It was one of those days on which you could write an essay back in school: The day when everything went wrong. My car broke down thrice on my way. I was stuck in front of Hyatt Regency for more than 20 minutes. Once that got fixed I lost my way and found myself in a tiny alley from where it was impossible to take a U-turn. It was the umpteenth day when taxi drivers were holding a strike, so there was no other way to reach my destination. My dad called me up and told me to come back. But undeterred, I decided to carry on. Because I was going to a Kenyan food festival, which is not something that happens to everybody everyday. It was happening to me, and I would have been the ultimate fool to let the opportunity slip.
I reached the venue two and a half hours after I had started. Yes, you can reach Delhi from Calcutta in lesser time. I was irritated, frustrated and fuming at the same time. No sooner than I entered Maaya, I was offered a Mint and Lemon Mocktail which did a lot to soothe down my agitated nerves. Swissotel Kolkata is a place where we KFBians always feel at home. I’ll probably never tire of saying that the perfect blend of hospitality and good food that they offer is unparalleled and absolutely heart-warming.
From the moment we entered, we were bombarded with one starter after the other. The lovelies included Prawn with Mango Salsa, a subtley-spiced Chicken Satay, Potato and Pea fritters and Pumpkin, Goat’s Cheese, Honey and Cinnamon wrapped in Pumpkin Leaves. My favourite of the lot was…ahem…the potato fritters because as much as I loved the other three my weakness for potatoes forced me to go back again and again for them.
The main course started with a Carrot, Ginger and Cream Chive soup and assorted breads. Even though I gave the soup a miss, I piled my plate with breads and butter, to which my Bangali aunts would have inevitably retorted, “Eki? Pauruti kheye pet bhorachhish keno (Why are you filling your stomach with breads)?” But thankfully they were not around and I had a field day! The breads were relished with pretty little canapes — Sweet Potato and Crispy Bacon Salad, Kenyan beans with Tomato and Onion Vinaigrette, Kidney Beans and Sweet Corn Salad and a Shrimps and Mango Salad. I wiped my salad canapes clean…which adequately testifies to how brilliant they were.
Next in line was the most spellbinding item of day, which also happened to be my pick of the entire menu. It was a Young Goat Roasted Whole with Mint Juice. Perfectly succulent, the juicy meat packed with flavours stole the show. Of the three red meat items that we had, the humble goat stood the tallest. Well, not literally.
The goat just set the tone of the meal which was replete with more and more proteins as we opened cloche after cloche. The Grilled Lamb Ribs came with Kachumbari (an onion, tomato and cucumber salad) which was followed by Beckti in Tamarind Sauce and Coconut Milk and Prawns in Ginger and Chilli. The Grilled Beef Medallions with its natural Jus beckoned us next and the Grilled Quail with Grilled Eggplants wrapped up the non-vegetarian section. The Beckti had an interesting flavour combination, the tang of the tamarind hitting the sublime smoothness of the coconut milk. The beef was perfectly done and extremely appetising and the jus of the quail and the coconut rice (which was served along with the mains) were a match made in heaven.
The vegetarian fare consisted of more regular meals that Kenyans eat on a daily basis — Ugali (corn meal cake), Sauted Sukuma Wiki (Spinach with Onions and Tomatoes), Green Plantains in Peanut Butter and an awesome Lentil Curry. The crispy, crunchy Sukuma Wiki and Lentils totally won my heart and left me craving for more.
For desserts, the offering was simple but delicious. A Pineapple Crumble (of which I could have taken zillions of helping) with three kinds of sauces — vanilla, mango and chocolate, a sweet but delightful Coconut dessert called Kashata, some Sweet Potato Strudels and assorted fruits.
No event at Swissotel is complete without a lazy chat with the chefs and our 2-hour long lunch was followed by exactly the same. Executive Chef Pranay Singh and Masterchef Zachary Ngugi Mugori from Fairmont Norfolk, Nairobi, shared with us stories from their years of experience and in return listened with great interest tales of our blogging stint. Chef Mugori was a bit disappointed at the unavailability of ostrich and crocodile meat here in India. But I guess to savour that we need to go all the way to Kenya. But till that is happening, leave what you are doing and head straight to Cafe Swiss between September 10-16 between 7pm-11pm to be a part of the Kenyan Food Safari. Alternatively, you can opt for the Sunday brunch on September 14. Dinner is priced at Rs 1,600 + taxes/ person whereas brunch comes to Rs 1,650 + taxes/person. You can also reserve your table by mailing at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at +91 33 6626 6666. Your time starts now!
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