It’s always a pleasure to head on over to ITC Maurya, despite the fact that they are a bit staid in their ways. It’s like an aristocratic club you can’t help yearn for every once in a while. Their signature restaurants remain Dum Pukht and Bukhara, and in the past year or so, My Humble House as well but its Westview that makes me wonder. Why isn’t it out there like so many other European fine dining establishments across the city’s hotels? Which is what led me to choose Westview for the BBC GoodFood Magazine event, celebrating the kitchens of ITC who in turn were hosting a slew of Indian and International Chefs and the second reason was Chef Jerome Cousin from Rara Avis! As a concept, Good Food Day or Days make sense, it is an opportunity for guests to sample new foods and new restaurants. However, as a personal opinion, there is no real need to mix and match chefs; having a guest chef with an exceptional specialty would perhaps be a better idea. Mainly because from a back of the house perspective, there is a tandem between chef, line cooks, service staff and so on. If any one party among those is an outsider, the whole system of cooking, plating, serving could go askew.
The menu for the day at Westview was both impressive and elaborate, I chose the non-vegetarian option which I went on to regret since some of the vegetarian dishes looked fabulous. The first course was by Chef Cousin, Vol au Vent D’escargots de Bourgogne, Beurre Aille (Snails with Garlic Butter, Vol au Vent), the vol au vents were crisp and buttery but I felt the snail was lost somewhere. If the reasoning is that people don’t always find creepy crawlies palatable, then they ought to steer clear of snails because the real beauty of these slimy lovelies is their texture and scallop-like delicate taste. The second course was Chef Jatin Mallick’s Sous Vide cooked Warm Seafood Sausage with Wasabi Creme Fraiche, Shaved Fennel and Lemon Chilli Dressing. I loved the Wasabi Creme Fraiche and wished it was available bottled somewhere but the seafood sausage was pretty much like any other sausage. This was followed by Chef Cousin’s Bisque de Homard, Cappuccino au Safran (Lobster Bisque with Saffron Cappuccino). This I loved. The whole cappuccino take on chowders, soups and bisques are becoming quite popular and if you like creamy soups, then you too would have loved this; the saffron bit in fact gave it a bit of a crab curry tinge which was more than welcome. The fourth course was Chef Cousin’s creation once more, the Coq au Vin, Petits Legumes De Printemps (Chicken with wine and small seasonal vegetables). This was such a simple dish that it surprised me; it was comforting but not worthy of Good Food Day per se. Respite came with Chef Suresh Kumar’s Slow Braised Baby Lamb Shanks with Fresh Pear Confit and Black Currant with a Pepper spiked Reduction. Since I am a huge fan of well done lamb shank and fruit in my food, this one hit the spot. Now the mood had elevated considerably and I was ready for more and in this menu more meant dessert! The desserts included Chef Mallick’s, Milk Chocolate Brulee Tranche with Pistachio, Hazelnuts and Raspberry Coulis, which was nice but could have done with some of the two hugely flavoursome nuts, Pistachio and Hazelnut. Chef Kumar’s Tian of Fresh Cherries, Marbled Chocolate Creme and Crunch of Dark Cake, Side of Citron Creme Anglaise, was passable.
After all this food, my heart was still stuck on the final course (which ought to have been paired with a shot of Espresso), the Roquefort Trifle with Red Pepper Jam, Young Rucola Seeds atop Whipped Brie Quenelles with Walnut Crisps by Chef Suresh Kumar. I loved the cheese combos but at some level all these ingredients were overwhelmed by one another and neither stood out as they should have.
Going back to why elaborate and beautiful menus don’t always mean excellent food; Chefs usually need their comfort zones to be spectacular! In any case, I look forward to many such Good Food Days that bring forth delicious kitchens and talented chefs and make a city like Delhi experience foods that truly stand for finesse, quality of thought and skill.