Morels in pulaos and gulkand in a Baked Alaska—the Indo-British fusion fest at Ayna packs plenty of surprises.
A late night dinner is not what the doctor would recommend, but when a city hotel offers a fusion of Indian flavours with a British twist, I’d rather let their tag line ‘keep calm and curry on’ be my guide. At Ayna, the pan-Indian restaurant at the Hilton, I’m glad I took the chance. The menu is, thankfully, devoid of clichés like fish and chips and mulligatawny soup. Instead, Manish Uniyal, the executive sous chef, tells me the Indo-British fusion fest has tried to play up unusual produce (think morels, mozzarella and scallops, that you wouldn’t typically find in Indian food) and contemporary presentation. Like the Chicken Tikka Samosa that comes to the table first. A deconstructed version of the popular street snack, the deep fried pastry, presented as two long strips, sandwiches three varieties of tikkas topped with jammy onions and bell peppers. It’s up to you how you eat them. I liked mine as separate bites, the better to appreciate individual flavours.
As the experimentation continues—a Vegan Kolokithe (juliennes of aubergine and zucchini with a spiced yoghurt dip) and a Tandoori Salmon (marinated in spices and orange juice) keep me occupied for a while—I wonder why British fusion. Perhaps the upcoming India-England Test series (on Wednesday) is the inspiration? But chef Uniyal assures me it’s the inventive spirit that the once-staid cuisine has been showing in the past few years. He proves his point with a Parcha Paneer (thin sheets of cottage cheese rolled like pin-wheels and served with a black pepper sauce) that pairs beautifully with an olive naan and a tomato-mozzarella kulcha. But my favourites have to be the delicately-spiced New Zealand lamb chops, grilled a perfect medium-rare, served with piquant potatoes, and a Guchhi Chilgoza Pulao perked up with lashings of morels and pine nuts.
By now I’d like nothing better than to let the surroundings—done up in colours of blues and oranges, bathed in warm yellow light—lull me to sleep. Of course, a curry leaf martini is doing its bit, too. But then again, dessert can’t be ignored, especially when it is one of the best Baked Alaskas I’ve had (with gulkand and betel leaves) and warm crepes stuffed with carrot pudding and topped with a Baileys rabdi. Before the masala tea creme brulee tempts me, I call it a night. Well worth being a night owl on a weekday.
Till November 20, for lunch and dinner. Meal for two at `3,500 approx. Details: 22255555
Text: Surya Praphulla Kumar