My taste buds always start to tickle when I know I am going for some food festival, knowing the immense variety of flavours I am going to experience there. An invite to the British food festival buffet lunch at the all-day dining restaurant at Café Fontana, Taj Palace New Delhi was no different.

The festival is ongoing till August 31st and the man behind all those delectable dishes on the platter is Chef Daniel Ayton, vice president of the World Master Chef’s society and Master Chef of Great Britain who has been associated with the Taj Group of London for more than 7 years.

Apart from tarts and pies and cakes, roast beef, fish and chips and Yorkshire pudding are their signature classics (which we were told could be found in the A-la-carte menu for the dinner).  The Chef took us around the buffet, and explained that a lot of British cuisine is “A little bit from here, and a little bit from there”, majorly from the people settled there. British cuisine is mainly influenced by meat (yeah, i was prepared to have salads and desserts only 🙂) but I was amazed at the variety he had created even with the vegetarian stuff ( And was pleased that the Chefs considered putting an effort to get the authentic British flavours for vegetarians like me 🙂).

I started with the classic Leek and Potato soup which was quite comforting. Amongst the salad section, Tabbouleh (made with couscous) and the Beetroot Tzatziki is a must try. Tzatziki is basically a sauce or a dip made from hung curd, mixed with seasonings and any vegetable. The beetroot combination was truly appetizing. There was also roasted potatoes and peas and Fattoush, but I wanted to save my appetite for the main course and that vast variety of desserts. I absolutely loved the Vegetable Crumble wherein assorted vegetables are mixed with thick creamy sauce, and topped with cheese. This when baked gets a perfect crispy crumbly golden coloured top and  sure went for a second helping. The vegetable Mille fuelled was a vegetarian’s delight and so were the side-bits like sweet pepper Talash and the nutty apricot Potato steak.

For the non-vegetarian’s it’s definitely a toothsome experience. So Maneesh enjoyed the much recommended by the chef “Fish and Saffron” soup. The colour looked really inviting. To go along with it, the crumb fried fish is very engaging. Then of course the classic Billingsgate Fish pie, the name being derived from the famous Billingsgate Fish Market from where the seafood is sourced. An utterly perfect dish, Maneesh said, “The Chef knows his fish”. The cornfed chicken (corn-fed-chickens) with barbeque sauce was quite flavourful and juicy too. The Butcher’s pie (made with lamb) looked very attractive with the crisp golden crust pastry shell, and was just the dish one would want to taste at food festival like this.

The beautifully laid dessert section was a treat to the eyes as much as to the palate. The classic Sherry Triffle was enjoyed by everyone. The Summer Berry pudding had lovely purple colour but was too tangy for my taste. But there were lots of other varieties of cakes and pastries and some of Indian desserts too to satisfy everybody’s taste buds. Before we left for the day, the Chef brought in a platter of Cheeses to educate us all about the popular cheeses there and joked about how he had to ignore the custom rules for a while to get the cheeses to India. The platter included Classic Cheddar (having nutty but slightly more acidic taste), The southwest Cornish Yarg (very close to the Chef’s hometown) which is matured wrapped in nettle leaves, Red Leicester (slightly harder orange in colour made in similar manner to cheddar cheese), and Sussex(from where the Chef stays right now).

A little chat with the Chef and we came to know it’s his first visit to India and he is enjoying learning so much about the Indian cuisine. So, to say, the first day he visited the spice market and had an overwhelming experience. A lot of his Chef friends have visited Mumbai and he plans to take back the tamarind (which is primarily used as a souring ingredient in south India) back home. He mentions, “How can you cook a dish and put it on plate when you don’t know it’s history”, so it’s important to visit local places and interiors of a region to understand their true flavours. When he came to know I was a pure vegetarian, he says he finds it funny when some people say, “ I am a vegetarian, but I will eat the meat curry”.
So don’t miss this “Taste of Britain” festival held at Kafé Fontana, The Taj Mahal Palace till August 31st. I am sure you will have a very enjoyable food journey.
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