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


Lenglui getting topped up from the Jeroboam. Yum. 

8.45am Assemble in the hotel lobby 9.00am Depart by coach
"We will enjoy a lovely morning of sightseeing of some of Delhi’s amazing architecture, including India Gate and Rashtrapati Bhavan. After a busy morning soaking in the sights, we will be rewarded with an Asian-themed lunch at the beautiful Pullman Hotel, followed by a very special wine masterclass.
Dress: Casual"

Up fairly early for the ablutions and down in the lift and a grand stroll across the grand reception to the breakfast section where we stole a newspaper and got seated to coffee and buffet. Lots of fresh fruit and pretty much all Indian cuisine; thosai, chapati, different sauces and all very filling. The buffet was surprisingly full notwithstanding the expense and the out of town location; must be some reason to stay here - proximity to the airport? Probably. But seemed a bit odd nonetheless. 

It had been somewhere emphasised that we were on very strict time allocations for our visits to the various locations, presumably because of anticipated massive traffic and parking difficulties. Lenglui and I normally clear everything from the room and head straight from breakfast to wherever we are supposed to be rather than go back up to the room for the bags. We find it saves a lot of time - can take ten minutes going up and down when everyone else is fighting to do the same thing. We parked ourselves on chairs waiting for instruction as the members ambled into position to charge the door and secure the best seats on the bus. The off was duly given and off everyone charged. 

From where we were seated, we could see two buses and everyone for some reason went charging for the front bus. Lenglui decided to ask the as yet untouched second bus if it was IWFS to which a positive response was given and we duly took the seats behind the driver where we had a pleasant couple of silent minutes before the hordes realised the same and started clambering aboard. We would also get excellent views through the front window. We were able to greet everyone boarding with a cheery "Good morning" to which we generally got pleasant responses (though I did detect an occasional "how the @#$% did they get that seat?" eye flash). Our table guests from the previous evening would be honouring our bus with their presence and, having got on, decided to get back off to retrieve something from their room. Remember what I said about ten minutes? This was twenty. The other bus had decided to take off by the time (what shall we call them…) Joyless and Dippy returned. He had a bandage on his arm and she was muttering something about "why didn't you bring your medication, make me go all back up to the room and me not feeling well neither" in an irritating Sarf Lahndon whining accent. The bus kept a dignified silence as they re-seated themselves. If someone is ill, then fine - no one wishes anyone anything but a fast recovery. But forgetting the meds, then spending time debating whether to get them, then finally deciding to and then making us all wait as a result with (as I recall) little in the way of apology is suggestive of ill manners and breeding. I could sense that somehow they and I would not be friends. You know sometimes you get a premonition that you will somehow get engaged by the nutter on the bus? I had one of those here, a sneaking suspicion which would ultimately be proven correct later in the day. A few more grumbles and the bus was off. 

My main memory of the drive into New Delhi was noise. Incessant blaring of horns and buzzers and other attention seeking sounds ripping the air. It was brain numbing. Equally, the dust being thrown up by the huge amount of cars, bikes, wagons and buses slowly barging their ways through the bottlenecks was equally numbing to the eyes; like a red mist swirling everywhere, and somehow heightening the glare of the unyielding sun on everything. It somehow sucked the life out of the eyes, wearing them down into teary submission. Sunglasses were an absolute necessity. Ear plugs would have helped. 

India Gate
And slow. Lot of stop and start. I guess if you live here and have to deal with it on a daily basis then you will acclimatize and fall in with it. But the concentration needed to negotiate the merges and the cut ins and the slowboys - as a passenger it was draining. I decided to close my eyes to it and tried to focus on reading up on Delhi. I find the Insight Guides quite readable and informative and this was my companion for the trip (though which has now somehow disappeared). 

We drove straight through to Delhi centre where we got dropped off at the India Gate. We did have a guide who gave us some of the history of the Gate whilst everyone took off in various directions to get photos or get accosted by trinket sellers. There is a vast amount of space here - pretty flat in all directions and not much respite from the sun and heat. And the trinket sellers were relentless - all absolutely intent on making a sale because, basically, you got a sense that they had to - it really felt like life and death. The poverty is immense. And, if you allow it to be so, depressing. Yet, on the same visit was a group of schoolchildren all in freshly pressed uniforms and hugely happy to be there with teachers. 

