For a brief period of my life I had been teaching at Delhi Public School, Megacity. If you live in South Calcutta and if you know where the school is located, it’ll give you jitters. The compulsion to reach school by 8.30 am sharp meant that essentially you had to wake up at the crack of dawn to avail yourself of the school bus service. At times I would doze off in the bus in front of my 16-18-year-old students, which would definitely not make a pretty picture. The exact story was repeated during the return journey as well. The day I left DPS I vowed I would never ever come to this part of the city. And ever since that day Rajarhat has remained completely out of bounds for me.
But all this changed after 3 long years when Swissotel invited the Kolkata Food Bloggers for the relaunch of their Sunday brunch at Durbari (their North India speciality restaurant). Kamalika came to my rescue and offered to give me a ride to the venue on the scheduled date.
Kamalika, Amrita and I reached Swissotel well before time and were immediately ushered in to the special room they had reserved for us and served fresh lime soda. An extremely sweet gesture, I must say. Very soon we were joined by Archita, Sayantani, Anwesha and Sammya Brata and thereafter started the gala feast with intermittent chats with executive chef Pranay Singh, Durbari chef Aditya Singh, restaurant manager Aashish Shaw and assistant marketing and communication manager Enakshi Kundu. Catering primarily to international travellers, Durbari takes a lot of effort in bringing to them a taste of India. To ensure health benefits they also make it a point to do their cooking in olive oil and moderate the spice level in the food to suit the need of their guests. Even before the food arrived, it was there warmth and hospitality that had me humbled.
The spread started with the Dahi Kebab, shallow-fried lightly spiced hung yoghurt. This Awadhi delicacy is, in essence, a cold appetizer, and once you bite into the crisp light brown coating, you can taste the melt-in-your-mouth cool sensation imparted by the yoghurt.
Next in line was the naan-pizza or Naaza. Chicken Makhani along with gravy spread on naan, sprinkled with cheese and baked to the perfection of a pizza, this innovative dish with a mildly smokey flavour had us raving.
But what really and truly blew our minds away was the Gandharaj Mahi Tikka. Soft yet thick pieces of bhetki marinated with the subtle flavours of coriander, mint and kaffir lime, this kebab had everything going for it. We all exclaimed at its size, confident that we won’t be able to eat the entire thing, yet each of us wolfed away the entire serving.
The fish tikka was followed by the Murg Balai Kebab, tender chicken kebab stuffed with pomegranate, cheese and onions. “Malai kebab toh tha hi, iss liye main iska naam balai kebab rakh diya (malai kebab was already there, hence I named it balai kebab),” chirps in the chef candidly.
Before I forget, mention must be made to the neat little bowls of dips that fascinated us so much that we kept on pairing our dishes with different dips in a bid to reach the perfect combination. Starting from left, the tamarind, mint, yoghurt and saffron, burnt garlic and mango-mustard (or aam-kashundi) dips were as much crowd pleasers as the food itself. Among these, it was the burnt garlic dip that emerged the undisputed winner.
Just in case you thought it was impossible to stuff ourselves any more, let me tell you…Yeh toh bas trailer tha, picture abhi baaki hai mere dost. We were now whisked away to the buffet section where a plethora of kebabs and gravies (both veg and non-veg waited for us). The buffet traditionally started with a couple of shorbas and then proceeded to the other items. There was a comprehensive salad spread including sprouts chat, dahi papdi chat and kachori chaat that we did not even go near.
What we began with were the vegetarian kebabs — Zafrani Paneer Tikka and Dalcha kebab. The paneer tikka, lightly-flavoured with saffron was a more mainstream item, and so it was the gram flour-based dalcha kebab that caught our attention more.
The non-veg kebab section offered Sarson Mahi Tikka and Murg Achaari Kebab. I was lazily savouring the taste of the mustard-flavoured fish and chicken with a pickly tang when magic happened. I took a spoonful of Dal Durbari. And then I forgot everything.
I won’t even try and describe what it tasted like because words won’t do justice to it. You have to go there and try it for yourself. I was in dal heaven. I can go on and on raving about it and now I understand why, despite regular alterations of their menu, the Dal Durbari still stands tall.
What made the dal story a fairy tale was the Swiss Cheese Naan that was served along with it. Again I’m struggling for words. Melted cheese sandwiched between naan… messily dripping on your plate as you tear a piece and put in your mouth…and the mind-numbing sensation you feel thereafter.
Forgive me if I sound incoherent, but it was food porn at its best! Their Swiss Cheese Naan and Dal Durbari are reasons enough to go visit the restaurant, but still I’ll try and make you salivate some more. 🙂
Reluctant to be pulled away from the naan and dal but tempted to savour the other delicacies, we now moved on to the vegetarian gravy section, where Palak Paneer, Diwani Handi and Aloo Dhaniawala waited for us along with Green Peas Pulao. The paneer and mix vegetable dishes were nothing extraordinary but potato-lover that I am, it is obvious that it was the Aloo Dhaniawala that impressed me the most.
But now came my favourite-est item on the menu, something for which I could willingly give meat and fish a miss (and I actually did that!). I’m talking about Kumbh Do-Pyaza or Mushroom Do-Pyaza. All those who know me well also know how I can be bribed with a plate of mushrooms into revealing the gravest of national secrets. Anything with mushrooms is a delight to my tastebuds. So I won’t even try and describe this dish as that it bound to be biased.
With the mushrooms they served Murg Makhani Andaz which, the chef claimed, was their signature dish…and why not? Tender succulent pieces of chicken cooked in a makhani gravy that boasted of perfect balance of flavours, this dish was yet another winner.
You must be wondering whether the hog in me gulped everything down. And this is where you get a surprise. No, I did not. I could not. The Ajwaini Fish Curry and Methi Murg were skipped to help me from bursting and also because we hadn’t even reached the Dessert section.
The dessert spread ranged from fresh seasonal fruits (mango, watermelon, pineapple and papaya), bite size cakes that came in strawberry, mango and tiramisu flavours and a multi-layered mousse cake topped with kiwi jelly. The Indian dessert section boasted of Mihidana, Rabdi, Roshomundi-r payesh with aam and Kalo jaam (kala jamun).
A happy and satisfactory meal later, seven happy souls were ready to head home. The food, needless to say, was awesome. But as a first-timer, what really and truly bowled me over was the tremendous hospitality and attention to detail that the hotel staff showed. Durbari’s Sunday brunch, which starts at an extremely competent price of Rs 1,000 plus taxes per person, is something none of you should give a miss. If you prefer à la carte, you can head to Durbari between 12.30-3 pm and again between 7-11 pm all days except Monday. Go with family, go with friends, go with your loved one, but go anyway. For the Swiss Cheese Naan and Dal Durbari at least!
Group photograph borrowed from fellow blogger Anwesha Bhattacharya.
PS: This was an invited review and the post is completely a personal account of the blogger based on her experience. No monetary compensation was involved.