Few food photos have caused us such despair. Last week, it was one of a khumani ka meetha. The Hyderabadi apricot dessert topped with fruit kernels and malai looked undefiled, but around it swirled cold, dry-ice vapours. At any buzzy restaurant with bizarre interpretations of modern Indian cuisine, it wouldn’t have been as much of a jolt. This photo, however, illustrated new dishes at an Old Bombay institution – Gaylord. An accompanying note read, “Gaylord’s new menu comprises perfectly presented molecular dishes which include Dahi Cheese Rolls... ” A few dishes have been retired to make way for these.
Gaylord: one of Mumbai’s oldest surviving, still-successful standalone restaurants, one of almost unchanged menu. It’s a sad day indeed, we thought, when Gaylord needs to go the dhokla pizza or chicken missal pao way. Why fix what’s far from broken? In the spirit of curiosity and professional research, we decided to examine the ravages.
We’re happy to report there aren’t any. There is no unnecessary foam, jelly or smoke. Nothing that is not fish eggs has been made into caviar. Food does not arrive on a mini bicycle, lightbulb, or in a cage. The new menu is good-old Gaylord deliciousness gently tweaked in presentation, a mere nod to new styles of plating.
The all-new dahi cheese roll is a crumbed roulade of paneer filled with creamy cheese, tangy yogurt and the pleasant assertive tingle of chillies. Vegetable kulfi kebabs — deep fried nuggets of minced vegetables with a crunchy outside and spicy, creamy interior — are as delicious as the classic paneer aloo croquette. Instead of a plate though, they come spiked on sugarcane twigs, resting in shot glasses, dipped in a pool of sweet chilli sauce. My father, who has been a Gaylord regular for almost half a century, approved heartily of both.
When the deeply aromatic, butter-infused kulhar ki tangdi arrived at the table, he picked the drumstick out of its earthenware cup, and went quiet. “Look at how beautifully it’s cooked!,” he said after doing it justice. “It has all the Gaylord flavour.” Fine, yes, one dish arrives in a pressure cooker: cooker ka kukkad. But it’s a functional, pretty, red-enamelled vessel, and it contains a traditional cardamom-suffused curry of chicken — on the bone and minced.
The West Coast pomfret’s semolina-crusted filets are accompanied by thick, intensely spiced coastal fish curry and fluffy rice. The filets came apart at the touch of a tine. Papa said it evoked a Gaylord dish of recent yore, the grilled salmon steak.
Faced with the last course, we gave in. This dessert employed some serious scientific technique: flambéed hot meringue toasts into a crust table-side; it encases cold ice cream, sponge cake, and preserved fruit. The Baked Alaska has been on Gaylord’s menu for almost all of the restaurant’s 58 years. It was first created in 1804. Inside-out vada paos of Mumbai, beat that.