Greetings from the grand trunk road

Posted on Back of House Jun 2010 - by Tandoori Magazine
Greetings from the grand trunk road

A menu concept based on The Grand Trunk Road along with sake and over 70 whiskies in its drinks range. So what’s going on Moti Mahal? Chef Anirudh Arora explains.


When the fine dining Moti Mahal first opened its doors in London’s Covent Garden, in the summer of 2005, the establishment not only kept a low profile, but there was a considerable lull in business for sometime. Observers in the food and restaurant world probably thought that here was a touch and go scenario where the restaurant may not even last.


Fortunately, those rather pessimistic pundits were proven wrong and the restaurant - one of the very best Indian ones in London - has gone from strength to strength, thanks to chef Anirudh Arora’s confident and highly flavoursome cooking. Changing menu concepts a few times, it was about a year ago that Moti Mahal hit upon an idea that was to prove inspiring.


“The essence of the idea was,” recalls Arora, “that with all the quality Indian restaurants favouring a more cutting edge approach, the novelty aspect of doing this was dissipating. So I thought that it might be a good move to go completely the other way and be traditional, albeit in a very innovative way.”


What Arora came up with was the notion of offering cooking that had its roots in the towns, cities and regions that were criss-crossed by the famed Grand Truck Road, which for centuries has linked the eastern and western parts of the Indian subcontinent. The resulting menu, which avoids the principles of starters and mains, is one which is richly rendered, robust and quite distinctive.”


I myself was born on one side of the Grand Trunk Road,” says Arora, “and since then I have travelled the route a few times. So I have got to know the differing cuisines and styles of cooking which pepper the road along its route - it was really quite eye-opening. There is now a whole cannon of dishes that we can add which have not been seen on British Indian restaurant menus.”


Since the launch of the menu, custom at the restaurant has increased by 60 per cent. Arora though is at pains to explain that as a high-end contemporary Indian, it isn’t just one aspect that makes it notable but a number of things - particularly when a business attracts a cosmopolitan crowd. For instance, having already pioneered the advent of whiskey with Indian food - the restaurant currently boasts a whiskey range of over 70 varieties - it’s now offering a tasting menu of sake with Indian food.
There are also some very quirky touches to boot - some imaginative chutneys and pickles aside - fresh salad comes on a platter with a whole tomato, cucumber, onion, lettuce and raddish, along with a home-made massala to sprinkle on the salad. As if that weren’t enough, the home-made kulfis come in gulkand (used in paan), milk chocolate and raisin, blackberry, pistachio and mango.


“If you are projecting an image of a restaurant which wants to give its customers an experience to remember, not to mention choice, you really have to do your best,” concludes Arora.


Sample Dishes - Moti Mahal


Qabali Seviyan

a vermicelli and masala chicken supreme tossed with pine nuts and baked with egg custard


Kararee Bhyein

fried lotus stem tossed with peanuts and coriander


Murghi Nazakat

trio of chicken tikka with variations of mint and basil, poppy seed and Kashmiri chillies and cracked pepper and dill


Paturee

pan-fried Devon crab cakes with tiger prawns wrapped in a banana leaf


Laal Mans

venison stew with chillies, cloves and garlic cooked in a clay pot


Desserts


Anjeeri Kulfi Falooda

Halwa Selection caroot and cardamom, yellow lentil and saffron, Indian squash and pistachio

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