That is the thing about being a food writer — rather being identified as a food writer — that you cannot write anything without mentioning food. Not that I am complaining — it just tells me people value what I say — or not say about food. Case in point Noor Mahal.
The reason I had no food in my story yesterday was that I wanted to dedicate a whole post to the dining experiences at the property. Because when it comes to food, less is never more. So here we go.
Like with my stay story, I will be upfront here too. I hadn’t expected much in terms of cuisine from the place. Add to that a very ordinary breakfast at a dark coffee shop and my expectations were at an all time low. I had even thought of stepping out and checking the local food scene, but then the lunch happened.
Set up in the Polo Bar, the lunch set up seemed nice and inviting. Although, being a bar the lighting was low, it did not affect anything. A perfectly set table awaited us — as did colorful mocktails. There was a nice little rose, reminding me of old-world places in Lucknow and Jamshedpur. I felt better. I felt even better when I met the chef. While the options were to order whatever we could from the menu, we did what we do everywhere — we let the chef feed us. And feed he did.
Knowing my love for Asian, chef had already prepared a feast for us.It started with traditional soup and went on to three starters, uncountable mains, rice, noodles and what not. Given that I never order this much food, I truly felt like royalty. But the quantity of food never determines its satiety or the gratification — the quality does. I say this at the risk of being repetitive but the food was top notch. Perfect ingredients, classic recipes, seasoned just right and most importantly served at the right temperature — something really important for us. Fish was fresh and tender, chicken was juicy, the exotic vegetables were fresh and left me wondering how they get to Karnal (bias again, I know). The noodles, which many many people mess up, were good. Rice cooked absolutely right.
What stole the show was the ice cream.
Although we were expecting some Asian dessert we were served two beautiful scoops each of Paan ice-cream in old fashioned steel stemmed cups. Now I do not eat Paan at all, but this I loved. Cherries, gulkand, and paan leaves, along with varq made a beautiful medley of flavours and textures. Since kids could not eat paan, they got chocolate — also very good.
A good lunch should always be followed by a nap, and so we napped. On the royal bed in our royal chambers, oblivious to the light and noise of the wedding and giggling of families posing outside our drawing-room door. Evening was spent indulging in a facial and pedicures (more on that later) and a belated birthday celebration for an embarrassed husband by the team.
One of the most interesting parts of the hotel, which I have not spoken of yet, is their specialty restaurant. The Frontier Mail is modeled on a train platform and has real train coaches, real rails and sleepers, and pictures and accessories of important railway zones of the British Era.
The Coaches, there are three, stand atop rails and sleepers, and have the same old world vibe as the Frontier Mail, the train that ran from Bombay to Peshawar in the pre-partitioned India. The rest of the space also has seating, and looks like a platform from which you can see inside the coaches. Having to choose to sit inside or outside was a tough decision to take. Since we wanted to see the train, we decided to sit outside — with girls hopping off and on the coaches. The coaches inside retain their original charm, complete with brass luggage trays, green leatherette seats, and chair car seating. Live music played outside and a young man with a beautiful velvety voice sung songs of Hemant Kumar and Rafi. To say it was a beautiful set up would be an understatement.
No set-up however pretty can make up for the food, and the food here did not disappoint.
We wanted to at light with as little masala as possible. Since seeing the menu one could not determine that, we requested Krishnaa, our steward, to give us whatever he liked as long as it wasn’t too heavy or spicy. The kids weren’t too keen on Indian so we got a pizza for them. Even though it is a Indian restaurant, the chef happily sent is a quatro-cheese pizza — hand tossed.
The main course had a mutton preparation, a vegetarian seekh, dal and rotis — and yet again I repeat, but everything was done how it should be.
The smokey daal came piping hot, the mutton was tender, although a bit high on salt, and the seekh was interesting and textured. I had found it slightly dry but the chef explained since it was grilled in a tandoor, any more moisture would not let it stay put on the skewer. We had asked for small rotis and they brought us the cutest little naans, kulchas, and rotis all fresh piping hot and tender. The food indeed transport you to the pre-partition Punjab — the state that the train catered to and connected.
On the second day of lunch we wanted to taste some westerns on the menu and so we ordered a pizza, fish and chips and a steak. Again, I was skeptical, but I wanted to genuinely eat light and western food.
The pizza — we had ordered two — were perfectly hand tossed and made really well. The fish was fresh and tender and fell short because all of us wanted a piece, and steak was generous in portion and we found it hard to finish.
All in all, I had a great dining experience at Noor Mahal where everything was made well and the right way. No classics have been fiddled with and no attempt has been made to make things fancy — something I really appreciate.
Will I recommend someone to go and eat at Noor Mahal? Most Definitely