Growing up we've all had our fair share of Indian food what we didn't know was that there is a piece of history attached to the food of our subcontinent. Taftoon is one of the rare restaurants that brings out the food inspired by a history lesson from the oldest road in Asia
An overview of the Grand Trunk Road
For centuries, the human race has travelled in search of livelihood, with it evolved the way of life and food. What we know today as the Grand Trunk Road dates back to the Maurya Empire 3rd century BC. Though we're not certain who conceptualised it, Sher Shah Suri is said to be the architect of this road, known as the 'Sadak-e-Azam'. He installed numerous Caravan Serais through the length of this road which enabled the traders and travellers to rest, eat and reboot for the rest of the journeys. The British then called it the Grand Trunk Road.
Taftoon Bar & Kitchen
Fast forward to modern day Mumbai where this road has intrigued a lot of culinary dilletantes and chefs alike considering the history it has been witness to. Today if accessible internationally, this road would've connected four capital cities: Kabul in Afghanistan, Islamabad in Pakistan, Delhi in India, and Dhaka in Bangladesh.
On a December evening, we made our way to Taftoon - a restaurant modeled on this concept. We expected the decor to be influenced by theme, perhaps some delicate lattice, some low relief carvings or stucco work. Contrary to this, we were pleasantly surprised to find the decor is relatively modern. They find symmetry in hexagonal lamps that are serenely suspended overhead and honeycomb patterns. Even though modern and uncluttered, the theme flows through the decor very subtlely.
In Good Spirits
We settled at our tables and were instantly served Kahwa. Delicious and aromatic, this tea came with just the right sweetness of Kashmiri honey and sliced dry fruits; it turned out to be the perfect welcome drink on a cold night.
We were told that the beverages here are curated by Chef Milan Gupta and just like the food, they too have bear influences of ingredients and traditions found on this historic road. We started with Botanical Blend
a simple gin-based cocktail with lavender syrup. It was quite a refreshing drink with just enough flavours for you to order another one.
To mea(t) or not to mea(t)
Who says veg kebabs have to be something like a consolation for vegetarians? Vegetarian kebabs can be delicious too and we reaffirmed it with Kathal ki Seekh
. This jackfruit seekh is said to have originated in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. What we loved about it was the subtlety with which the flavours and spices were incorporated in the meaty consistency of the jackfruit. Their Chukandar-e-Shammi
was another good one we tried.
We moved on to Galouti Kebab.
It's a no-brainer that this legendary kebab hails from the city of Nawabs and here at Taftoon, it is as authentic as it gets outside Lucknow.
We loved our very own version of pigs in a blanket - Lipta Jalpari Jhinga
. Marinated prawns wrapped in chicken and barbequed, this dish is Punjabi creation which has roots in Moga. In our opinion, this is one of the best appetisers the restaurant has to offer.
Laal Naan, Besan ki Roti, Bakarkhani and Khamiri Roti
It is probably easy for one to relate the word'mochar' with fish or seafood, unless you're well versed with Bengali cuisine, where it means raw banana flowers. Mochar Chop
is one crunchy appetiser that went well with our next cocktail Grand Trunk Cocktail
. Just after this, we had been served our palate cleansers and we nosedived into our mains.
Gosht Nihari with Khamiri Roti
Sticking To Our Mains
For our mains, we steered to a meal of the nawabs and chose Gosht Nihari
with Khamiri Roti.
Khamiri roti is a sourdough flatbread usually eaten with nalli nihari and we mopped up every little bit of this runny gravy with it. We think the cardamom, however, could've been toned down a little.
With Bharwan Handi
we were introduced to Laal Naan - a forgotten Amritsari recipe revived at this restaurant. The naan is layered, crisp and comes laced with rogan or flavoured chilli oil where it gets the name from.
We ended our meal here with Shufta
a Kashmiri dessert. A sweet grainy cookie topped with handmade mango ice cream and honey toasted nuts. Chenna Plate
was an ensemble various desserts such as sondesh, gulab jamun, angoori malai.
At the end of a very fulfilling meal, we were served a palate cleanser made with petha, rolled in either sweet or savoury mix. We walked out of the restaurant smiling and satisfied with the food, decor, and ambiance. For a restaurant only a couple of days old in the city, they handled their teething issues properly too. Good food always has a history of it and Taftoon doubles up as a storyteller to speak about the journey.
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