Meditation with Food at Narendra Bhawan, Bikaner | Part 2

Food Meditation 2: Literary Lunch at P&C
A magical pairing of food with excerpts from 6 literary classics.

Literary Lunch
Literary Lunch at P&C

There’s the most common, and my favourite, a wine paired food menu, then you also have whisky paired menus, beer paired menus, tea paired menus et al, but here, at Narendra Bhawan, I got to experience a book paired food menu. Confused? Even I was. Post a lot of comprehensive research, the masterminds behind Narendra Bhawan, trickled down to 6 literary classics, taking excerpts from them, to draw inspiration for a dish that becomes the perfect embodiment of the plot.

The excerpt was read aloud on the table and then the dish accompanying the text was brought in. The lunch began with the only novel written by Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar. The turbulence, illness and depression of the protagonist(Sylvia herself), was represented with a bowl of smoked goats cheese topped with braised leeks, covered with a bell jar that has splashes of pomegranate blood, to depict Sylvia’s state of mind. Beetroot and orange along with balsamic on the plate tied it all together.

Following the same pattern of reading the excerpt and then digging in the dish continued as we graduated from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick to John Fante’s The Brotherhood of the Grape to Nicole Mones’ The Last Chinese Chef to Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, to Emile Zola’s Le Ventre de Paris and we ended our courses with James Joyce’s Ulysses.

With each progressing dish in the 6-course degustation, I was picking a new favourite course, but owing to my sweet tooth, the conclusion with the white chocolate pudding became the piece de resistance. The mellow white chocolate fondant got a citrusy kick with a surprise of lime curd centre and jelled beautifully well with the candied rose petals topped with silver leaf. No word can rightfully describe how much I loved this dessert, except for the fact that I wiped 2 portions of it, without any guilt.

The acute attention to detail, from food to garnish to the utensils it was served in, each and everything is worth admiring. The effort put in spoke volumes post conclusion, leaving me with an experience worth sharing. Did the second food meditation meet the pre-set benchmark? For sure!

Food Meditation 3: Museum Dinner at The Gold Room, Laxmi Niwas Palace
The Kings table with recipes culled from the annals of history

One can only imagine how the king would feast with his special guests and lavish a meal would they relish in the most grandiose of setting. But for our third and last food meditation, we got to experience that, while getting seated in the same room and relishing the same menu, that was offered in 1927 by Maharaja Ganga Singh Ji, the then king of Bikaner and the only non-White member of the British Imperial War Cabinet, to his guests: Lord Mountbatten, Queen Mary, King George V and others.

The Gold Room, Laxmi Niwas
The Gold Room, Laxmi Niwas

For this, we headed to the magnificent Laxmi Niwas Palace, a sister concern of Narendra Bhawan, which was just 10 minutes away. We were escorted to the gilded and ornate dining room that defined splendour. The ceiling and the walls, replete with intricate detailing, using 50 kilograms of 24-karat gold, the room lit with candles, and the scent of rose petals was enough to cast an enchanting spell on me.

We had set our palates with the green apple bruschetta, that came in as the amuse bouche. The dishes that followed included the unusual asparagus mousse with beetroot, some hearty potage dubbary, a soup prepared with cauliflower and blue cheese, a succulent fillet de pomfret with béarnaise sauce and the croquettes de canard sauvages, which were crisp and deep fried duck cutlets with plum sauce. What followed this was unexpected but highly superlative. The Plat de Bikaner, a thali consisting of typical Bikaneri delicacies. Adorned with kebabs, curries, vegetables, rice and condiments, this thali, though I was full, was swiped clean.

Chef Kishan Singh and Chef Sunil Singh did an immaculate job at presenting every dish with sheer perfection. The timeless utensils, delicious food, swift service and a beautiful set-up, all together, made Museum Dinner a great success.

Did the third food meditation meet the benchmark? Not really.
It simply amped it up to a whole new level!

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