The car turned off of the main, rather busy, Mathura Road into Friends Colony, New Delhi, past the local club to an inviting and quaint boutique hotel, The Manor. It boasts 12 rooms - including 2 suites, a cafe – Nico cafe, a restaurant- In-Q, a well-equipped guests- and members-only gym and a spa.
This contemporary, minimalist hotel boasts the restaurant, In-Q, which with the stirring hand of Chef Aditya Kumar Jha is serving contemporary Indian cuisine beyond one’s expectations. The understated decor and minimalism of the restaurant provides a seismic contrast to the flavours of the food. I had the 14 course set tasting menu, each dish inspired by a different region in India. The first course was, Chocolate, a ball of white chocolate with a sprinkling of mint dust on top with a surprise inside. It was suggested that we eat the ball in one go. No cutlery was provided for this course, as in India, traditionally, we use our hands to eat. Bewildered by the meal starting with a sweet course, I popped the chocolate ball in my mouth. It burst and gol gappa/pani puri water oozed into my mouth. I was left with the salty- spicy flavour with a slight sweet-chocolaty after taste. It was surprising yet fresh, new and rebellious.
A standout dish was Kuttu (buckwheat flour - a non- cereal flour used in fasting season]. Kuttu was used as the outer shell filled with tamarind, avocado, wasabi and prawn inside. The kick from the wasabi and the combination of the avocado and kuttu complimented each other exceptionally, left me craving more, after the wasabi hit went down, that is. Another exceptional course was Gobhi (cauliflower) – presented in a form few would expect. A tiny green, shiny cube (coriander glaze) on a plate sitting on top of white, yogurt dust. The cauliflower puree was inside the cube. The familiar flavours of gobhi sabzi were present but the presentation and balance of the dish – both visually and flavour-wise made it a delight to eat.
Sambar, usually yellow in colour with deep, pungent flavours, is not how In-Q’s sambar looked or tasted. It came looking picturesque in a shallow bowl, with clarified sambar poured into it at the table. It was idli- sambar that had had a recent trip to cordon bleu and came back with an MBA and a fresh, new French accent. All the flavour and the quintessential aroma of sambar bombarded the senses yet, no one aspect of the dish overpowered the other, from the crunchy idli to the colourless broth. The coco curry, even though a palette cleanser had the standout chilli meringue which with the combination of coconut and apple sung together. The dessert that I rather enjoyed, of the two served, was the snow-balled srikhand. A Maharashtrian delicacy, this one came, as the name suggested, in the shape of a white ball, meant to be cracked with the spoon to relish, made of yogurt, which cut through the sweet, leaving behind a fresh, almost tangy flavour. It melted in mouth, almost like eating a cloud.
The entire meal was a journey across India, pani puri – from the north, Sambar – the south, Srikhand – the west, Lamb dumpling – the east, giving a tribute to the heritage and history of India, presented in true Manor style - understated elegance.
Text Samiksha Sharma