temples (built by Anangpal, the Tomar ruler, in 739 CE) and Qila-Rai-Pithora (Prithviraj Chauhan's city, whom Muhammad Ghori's Afghan armies had earlier defeated and killed in the Second Battle of Tarain)."  There are two main attractions: the Qutub Minar in the complex (named after Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki); and the Qubbat-ul-Islam Mosque (Dome of Islam) which stands next to the Qutb Minar.

The Qutub Minar. Big Tower. And trees
The Minar was built by Qutb-ud-din Aibak (later to become the first Sultan of Delhi of the Mamluk dynasty) and was added to by his successor (Iltutmish, a.k.a. Altamash) and again by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, a Sultan of Delhi from the Tughlaq dynasty in 1368 AD. Indeed, many subsequent rulers (including the British) added structures to the complex. Other structures in the complex include the Alai Gate, the Alai Minar, the Iron pillar, the ruins of several earlier Jain temples, and the tombs of Iltutmish, Alauddin Khalji and Imam Zamin.

Today, the adjoining area spread over with a host of old monuments, including Balban's tomb, has been developed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, and INTACH has restored some 40 monuments in the Park. It is also the venue of the annual 'Qutub Festival', held in November–December, where artists, musicians and dancers perform over three days. The Qutb Minar complex, which drew 3.9 million visitors in 2006, was India's most visited monument that year, ahead of the Taj Mahal (with 2.5 million visitors).
(source: Wikipedia)

Our guide proved hugely knowledgeable and engaging and made for a most enjoyable morning wander around the very photogenic ruins. Can't remember much of what he said, but it was energetic and enthusiastic. 

Very pleasant walking through the ruins and trees
We all ended up sat under a massive Bodhi tree waiting for further instruction and got advised where the toilets were. Quite enlightening. 

Welcome to Bukhara!
Then it was back on the bus and off to lunch at a place called Bukhara. The schedule said that we were "so very lucky to have been given access to the iconic Bukhara restaurant. Bukhara has earned worldwide acclaim, appearing on Asia’s Top 50 restaurants list. Now in its 35th year of operation, this restaurant’s expertise in tandoori cooking, includes signature dishes such as Dal Bukhara, Sikandri Raan, Murgh Malai Kebabs, Tandoori Jhinga and the popular Naan Bukhara at almost 4 feet diameter!"

Four feet was also about half the width of the place, and we crowded down onto small tables which quickly got filled with magnificent breads and curries. There was a glass partition which divided us from the kitchen and the ambience reminded a bit Bier Keller for some reason - warm and cosy. We were attired with bibs to save our shirts against the drips. And to a bread lover like me it was wonderful - dipping the garlic naan into various bowls and sucking it down with some crisp cold fizzy wine - finestkind. 

The main dining area filled up quickly with the result that there was no seating for Joyless and Dippy. On a trip to the washroom, I saw them sat alone together eating bits of bread and curry by themselves. Presumably this would be seen as further reinforcement that the universe had it in for them. Quite sad.

Inside the Bukhara -  a bit "cosy" on the small tables
The food came out in three rounds, though bread and naan seemed to be available for all. Again, the tastes are now in the mists of memory, but they were very good. The hot garlic naan straight out of the oven was belter. Well worth a visit should you be in the area. Got a few photos, but a bit too cramped to get many good ones.

The wines were  being supplied by the Grover Zampa Vineyards (www.groverzampa.in). Grover Zampa formed as the result of a merger between Grover Vineyards and VallĂ©e de Vin and is one of the more visible brands emanating from India. Much seductive and romantic language is employed in describing the processes of production, though some hard facts (limited yields, daily scrutiny, use of up-to-date viticulture and winemaking techniques) do peep through. Michel Rolland adds gravitas through consultancy. And having dual locations (Nandi Hills in Karnataka and the Nashik Valley in Maharashtra) ensures a range of wines that Grover Zampa seek to endeavour "to let connoisseurs and wine enthusiasts embark on a journey of senses through not only offering them the world-class wines but also enhancing the wine’s blissful experience through wine tourism and wine education."

Grover Zampa Collection
Some more: "We, at Grover Zampa Vineyards, believe that a wine should bring out the most faithful expression of its grape varietal and terroir. The respect of the soil and the climate where the vines are grown makes the excellence of the production. To reach this high quality, the essence of grapes is captured carefully through international techniques and practices reliably brought to India."

As said, the white fizz was wonderfully crisp and tamed the heat of the curries excellently. Memo to self - must try some fizz back in KL with some curry. The Rose did similar service. Not much memory of the Viogner nor the reds - have to see if they are available here in KL and have a second go. 

Got a memory of Dave Felton getting a Birthday cake and me leading the Happy Birthday song. Then it was back on the bus for another grinding drive back to the hotel. 

Happy Birthday Dave!
The evening was to be a free one, where the schedule suggested "to spend at your leisure, either visit one of Delhi’s exquisite restaurants or relax and unwind." We opted to chill and take a bath in the magnificent Leela suite followed by a leisurely packing of the cases. It would be a long bus ride to Agra on the morn and we figured better to try and face it with as decent a sleep as possible. Which, as I recall, happened. Half remember polishing off some of the pack sandwiches and water we had souvenired from the bus. Which would have been delightful for its simplicity and in wonderful contrast to the battering we were getting at lunch and dinner. Sometimes all you need is white bread and water. Perfecto. 

More ruins at the Qutb
The grounds at Qutb Complex
Table friends at Bukhara
Kissy kissy...

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