I recall sitting on my seat stick and watching this little chunk of the world and really getting a sense of the harsh reality of daily life for some people. No joke to be wholly reliant on selling postcards or guidebooks to make a rupee or two. By the dear Christ are we blessed to be born into our Western states and to have enjoyed our educations and upbringings. Someone said that the gap between the wealthy and the poor in India is vast - but I never imagined it to be the absolute and massive gulf that became evident everywhere in this town. I seem to remember lots of dogs lolling around and flopping themselves wherever felt comfortable. They all looked better fed than some of the trinket sellers. Odd paradox…

School Trip to India Gate
Back on the bus to the continued haggling of one or two trinket men and cold water hawkers and off to lunch. Given the early departure of the bus from the hotel, the organisers had arranged for cold bottles of water and some sandwiches and cake in a packed box in case anyone had been too late for breakfast. These proved a good snack for those in need of needing to exercise the mouth. They would also prove useful giveaways at traffic lights along the road, where entire families would come to the windows putting their hands to their mouth in a clear indication of asking to be fed. Dave Felton in the front seat took the lead and passing his package to the driver to hand through his window to the young boys and girls. Myself and the Lenglui followed suit as did some of the others behind - both water and food got passed out. I remember seeing one boy clutching a food box to his chest with a slightly desperate and confused look in his eye, as if both happy to get food and angry that he had to put up with this shit every day. Total survival. Jesus…

Steps up to Rashtrapati Bhavan
Next on the tour was the Rashtrapati Bhavan, a twenty minute crawl across town. All of the below detail is pretty much lifted verbatim from Wikipedia. 

The Rashtrapati Bhavan is the official home of the president located at the Western end of Rajpath in New Delhi, India. Previously known as the "Viceroy's House", it comprises a 340 room mansion and an estate housing huge presidential gardens (Mughal Gardens), large open spaces, residences of bodyguards and staff, stables, other offices and utilities within its perimeter walls. In terms of area, it is one of the largest residences of a head of state in the world.

The British architect Edwin Landseer Lutyens was given the primary architectural responsibility. The design of the building fell into the time period of the Edwardian Baroque, a time at which emphasis was placed on the use of heavy classical motifs in order to emphasise power and imperial authority. Lutyens' design is grandly classical overall, with colors and details inspired by Indian architecture. Consisting of four floors and 340 rooms, with a floor area of 200,000 square feet (19,000 m2), it was built using 1 billion bricks and 3,000,000 cu ft (85,000 m3) of stone with little steel. Water features are present throughout the mansion, such as near the Viceroy's stairs, which has eight marble lion statues spilling water into six basins. These lions were symbolic of the heraldry of Great Britain. There is also an open area in one room to the sky, which lets in much of the natural light.

Rashtrapati Bhavan has many halls which are used for state functions and other purposes. Two of them, Durbar Hall and Ashoka Hall, are the most prominent.

Durbar Hall is situated directly under the double-dome of the main building. Known as the “Throne Room” before independence, it had two separate thrones for the Viceroy and Vicereine. Durbar Hall has a capacity of 500 people and it is here in this building that Jawahar Lal Nehru took the oath of office of Prime Minister of Independent India from Lord Mountbatten at 8.30 am on 15 August 1947.

View from Rashtrapati Bhavan steps
Water features are present throughout the mansion, such as near the Viceroy's stairs, which has eight marble lion statues spilling water into six basins. These lions were symbolic of the heraldry of Great Britain. There is also an open area in one room to the sky, which lets in much of the natural light.

The Mughal Gardens are situated at the back of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, which incorporate both Mughal and English landscaping styles and feature a great variety of flowers. Open to the public in February every year, there are three - The Main Garden, the Terrace Garden and the Long (or "Purdha") Garden which was the one we all trooped through. Enclosed in walls about 12 feet high, this is predominantly a rose garden. with 16 square rose bed encased in low hedges.  It runs along on each side of the central pavement which goes to the circular garden. There is a red sandstone pergola in the centre over the central pavement which is covered with Rose creepers, Petrea, Bougainvillea and Grape Vines. The walls are covered with creepers like Jasmine, Rhyncospermum, Tecoma Grandiflora, Bignonia Vanista, Adenoclyma, Echitice, Parana Paniculata. Along the walls are planted the China Orange trees.

The buses pulled up at the main entrance which was a wide expanse of steps lined with plants which into the main building. We clambered off the bus and after the group photo on the stairs got herded to a guardhouse where we were required to leave all bags and cameras and phones - "not one photo can be taken" was the instruction given many times by the lady at the desk as it would have got picked up by the door scan we had to walk through. There was also the issue of getting everyone photographed for security - to have done it individually would have taken us past lunchtime. someone had the idea to bunch together and do a group photo to satisfy security, which we did.  

The building was wonderfully cool in the shade. Seems Luytens had designed it so that the light of the sun would be let in but not the heat, and thus the walls retained the chill of the night throughout the day. Dam smart. The halls were big and there were lots of stairs everywhere, much to the dismay of many of the members' knees. But they membered up and took it all. Not sure if it is a working building, but it certainly felt museum like - all displays and well looked after. Think someone snuck a few photos. 

