Food food glorious food, nothing quite like it at Oberoi’s operations in Gurgaon. Stay at either hotel, the Oberoi or the adjacent Trident, and you can eat at restaurants in one, or the other, or both. The gal likes choice. On this trip she opted to eat only at The Oberoi.
Lunch was at Threesixtyone, a massive – 204-seat total – glass cube of a restaurant, with two wood decks, protruding into the reflecting pool, that allow you to dine outside.
I sit on a sunflower banquette looking across the blue water at the Burberry store, one of the prestige names in the shopping arcade here at Oberoi Gurgaon, and think how marvellous it must have been when Burberry launched its ‘wear a trench’ promotion. Wood tables are set with red mats, and red orchids in pebble-filled glasses.
There are six cooking areas, including full Japanese, inside the glass cube, and now, at lunch, there is a good-looking appetizer buffet. This is set out on two tables, one inner-chilled, one induction, both mentally divided longwise so that half of each displays veggie, half non-veggie.
The overall selection offers Chinese, Indian, International and Japanese: my plate includes beetroot carpaccio, caprese, asparagus with artichokes and small sushi. For the plated main course, I customise, and get a bowl of wholewheat spaghetti with a little oil and garlic. The breads include fabulous olive-studded ciabatta.
Dinner was at the prime-dining Amaranta restaurant, named for the Greek work Amarantos, ‘the flower never dies’ (one of the websites today shows the anger of people in the USA who ordered Valentine’s flowers from 1-800-flower and the recipient got considerably past-their-sell-by-date blooms).
Talking of the great US of A, there are several restaurants called Amaranta in California – the most prominent online is one in Canoga Park, Los Angeles. It advertises over 400 brands of tequila to go with its Mexican cuisine, which sadly rates only 1.5, out of maximum five, stars on google.com. There is nothing so tawdry here. This is perfection when it comes to quality.
Outside Amaranta’s main door is a full-size statue of one of Mumbai’s renowned tiffinwallahs, the guys who cycle pre-ordered lunches to arrive, wherever, on the dot. This statue is ‘clothed’ in watches, to show their timekeeping ability.
Inside, the 60-seat restaurant is yet another big rectangle, but this time it is a cream ‘box’ embellished mainly by what resembles the wood outlines of four-post beds, forming canopies over service stations and some tables.
On all tables, square glass vases hold flowers (fresh as a daisy!), rocks and real guppy fish. Kapil Chopra, GM of the hotel – as well as EVP of the Oberoi group – explains the menu and the provenance of its produce.
This is coastal cuisine, featuring dishes along India’s 6,000-mile coastline, including such specialties as bacon-fried rice. Fresh fish is flown in daily. The hotel’s Gazette shows how prawns, say, are landed at Kerala at 0430 in the morning. A catch is auctioned, driven to the airport for an 0800 flight to Delhi, ready to be on the same day’s lunch menu.
Two long dishes of different breads, dry and ‘moist’, arrive, with four different salts and three dips. The moist breads from northern India are primarily milled flour, layered with ghee or butter and sometimes, as interspersed with herbs or spinach.
We start with amuse of coconut-water shots, cumin-wrapped asparagus and rice patties. The meal-proper starts with a big tranche of Chennai duck foie gras wrapped in a banana leaf, with deep-fried miniscule anchovies.
My main course is a catch of the day, halibut from Gujerat, grilled rather than the steamed or curried alternatives. Side dishes include Thalasseri prawn biryani and grilled aubergine. There is no room, sadly, for nutmeg and black pepper Goan pudding, or Kerala vanilla crème brûlée.