Wooing world leaders with food

The premier hotels at the national capital have been wooing world leaders with delicate cuisines, writes Arnab Banerjee.

india Updated: Mar 09, 2006 18:13 IST

Some events are grand and deservedly hog media coverage. And we are not merely referring to the visit by President Bush to India to meet the Indian PM Manmohan Singh, which everyone knows, has been “an historic meeting between two of the world’s greatest leaders.”

While the American President’s speeches and his three-day visit attracted reams of newsprint across the universe, what also should be of interest to Indians are the grandiose arrangements that New Delhi had made for him and his wife, Laura. Presidential Suite at the Maurya Sheraton in the Capital and the long list of aromatic flavours that awaited the President had been a painstaking effort of days of groundwork.

Merely two days later after President Bush left for Pakistan, that is, March 5, 2006, yet another premier from one of the world’s largest continents, Australia, John Howard and his wife Janette Howard have come calling on a two-day official state visit to India.

This time around too an equally grandiloquent welcome in terms of hospitality and décor, not to mention the delicacies specially prepared by the star chefs at the five-star hotel, awaited the eminent guests.

The Taj Mahal Hotel on Mansingh Road, New Delhi, is arguably the most distinguished address in the national capital and has been patronised by renowned world leaders, royalty and heads of state. The Grand Presidential Suite at the Taj Mahal has welcomed various international dignitaries in its grand regalia and in the last one year has been home to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Cherie Blair, Bill Gates, Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf, Japanese Premier Junichiro Koizumi and Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon.

Grand Pres master bedroom

Closing in on the most recent visit of French President Jacques Chirac and Madame Chirac from February 19-21, The Grand Presidential Suite once again played host to the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard and his wife Janette Howard.

Serving it right “I wanted to include a fine balance of Indian and continental cuisine which I would believe, he hasn’t had before. The stress was on the flavour of hot that is typical of Indian food, but with less spices specially, “says Executive Chef, Amit Chowdhury.

"There’s a combination of corn and coriander pulao prepared for him, jhinga fish kabab masala and Bada chaap. We also served machhli ka salad in Hyderabadi style, a peanut flavoured gravy, khatte baigan again in toned down flavour.

For Bada chaap, we had marinated it with cumin seeds in a chaap grill. Also, there was rogan josh kareli, a Chef special with a blend of prawns and fish tossed in Indian masala,” explained Chowdhury. For desserts there was gulab jamuns coated with poppy seeds.

On the other hand, Resident Manager Taljinder Singh, left no stone unturned in creating “the right ambience to make the PM and his wife feel at home.

“ Our stress is on unstated preparation and anticipate it as part of our hospitality. Color preferences, which in his case, has been Australia’s national color yellow, has been kept in mind while decorating his room and have used it in the decor as well.”

Home away from home What must be a rare treat to the Australian leader must be some of the food flown in from his home land Australia itself. “We flew in milk, cheese for their authentic taste and flavor as also lilies and orchids have been flown in from Bangkok and Holland for a top-class international hospitality.

There was special care taken to organise security as world-class standards, in addition to two 24-hour butlers – including a lady butler for the Lady. The PM’s wife also loves pears which we organised from Australia. Since they wanted privacy for their immediate needs, we also made sure they were never disturbed or intruded into.”

A veritable selection of premium Australian wines such as Shiraz Astralis Clarandon Hills and Cabernet Sauvignon Leeuvin Estate are on offer, which marry with the fine Indian cuisine. Signature dishes, including Grilled sole on a bed of emmenthal mash wilted greens & tomato olive salsa; Pot roast Australian lamb with pine nut mint jus; Grilled polenta & vegetables on a bed of mushroom pilaf; Kareli roganjosh; Macchli ka salan; Dal Haveli; Tomato, aubergine & mozzarella towers with tarragon pimento coulis and many others have been put together by Chowdhury. Desserts include mouth dripping Baked blueberry cheesecake, Mango flan, assorted fresh fruit tart; Kesari chenna payesh; Apple crumble and much more.

A treat truly for the special guests which combined the best of India and Australia.

First Published: Mar 09, 2006 14:48 IST