And then it was out into the splendid gardens. It was pretty in the morning to midday sun. And massively crowded with locals come to (grrrr!!!) take photos and selfies - how was it they had no confiscation of cameras and us foreigners got the short end of the shaft? At least the toilets were free and clean. And cool. 

Back out through what felt like a tradesman's exit to the wide expanse of the courtyard where the buses were waiting to take us to a well deserved lunch after all the garden walking. This was where I got into verbals with Joyless. Context - we were all on the bus ready to drive when our friend decides it is the perfect time to climb off and get into a major complaint with the tour organiser about how it had been the "worst ever" organised tour she had ever been on. After five minutes of her whingeing with no end in prospect, and little in the apparent way of consideration for everyone waiting on the bus, I leaned out of the bus door and in what I thought was a reasonable though firm tone of voice asked can we please discuss this back at the hotel rather than continue it here with the delay that to do so would have entailed? I think there might have been a second entreaty - I can't recall if our friend wanted to continue the whinge - but I seem to recall using an impatient tone with her as she started to engage ME about this being the worst tour she had ever been on. Ultimately it did wind up and everyone got on the bus. Joyless grumbled about not feeling well as she stumbled past me - I responded that we were also sorry she was not feeling well, but to please consider other people at a place where complaints could be better resolved.

I seemed to have hit a nerve, because a few members later came up and privately applauded what I had done - they were clearly also feeling a degree of inconsideration on the part of our friend. You got the sense that she was tolerated rather than liked. There you go - everyone is different, eh? Some people just have to whinge and air their opinion. Bit like me with this blog, I suppose...

Pluck Restaurant, Pullman Hotel, New Delhi Aerocity
Our lunch was to be at the Honk Asian Restaurant in the Pullman Hotel, part of the New Delhi Aerocity adjoining the airport. I had previously been advised to try the Pluck, also in the Pullman, but somehow did not get around to doing it. We got off the bus at the Hotel entrance and got herded via the necessary toilet to a beautifully decorated and lit entrance where some nice people were waiting with bubbling glasses of Drappier fizz. Perfecto. We plonked ourselves down on the nearest available seats and got joined by Lydia and David who proved delightful company. Lydia is a whirlwind of a lady from Oz who had teamed up with the more traditionally British David and they clearly sparked with each other - opposites enjoying the opposites. Great fun lunch with these two. 

Yvonne with hunky men
Lunch would be buffet style and a wide range of delicious tasting nibbles and bites, and each representing either Japan, China, Thailand, or India. Most people homed in on the Sushi and Dimsum whilst we went straight for the Char Siew Pork. With four main cuisine styles, it naturally ends up a bit Rojak ("mixed") which was what happened here. But the emphasis of this lunch seemed to be on the jolly rather than the standard of the cuisine and, once the wine got flowing, it all came together. All the wines were of local descent from the House of York - a light and crispy cuvee, a fair thirst quenching Sauvignon and a medium throat ripper of a Cab Shiraz. High tannic and mid to low fruit needing time and maybe a softer blender - might go well with a blowsy Merlot. 

I stayed with the white. 

Buffet spread at the Honk
The schedule talked about a wine masterclass, though I have no memory. There are photos of presumably speeches of welcome and thanks to the generous sponsors of the booze, and there was a brief talk about York Wine by winemaker Kailash Gurnani. 

I guess the place was chosen for its cool ambience and ability to take the numbers. Service was friendly and excellent, glassware was very good, seemed to be enough food and wine for everyone - job well done. Think we finished up around three in the afternoon and ambled back to the bus for a twenty minute crawl back to the Leela. Can't remember much about the rest of the afternoon - think we took a bath and slept. 

More cheers!!
The Cantonese cuisine at Honk Asian Restaurant
Lunch at Honk Asian Restaurant, Pullman Hotel, New Delhi Airport
Welcome - Drappier Carte D'Or
Wines - York Cuvee Brut Blanc de Blanc, York Sauvignon Blanc 2016, York Arros Cab/Shiraz 2015

Namaste at the Honk
World of Sushi
Asparagus Tempura, Mayo, Honk Sushi Sauce
Cucumber, Tenuki, Yuzu Mayo, Honk Sushi Sauce
Avocado Nigiri with Wasabi, Gari, Tamari Dip
California Carb Roll, Avocado, Cucumber, Tobiko Mayo
Salmon, Crispy Panko, Spicy Mayo
Salmon Nigiri with with Wasabi, Gari, Tamari Dip

