Grand Trunk Road Dinner with Tim Smith at Moti Mahal:
What makes a good dinner out for you? Is it the food, the wine, the ambience and service, the people you are with or the conversation? I think for most people it is a mixture of all those things. Initiatives which aim to take dining out to a new level are always interesting and when they work well, can be a great experience. I went along to Moti Mahal who have followed up their ‘Passport to the Grand Trunk Road‘ initiative with a series of dinners with speakers that you can book and go along to. The first, with acclaimed photographer Tim Smith, who specialises in Indian and Asian Culture and who has been showcased in eleven books including ‘The Grand Trunk Road” proved to be a feast in more than one way…
Of course champagne and canapes always help to start an evening well. It was hard to avoid over-indulging in the delicious morsels – I particularly liked the Jhinga – spiced prawn dumplings with curry leaf, ginger and sago seeds making a kind of popcorn like coating.
And the Achari Gosht – pickled lamb mousse on chickpea bread
We were treated to an introduction by Tim into his journeys across the Grand Trunk Road and the photography, reflecting the impact of the British on local people as well as the colourful and unique culture of the land.
My snaps of the slide show of his photography are a poor reflection of the vibrant and detailed photo-journalism and of course do little to convey the insight he gave us into his experience. On one level it was all about colour. On another, the emotional depth of the photos took us all on his very personal journey.
Then the main feast started.
Dish after dish appeared – too many to cover in detail, from different points on the spice route We started with a Punjabi aubergine and chilli pakora and tandoor roasted poussin and quail dumplings in a poppy seed and tomato sauce from Awadh.
Sea bass in yellow mustard curry from Bengal arrived at around the same point in the evening as an Indian squash and potato curry from Ambala
But, personally I think the last three dishes were the best of the savouries. I love properly made Biriyani – probably because I wouldn’t dare to try cooking it at home. Here we were served Gosht Ki Biriyani from Lucknow – a slow cooked baby lamb leg with basmati rice, saffron and mace. A Lucknow biriyani involves partially cooking the rice and meat separately; then layering the two and slow cooking with spices. The result is a delicate buttery Biriyani that, if it was served at the start of the feast would have been enough for me to eat all night.
Although I love Dal Makhani too, from the North West Frontier- a black lentil dahl that doesn’t make for a great photo but DOES have a wonderful nutty taste.
I was pleasantly suprised by the Saag Paneer. I hadn’t expected to enjoy the Paneer, it is all too often rubbery, but here it was tender and nicely flavoured to balance the spinach.
We probably didn’t need desserts.But, the Halwa from the Punjab was irresistable – a red carrot pudding served with Indian custard.
I managed to resist Kulfi lollipops…probably wise because I did need to be able to walk home.
Though mysteriously I seem to remember having *just enough* space to try the Gajak (peanut and jaggery crisps)
There’s more to come – future events at Moti Mahal will include a Beer and Indian Barbecue evening , a talk from a renowned filmmaker and an Asian wine pairing event with wine-maker Matt Thompson. A highly recommended cultural event, this kind of feasting makes for a memorable experience and a unique exploration of the Grand Trunk Road.
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45 Great Queen Street,
London, WC2B 5AA