the action or practice of meditating, i.e. focusing one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.
The moment we hear the term ‘meditation‘, an image of a person, sitting calmly, mostly with a beautiful backdrop of nature, evades our mind. Aimed at achieving relaxation and heightened awareness, meditation is a concept that everyone is acquainted with. While I was aware of the multiple types of meditations that exist, I seldom knew that a new concept could be built around it, targetting the discerning palates to attain gustatory enlightenment. The conceptualisation of this concept finds its roots embedded at Narendra Bhawan, in Bikaner.
A boutique destination, Narendra Bhawan retells the story of the last reigning Maharaja of Bikaner, his Highness Narendra Singh Ji by reimagining how the king would’ve spent his days amidst grandeur and opulence, and how he would have treated his guests, with the best of hospitality and panache at disposal. With plentiful ways, Narendra Bhawan has successfully translated the moments of the king’s life. And the food meditations, of course, reign supreme.
Narendra Singh Ji’s food meditations transpire as:
The Maharaja maintained that memory recalls food that has flattered its taste and it mingles with all other pleasures and remains, at last, to console us for their departure. The pleasures of the table afford neither ravishing pleasure nor ecstasy but it gains in intensity what it loses in duration. It is the more valuable because it exposes us to all other gratifications and even consoles us for their loss. Besides, there are often found collected around the same table, all the modifications of society which extreme sociability has introduced among us: love, friendship, business, speculation, power, ambition, and intrigue, all enhance conviviality. Thus it is that it produces fruits of all imaginable flavours and the ensuing meditations.
Intrigued, I set forth my palate to undertake a gastronomical journey that awaited and unfolded with three food meditations.
Food Meditation 1: Le diner dans le noir
A feast enjoyed blindfolded offering a unique human sensory journey.
Set at The Night Room, a private dining room at the all-day-dining restaurant: Pearls and Chiffon, a 5-course menu awaited to be relished, in the dark. The room, tastefully done up, was marked by panels of floral fabric on the walls, a dining table adorned with gota patti embroidery as the table runner, fine china crockery, golden-hued sealing lamps and candle lanterns.
Blindfolds were put on, the lights were turned off, we familiarised ourselves with the utensils and cutlery and gave in to all our senses, except sight. The dishes were flown in from the kitchen, not even one single word was uttered, and we simply had to rely on our tastebuds to decode what we were consuming. Interesting, indeed.
The meal comprised of: the classic tomato and cheese bruschetta, a heart-warming bowl of French onion soup that hid chunks of cheese, some creamy vol au vents studded with mushrooms alongside a crispy tart with morsels of chicken, wholesome pork belly and lamb Wellington, followed up with a cheese platter of fried Bocconcini, emmental and cheddar. The lemongrass and passion fruit creme brûlée, with lemon curd and berries, was demolished in seconds to end the meal on a sweet note. Chef Sunil Singh brought his A-game to the table, wowing everyone with his delicious and beautiful creations.
Though we thought that we might end up breaking a glass or dropping a piece or two of the cutlery, everything, from start to end, flew in perfection, thanks to my waiter, who kept guiding my hands in the right direction, whenever I faltered. The first food meditation had set such a high benchmark, that I didn’t know if the remaining food meditations could meet.