House of Dimsum
Crystal Vegetables
White Truffle Mushroom Dumpling
Broccoli Sesame
Chicken and Chives
Jade Prawn Har Gow "perfume de Hen"
spicy Hot Curry Chicken

From The Robatayaki
Zucchini Bocconcini
Chicken Tsukane
Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce
Char Siu Pork

Tom Yum Soup with Soya and Chili Vinegar

Salad Station
Som Tam (Thai Green Papaya Salad)
Asian Thai Vegetables Greens, Avocado, Sweet Sesame
Kimchi Salad, Sweet Chili Dressing

Main Course
Ma Po Tofu, Braised Shiitake, Aged Shili Paste, Scallions
Stir Fried Pok Choi and Braised Shiitake
Fragrant Chicken with Garlic and Green Chili
Crispy Fish, Nam Prik Sauce, Sesame Greens
Bangkok Street Cart Basil Rice
Huse's Own Vegetable Hakka Noodles

Baked Yoghurt
Trio of Ice Cream (Mango Cardamom, Ginger, Lemon and Thai Chili)
Spiced Ginger Cake
Opera Pastry
Jasmine Creme Brulee
Ginger Medallion
Honey Streusel

Ready for the off...
Gala Dinner in the Banquet Room at Leela Gurgaeon
7.30pm Pre-dinner drinks commence 8.15pm Dinner will be served
"For our stunning gala dinner, we will be served a five-course dinner prepared by “Triple A” chefs; Abhishek Gupta, recently trained under Michelin star chef RenĂ© Redzepi at Noma, the world’s most highly acclaimed restaurant, Amit Wadhera, a well-seasoned and experienced chef in multi cuisines, and Anurag Barthwal, a specialist in contemporary Indian and Western desserts. These three speciality chefs are all set to bring magic to your table. And all these dishes will be perfectly paired some very special wines indeed.
Dress: Black tie / National costume"

As said elsewhere, the notes made got lost somewhere at the Oberoi in Agra so the photos will have to do. A year later writing this and all memory of the taste has gone. Though I must say it seemed a bit bizarre to be having these amazing Burgundies in Magnum and Jeroboam with Western food in a high end Indian Hotel restaurant. Which was magnificent in its ambience and opulence, all purples and reds and oranges and long walkways with statues hidden and mysteries secreted. Got a memory of the Chef being specially invited by Festival Organiser and serious gourmand Rajiv Kehr and flown in to cook for everyone - again, the name had disappeared though a search for Leela IWFS unearthed the name Chef Didier Denis. If I had looked in the programme it would have saved some search time. 

Lobster with Foie Gras
There were lots of speeches, and a gushing of compliments and superlatives about the food and the wines and the organisation from Yvonne to Rajiv - a good connection between Delhi and the APZ clearly forged. And Lenglui looked stunning.

Some good fun people on the table, though one of them was about to get an immigration shock and spend much of the second next night awake and not in a hotel bed. 

Tuna Carpaccio
Beetroot and Passion fruit Macron

Lobster with Foie Gras in a pan
Grilled Sesame, Chicken Flavour, Baby Vegetables, Tonka Beans
Pascal Prunier Bonheur Auxey Duresses VV 2011 en magnum

Risotto Acquarello with ham of Parma and peas
Roasted Scallops, Melanusporum Truffles, Parmesan Cheese
Marques D'Agnerville Volnay,Clos Des Ducs, Monopole Premier Cru 2011
Bouchard Volnay Santenots 1er Cru Cuvee, Jenah de Massol 2014 Jeroboam
Lenglui and White Roses

Fillet of Lamb in a Gingerbread Crust
Spiced Jus
Meo Camuzet Vosne Romanee Aux Brulees, Premier Cru 2007 en Magnum
Gerard Mugneret Vosne Romanee Aux Brulees Premier Cru 2012

Cheese of Burgundy
Epoisses, Delice de Pommard, Abbaye de Citeaux, comte, Fromage de Chevre
Clos Des Lambrays Grand Cru 2011 En Jeroboam
Chateau de la Tour Grand Cru Clos Vougeot 2014

Chocolate Guayaquil volcano
Gelato Anis de Flavigny, Madeleine with almonds, Caramel

There was an invite from the organising committee to join them for an after party with Remy Martin XO Fine Champagne Cognac at the Orbis Club in the Hotel. We didn't. Tomorrow would be another long day. Sleep gets important. As does the ability to wake up with some modicum of zip in the body. Good night Delhi...

Tuna Carpaccio, Beetroot and Passion Fruit Macron
Risotto Aquarello, looks amazing... must have tasted good, hor?
Fillet of Lamb in Gingerbread Crust
Chocolate Guayaquil Volcano. Can't remember it erupting...
French Cheeses and wafer breadstick

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