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Qafila: Welcome to the regal Indian culinary caravan

Posted September 27th, 2019, 10:24 AM IST

Qafila: Welcome to the regal Indian culinary caravan

Qafila is an all-new evening dining experience at Kava, Fairfield by Marriott on Outer Ring Road. True to the interpretation of the word Qafila, the menu here embodies executive chef Sudhir Nair’s food sojourn across many states of India with a predominant focus on Awadhi cuisine. It is a journey which showcases the diverse tapestry of Indian cuisine, woven together to deliver the best our country has to offer.

All-day diner Kava usually serves a multi-cuisine buffet breakfast and lunch for rushed in-house guests and busy office folks from IT parks nearby. However, the restaurant transforms itself in the evening with a special offering of an Indian menu which can be savoured at a leisurely pace accompanied with the choicest cocktails. Drawing inspiration from the rich legacy of Indian cuisine, the Qafila menu includes specialities of the royal kitchens to the delightful street fare from across the country.

The Qafila menu is divided into eight sections and we began with the ‘Shorba’ page for a warm and nourishing start to the evening. The lightly spiced Murgh Badami chicken broth simmered in almonds and spices was highly comforting and the aromatic vegetarian Santra Chilgoza was an instant hit with its unusual combination of orange and pine nuts. Next up were appetisers from the ‘Ratan Kosh’ section and we were served a melt-in-the-mouth, lamb mince Gilawat Ke Kebab accompanied with Sheermal saffron bread. As stories go, it is said that the smooth textured Gilawati Kebab was invented by a master chef for the ageing Awadhi Nawab who had lost his teeth but not his love for gourmet food. Two other appetisers which are not-be-missed is the Meen Varwal, a shallow fried fish with turmeric, lemon and curry leaf, and the Palak Anjeer Kebab with spinach, lentil, nuts and dried figs.

At this moment, we would like to draw your attention to the locally-inspired cocktail menu which perfectly complements the fare at Qafila. Take, for instance, the Jal-Jeera G&T which is a heady blend of gin, lime juice, cumin-honey syrup, black salt, chaat masala, and tonic or the Tamarind Gin Smash with gin, lime juice, tamarind puree, coriander and tonic. The beverage menu offers straight drinks, wines and beers too.

Back to the food menu, the third section titled ‘Nutan’ includes Keema Boti, a preparation of boneless lamb, pounded meat with whole spices and the Khumb Qaliyan dish with mushrooms, nuts and cinnamon. However, it is the robust ‘Riwaz’ page which ticked all the boxes starting with the fragrant and hearty Shahi Nalli Nihari, 24-hour cooked lamb shanks with saffron, lemon and mint leaves; the seasonal mustard leaf preparation of Sarson Ka Saag; and the Teekha Meetha Padwal, a dish of pointed gourd stuffed with nuts, jaggery and chillies.

From Lucknow’s by-lanes of Bara Imambara through the old quarters of Hazaratganj, chef Sudhir travelled the length and breadth of the city of Nawabs tasting preparations made from old-school recipes. The locals even opened up their homes to give him a taste of home-cooked meals which were a revelation in itself. At the end of it all, the menu at Qafila, with over 74 dishes, was developed as a result of chef Sudhir’s culinary caravan across twelve Indian states.

On the menu, we next venture to the ‘Korma and Salan’ page for a fill of slow-cooked curries and gravies enriched with nuts and exotic spices. There is Prawn Sukka with roasted garlic and coconut; Mahi Sarson with freshwater fish, mustard paste and turmeric; and the rustic Pyaaz Papad Ki Subzi. All these can be complemented with dishes from the ‘Sangat’ and ‘Birinj’ sections of the menu with Kava Dal, Badenjaan made with sliced aubergines, Kadak Tala Arbi, Dum Gosht Biryani and Subz Zaffrani Pulao. No matter how full our tummy gets, there’s always room for dessert and that’s what you get in the aptly titled ‘Madhur’ page of the menu. The Kesari Rajbhog and Makhan Phirni were a fitting finale to our regal dining experience.

In chef Sudhir’s words, “The idea of a pan-Indian menu had been incubating in my mind for a long time and it was only at the start of this year when my team got together and gave it a definite shape and concept. From choosing the chefs for the restaurant to sourcing ingredients, and even picking customised crockery”. He further adds, “The results of our work done is evident in the compliments and feedback of our guests. We would like to believe that we have created a menu which has something for all.” Given its new beginnings, the journey at Qafila seems to have just begun.

— Aslam Gafoor is a Bengaluru based hospitality professional, food lover and travel enthusiast

Qafila, Kava, Fairfield by Marriott Bengaluru Outer Ring Road, Bellandur

Timing: 7.00 pm to 11.00 pm

Average price for two: Rs 2,500++

Phone: +91 8071 203 040