Staying true to its heritage philosophy, the Imperial Hotel has reinvented Daniell's Tavern to enable the diner to experience authentic India like never before
By: Soumya Jain
Posted on: February 10, 2012
The first thing that came to my mind, when I experienced the reinvented Daniell’s Tavern at Imperial Hotel, is that it has become contemporary, yet even more rooted to the authentic Indian culture. And both the cultures have blended so beautifully in the surprisingly-named Indian restaurant Daniell’s Tavern that it is a delight to revel in the feeling of this restaurant.
As the story goes, Thomas and William Daniells were an uncle-nephew duo, who were commissioned by the British Empire to travel across India and paint its picturesque sceneries in 1786. Roaming to all the major cities of India at that time, from Calcutta, Kanpur, Delhi and Agra, to Lucknow, Madras, Mysore and Bombay, the duo not only painted wondrous sceneries, but being intrigued and mystified by Indian cuisine, filled up their diary with authentic recipes from each of these cities.
Some of the sceneries created by the duo now adorn the walls of the relaunched Daniell’s Tavern, and their recipes embellish the restaurant’s menu. Another change is the live kitchen, the contemporary addition to the restaurant, where you can see the bustling cooks. Softer aspects, like the décor and cutlery, have also been redone, but it is the menu and cuisine where they have focused largely. Mr Vijay Wanchoo, Sr. Vice President and General Manager of the Imperial Hotel traveled in the footsteps of the Daniells’, revisited the cities, and experienced these recipes again to determine how they taste in their native area. And to give these dishes an interesting twist, they have been christened with names which will take you back to the British Raj era. With live Indian music everyday (except Tuesday) to calm your senses, the restaurant is complete in every aspect now.
The culinary experience started with a Chaas in an earthen glass which was adequately chilled, well-whipped and mint garnished. Not too spicy, it instantly refreshed! Being a media day for the relaunch, the journalists and editors mingled around as servers went around with trays of snacks. The Paneer Tikka and Gobhi Masala were quite the usual, as were the prawn snacks according to my fellow companions. However, a small presentation later, the actual feast started.
The lunch began with Mulligatawny soup, a traditional South Indian broth of lentils, which was extremely creamy and slightly spicy. And being aptly well-blended, there were no hard lentils in the soup. It was ‘soul food’, to say the least, in the slight winter weather! Non-vegetarians could try East India Soup, which is mildly spiced, saffron scented chicken extract.
Being already stuffed with a few snacks, we made our way towards the main course. The vegetarian Biryani was aromatic with not too much of spices to suit all palates. Coupled with mint raita, the dish was simple, but fulfilling and delicious.
Dal Daniells, the traditional Dal Makhni, had a thick consistency, laced with cream, not too spicy and well-cooked. A delight to taste and have by the spoonful! The Sultan’s Desire (traditionally named as Urulai Masala) was a dry preparation of small, round potatoes with fresh grated coconut. It was quite a novelty and original dish for us North Indians! Again, being balanced in flavours coupled with the freshness of coconut, it was a wonderful accompaniment with the Dal Makhni. The naan was soft and not too ‘chewy’ if you know what I mean.
Non-vegetarians should dabble their spoons in East India Fish Curry – sole fish cooked in traditional Bengali style. My companions, thought, felt the absence of plain, steamed rice to have the curry with. Quite a well known dish, Chicken Chettinad, which has been interestingly named as Viceroy’s Favourite, is also worth a try.
Main course being done, we expectantly moved towards the desserts and called for Shahi Tukda (Englishman’s Passion) and Gulab Jamun (Her Highness’ Weakness). The Gulab Jamun – cottage cheese dumplings dipped in saffron scented sugar syrup – were extremely soft, warm and melt-in-the-mouth. Perfect! The Shahi Tukra - slightly crisp croutons of bread topped with condensed milk – were on the lower side of sugariness and perfect for those who don’t like too much of sweet in their plate.
To round it off, is Daniell’s Tavern a place to come for a romantic evening? Or for client meetings? We wouldn’t advise so. It is a place to experience Indian cuisine, from all corners of the country, in a fabulous atmosphere which speaks art, refinement and superior flavours of course.
Timings: Open for Dinner only - 7:30pm to 11:45pm
Coordinates: The Imperial, Janpath, New Delhi, India