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Vajpayee feasts on London kebabs

London, Oct. 12: Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a well-known gourmet, has discovered what Indians in the UK already know — it is possible to have better Indian food in London than in India.

After tasting the cuisine at two upmarket Indian restaurants, Quilon and the Bombay Brasserie, Vajpayee apparently turned to the two chefs who have accompanied him to Europe as part of his delegation and quipped: “Can you get me such good food in India or do I have to come to London every time'”

The reaction of the two chefs — Ananda Solomon, corporate chef for Taj business hotels in India, and Sadeq Khan, Sous Chef at the Taj in Mumbai — was not recorded.

Today, just before setting out for a 3.30 pm meeting with Tony Blair at Chequers, the British Prime Minister’s country residence, Vajpayee had “home-cooked food” from the Bombay Brasserie delivered to him at his apartment at the St James’s Court Hotel.

Last night, the food was similarly delivered to his apartment from another Taj linked restaurant, Quilon, which specialises in Kerala cuisine.

Preparations for lunch began last night at the Bombay Brasserie under its executive chef, Vikram Sunderam, who said he was under instructions to use very little oil and salt. But he knew the Prime Minister “loves good food”.

For starters, he gave Vajpayee a Vegetable Kebab Platter, consisting of Paneer Sula (“paneer cooked in the tandoor and stuffed with mango pickle”), Subz Sheekh Kebab, Mushroom Shashlik (“mushroom skewered with onions, peppers and tomatoes and grilled in the oven”) and Bharwan Tandoori Aloo (“potato stuffed with a tangy mixture”).

There was also a non-vegetarian platter, made of Sheekh Kebab Kangari (“flavoured with mild cheddar cheese”), Tandoori Prawn Hariyali (“marinated with green masala and cooked in the tandoor”) and Dakshini Chicken Tikka (“marinated with curry leaves, star aniseed”).

For the main course, Sunderam prepared Tariwala Rogani Murg, Vegetable Jalfrezi, Paneer Methi Bhurjee, Dala Masala, Vegetable Pulao, Naan and Laccha Paratha. Dessert was Gajar Halwa and Assorted Kulfis.

Sunderam began his day at 8 am. He admitted: “I was a bit nervous but I am very proud to have cooked for the Prime Minister of India. The food was delivered by 11.30 am for a lunch at noon.”

From Quilon on the previous night, the restaurant’s head chef, A.V. Sriram sent Coorg Chicken, Pepper Shrimp, Lobster Mango Curry, Prawns Biadai, Mangalorian Chicken Curry and Cauliflower Chilly Fry, followed by Bibinca, Dodhol and Pepper Ice Cream.

A wit serving the leader of the world’s biggest democracy remarked: “Good job, the Prime Minister was not hungry.”

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