Jagmeeta Thind Joy
Don’t we all love to plan holidays? For most of us, a vacation means heading to an unexplored place and we do try and pack in as much as we can. Sometimes, it’s also about striking off something from the bucket list. For Dilpreet Singh Bindra, general manager of JW Marriott Chandigarh, also a keen traveller, a recent holiday turned out to be the longest and most adventurous one he could have ever planned. Bindra and his friends planned a ‘Road to London’ trip that saw them drive through 18 countries in 55 days before reaching their final destination. “To say that it was an experience of a lifetime would be an understatement,” says Bindra as we meet him at the inaugural of the ‘Road to London’ food festival.
The passionate foodie and traveller, Bindra didn’t just take in the sights of the places he visited, but meticulously wrote down each meal he savoured and took down recipes of the unfamiliar ones. The 19,500 km long journey from New Delhi to London saw Bindra and his friends travel across Southeast Asia, China, Russia, Central Asia and Europe. “The food and the ingredients would change every few hundred kilometres. The best part was that we chose not to eat only at fine diners or cafes but at local eateries and homes off the highway,” reminisces the general manager.
Back home after the epic journey, Bindra couldn’t get the flavours and meals he savoured along the way out of his head. “We decided to give it the shape of a food festival and offer dishes from 18 countries for foodies in Chandigarh to savour,” says Bindra.
But putting together meals from 18 countries wasn’t going to be easy. “We had to be true to the recipe and ingredients. It helped that Mr Bindra had made copious amount of notes and knew exactly what the dishes tasted like,” executive chef Naveen Handa tells us. But first came geography lessons. “We noted down the regions and the dishes popular there and what Mr Bindra had eaten. At some places we had to make adjustments with meats and vegetarian options,” shares Handa.
The end result is a well curated food festival (open for brunch and dinner) that lays out a spread of different cuisines. The gourmet journey menu has handpicked the fresh greens and turned them into delicacies like the Yall Dib or the vegetable cold rolls of Laos wrapped in a fine rice sheet. There’s coconut and Jasmine flavoured rice from Thailand along with Thai green curry as well.
One of the key highlights of Bindra’s road trip was the crossing of the expansive China from its South-eastern point to its North-western end, crossing four major provinces. To capture this part of the journey, the team of chefs have put together signature dishes of China. Representing the Sichuan region is the traditional Chengdu Hotpot—a flavoursome roasted fish broth with fresh greens and herbs. An area in which Chinese cuisine remains completely unexplored in popular culture is desserts. The gourmet spread features an exclusive Yunan Rose Flower cake, a special pie capturing the subtle flavours and essence of the Yunan province of China.
“We have also picked up dishes from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. I relished kebabs of this region called Shashliks. The preparation of Shashliks requires lesser use of spices except for coriander and cumin as well as no use of ghee or oil,” said Bindra. Another delicacy that the menu features is the original inspiration of our favourite Indian snack—Samosa. Uzbek Somsa from Uzbekistan looks similar to Samosa but is baked rather than fried. It has a spicy filling of meat with a smoky flavour of its tandoor-baked outer crust.
Russia on the ‘Road to London’, admits Bindra, was not only filled with scenic beauty of the snow capped mountains but also with little culinary delights such as the Knish, the delicious melt-in-the-mouth bites of baked potato and cheese rolls. These find place on the menu along with specials from countries like Latvia, Lithuania and Czech Republic. Do try the Latvian cold soup of beetroot and cucumber and the Lithuanian Cepelinai, a preparation of poached potato and mushroom dumplings. The European line-up also features desserts like the French Opera cake and the German deconstructed black forest cake called the Schwartzwalder Kirschtorte among others.
It’s not often that you get to savour a food festival that packs in a smorgasbord of flavours – getting a slice of 18 countries on the plate is definitely not worth missing out.
Brunch timing is from 12.30 pm to 3.30 pm and dinner from 7:30 pm to 11:30 pm at The Café@JW at JW Marriott Chandigarh. The brunch and dinner buffets are priced at Rs 1,550 per person (exclusive of taxes) and Rs 1,950 per person (exclusive of taxes), respectively. Call 0172-3955555 or +91 998 889 8309 to reserve your table.