We have a history of incredible food culture in terms of variety, richness, and regional influences. Whenever we think of rich royal food, the Awadhi cuisine, a spectacular symphony of taste and presentations comes first in mind. The taste and aroma of Awadhi food is unbelievable. Most of the dishes are incredibly rich and creamy, redolent with the fragrance of spices, and are delicately spiced, with cashews and raisins adding an unexpected depth to the taste of the curries.
We also wanted to taste the cuisine of the nawabs and headed for The Oudh located in The Ashok hotel, a fine dining restaurant specializing in the elusive Awadhi cuisine. The moment we entered the restaurant we fell in love with the royal rich decor that boasts of beautiful paintings of Mughal kings and queens, classy furniture, and interiors in red and white theme accompanied by silver urns. The walls are decorated with ‘minakari’ art and ‘jalis’ (latticed screens) along with paintings and other marble work.
The restaurant sprawls over a large area across the lush green lawns near the pool, with 2 PDR’s (private dining rooms) which offer full privacy to host family gatherings and high-profile lunches.
The Oudh, formerly known as Darbar opened in 1995, offers an incomparable Nawaabi experience through an array of exotic dishes created by the bawarchis (chefs) and rakabdars (gourmet cooks). The menu has been crafted keeping in mind the visiting heads of states and dignitaries that the government hosts and food lovers from all over the world and is printed in eight different languages.
Authentic kebas worth trying are Lehsoon Malai Tikka, Zeenat-e-Aab, Jhinga Mehrunnisa, Murgh Surkh Angaar, Nakhas ki Boti, etc. And for mains Nihari Gosht, Murgh Fatimi, and Oudhi Quorma which are paired with breads like Gilafi Kulchas, Sheermal and Warqi Parathas (an Awadhi flaky bread) and various rice preparations like Biryani and Pulao are worth trying.
For vegetarians, Crispy Paneer Roll, Moth Ke Asharfi, Kache Papite Ke Kabab, Lazzez Subz Seekh, Tofe e Noor, Dahi ke Koftey, Gulnar Biryani, Nishatganj Ki Jhalfarezi, Paneer Hazrat Mahal, Khiley Phool, and Dal Oudhi, along with Oudh Breads are recommended
Coming to our experience with the food and drinks; we were welcomed with a round of the Noor-e-Chashm mock-tail, a sweet and sour lemon fizz based mock-tail which left me refreshed and waiting for delicacies to be served.
Everything in starters section tasted amazing. I specially loved the Tohfa-e-Noor with exemplary flavours. It was a dish made of cottage cheese sheets stuffed with a slightly sweet khoya fillings and rich nuts and topped with saffron. This incidentally is one of the signature dishes served at Indian PM’s state banquets.
The starters left me craving for the main course, even though I wanted to have a repeat of Tohfa-e-Noor. Maybe I’ll come back again just to relish the Paneer dish.
In the mains, I was looking forward to the biryani dish, you see, how can one finish off an Awadhi main-course without some biryani. I tried the veggie biryani, Gulnar Biryani, which was opened right in front of me. Oh man, the explosion of aromas the moment the Dum was broken was exquisite. The rich, royal flavours of Awadh were truly represented in this dish and made me think – “There really exists a Vegetarian Biryani”.
Desserts are an important part of an Awadhi meal. And here too, aroma plays an important role. The bread pudding Shahi Tukra, Milk dumplings -Khush Zaiqa, Malpua Rabri, Rasmalai, Awadhi style Vermicelli – Muzaffar, Sheer-e-Oudh, Qulifi Falooda are the ones to die for here.
I normally don’t visit a food joint again, unless I have loved the food. And having relished a sumptuous lunch of Awadhi cuisine just like the way a Nawab would have, I am longing for a revisit to the Oudh and am surely going to be there again soon.
Address: The Ashok, 50 B, Diplomatic Enclave, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi