Indian Epicurean Delights

When in India, eat Indian, which I do with great alacrity. Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of the subcontinent, was the last place I thought I’d find a gracious and perfectly rated five- star hotel and “food to die for.” All this at the ITC Windsor Hotel that, for a few days, made me feel like a maharajah.

Obviously I’m not the first to source out this to-the-manor-born Regency-styled hotel, which opened in 1982 (with a new addition in 1992). Although, it does have the feeling of bygone days of the Rajas: the Dalai Lama is a return guest and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has visited, as have many Bollywood stars (the true celebs in India).

A fabulous innovation is the ladies’ wing, where everything from in-room registration to cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, housekeeping, screened telephone calls and specific amenities are all supervised by female staff members. At the Windsor, it’s not infrequent that guests come to stay for a month at a time—a few have even stayed for a year!

The expected floral decor of the rooms has gone to chintz heaven and the wall bouquets have been replaced with more subtle, neutral tones of ecru and purple. The garden-access rooms—there are only 19 out of the 240 rooms—lead to a large white gazebo set in the immaculately manicured, blossoming garden.

Just arriving in from Delhi my mind was on all things edible. The weather being too hot to find an out-of-hotel eatery, and I being directionally handicapped anyway, lunch was had at the Dakshin on the ground floor just off the lobby. Though somewhat formal, with starched white linens, Dakshin didn’t seem foreboding. Besides, at midday it is a buzzing, busy venue. With the help of the waiter I was able to have a bit of this and that from the menu, which celebrates the rich diversity of South Indian cuisine—and there’s more to this food than dosas! Pride was written over the waiter’s face as he recited the Dakshin accolades, emphasizing it as the 2008 Times Food Guide winner. He had volunteered to ask Chef Vijay Malhotra to prepare small portions so that I could enjoy a taster’s lunch. Shortly afterwards Chef Malhotra was at my table wanting my feedback. Splendid, was the first word I uttered. The meal began with neer more (buttermilk flavoured with green chillies, ginger and coriander leaves) followed by rasam (lentil soup). My main courses were kai stew (a selection of garden fresh veggies in a creamy coconut milk) brought with appams and urlai kezhangu podimas (tasty crumbled potatoes tempered with mustard seeds, channa dal and green chilies). And a dessert of poosanikai halway (made of khoya, pumpkin and bread crumbs) was the perfect finale.

I couldn’t resist and asked Chef his favourite. Answer: karivaeppalai yera (deep fried prawns sprinkled with curry leaf powder), chettinad chops (lamb chops marinated in chettinad spices) and kaikari mandi (a mélange of beans and veggies in coconut gravy). Something for me to look forward to on hopefully another trip to this green, hi-tech city.