By Suman Tarafdar
Loya promises North Indian cuisines from the heartlands
Move aside rajma, paneer and butter chicken. There is more to north Indian cuisines, and perhaps one of the best examples of just how diverse the cuisines are has come from a recent opening – Loya at the Taj Palace, Delhi.
Loya’s tagline – ‘journey through the heart of the north’, implies a deeper dive into the cuisines of the north of India. The name elicits times when communal feasts where everyone shared in was the order of the day. Think of the Pashtun / Pathan loya jirga, still extant today in Afghanistan, explains Taljinder Singh, Senior Vice President and Brand Custodian at Taj Hotels and a Taj veteran who was, as General Manager of Taj Palace, Delhi. In his former post, he had dispatched a bunch of chefs from the hotel, with instructions to disappear in the hinterlands of north India.
“They went to small towns, villages, tribal areas to research cuisine… to know what it is that we are missing in cities,” recollects Singh. “That led us to decide about six years ago that there is a gap in how we view cuisine of the north. And what is it that we can bring to the table in terms of discoveries and traditions and methodologies long forgotten.” This has translated to the restaurant in terms of its underlying philosophy, amply reflected in the menu.
Loya has a rather open seating plan, evocative of tents that once dominated north India. Once past the grand entrance with its rose gold doors, there’s a lot to take in. Large brass lamps softly light up the space while walls evoke past grandeur with paintings of bazaars, complete with turbaned merchants in flowing robes hawking their wares in style most reminiscent of medieval bazaars. Add courtiers and caparisoned horses, more brass lamps, medieval elements – all within the paintings, and the ambience for the history laced meal is complete. Like the lamps, elements of tents also translate to table overhangs. Do note the jaali / lattice work. The tables, in various shapes and sizes, have a rustic touch, if only in design. “I can see reflections of parts of Kapurthala, century old parts of Patiala and Hoshiarpur,” Singh elaborates on the interiors. “It has been presented with some contemporary lines, as we didn’t want to make a thematic ancient restaurant. The lines are cleaner, the fabric is by Missoni. The idea is to make it warmer and more welcoming.” Luxury emerges as the underlying theme for the interiors.
For those interested, Loya offers an open kitchen, and guests can look on at the various traditional cooking processes, behind glass screens of course. Prominently visible are chefs poring over processes such as dhungar, baghar, sigdi and dum. Instead of the usually creamy rich curries are delicate flavourful dishes, divided into courses - ‘Pella Swaad’ or appetisers, ‘Saajha Swaad’ / Mains and ‘Mittha’, desserts. From the Himalayan foothills, to Kashmir, from undivided Punjab and the upper reaches of the northern plains, these are recipes that bring alive home style dishes, albeit with premium plating and ambience. From Loya Kachori Chaat to Timbri Jhinga, Attari Murgh, Malerkotla Keema Chole and Dum Nalli are just some of the highlights. The restaurant uses no packaged spices, reveals Singh. Ingredients are sourced from local regions, and availability of certain dishes depends on seasonality. All the more reason for repeat visits!
Address: Loya, Taj Palace, 2 Sardar Patel Marg, Diplomatic Enclave, New Delhi
Lunch - 12:30 PM to 02:45 PM
Dinner - 07:00 PM to 11:45 PM
Table to two: ₹6,400
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