From Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, the Taj Deccan, the part sponsor of my stay in Hyderabad, was about 40 km away. From the airport, there were taxis and shuttle buses waiting to ferry passengers to various destinations in the city. Rental car booths were located at convenient locations some distance away from the arrival hall. A car was waiting for me just after I left the arrival hall. I was picked up by the hotel’s car, driven by an amiable driver. This was pure luxury, especially when I looked around and saw the heavily polluted roads leading to the city. Though I was travelling on a well-constructed expressway, traffic was slow because of the morning rush hour. We arrived at the hotel two hours late.
Every time I am in India, I would think to myself “not many changes since I last came” but then, that is the Beauty of India!! One should enjoy the way it is. The country has progressed a lot since my last visit.
The Taj Deccan is located in Hyderabad’s prestigious Banjara Hills. It is primarily a business hotel with many long staying guests. The twin room that I stayed in for three days was well furnished and equipped. The wifi connection was satisfactory (this is very important for most people these days, including yours trulyJ) Service was superb, and the staff always pleasant looking. Occasionally, I was pleasantly surprised by the personal touches of the staff. In fact, I noticed that the staff, including the General Manager, Rishi Chopra, made it a point to ask the guests whether their stay in the hotel was comfortable.
Breakfast was a mix of international and traditional South Indian items served at the Arena. Dosas and idlis were served piping hot. My policy is: when in India, eat traditional Indian food. On this trip, I gave the Syn Asian Grill and Bar a miss, and focused on doing a tasting at the Spice Junxion.
Spice Junxion is a stylish and cosy South Indian restaurant, serving an array of assorted coastal Indian delicacies from Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and Goa. Executive Chef, Sajesh Nair said that the restaurant serves authentic traditional dishes. The décor was modern, yet had a twist of the South Indian roots, with jars of spices, decorating the walls. Traditional cooking implements were exhibited at one corner of the restaurant.
I was thrilled when a Pickle and Podi trolley was brought to my table. There were almost thirty pickles, chutneys, and podis. Podis are spiced powders that are mixed with rice and eaten. Or it serves as an accompaniment with snacks. I tasted at least eight and found them to be awesome. According to Chef Sajesh, who has been with the Taj group of hotels for almost 20 years, every one of the pickles was made in-house. Additionally, spicy, appetizing and refreshing hot rasam was served in a glass.
The Lunch Box, a recently introduced wholesome hot meal, was brought to me in a tiffin carrier and served.The South Indian menu changes every day, and there is an option of vegetarian or non-vegetarian set. Piping hot appams and phulkas are served as well.
The vegetarian lunch box comprised of flavourful Kothmir Rice (coriander rice), Munakhaya Pappu (drumstick dhal), Aloogada Vepudu (simple pan- roasted potatoes,tossed in a spicy red chilli) Mixed Vegetable Curry, and Artikaya Pakoda. The non-vegetarian lunch box consisted of Royalu Nisyalu and Menthim Kuro Koda. My favourite dessert was the heavenly rose petal ice cream that looked like an ordinary raspberry ice cream, but blossoming into rose flavour with bits of rose petals in the mouth. The food was delicious and the standard of service with Taj hospitality was excellent.
During lunch, I got the opportunity to have a casual chit chat with Chef Sajesh Nair. This is what I asked him.
Me: What made you become a chef?
Sajesh: I come from a family of chefs .My father and uncles are chefs.
Me :Which dish matches your personality best?
Sajesh: My stir fried, spicy ladies fingers tossed in scrappings of tender coconut. It is crisp and soft , and overpowering.
Me: Three kitchen ingredients you can’t live without?
Sajesh:Cinnamon, garlic cloves, and curry leaves
Me: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Sajesh: Internet and books.
Me: Best advice from a chef or mentor?
Sajest: Work smart.
Me: If you could invite someone – anyone – for a meal, whom would you pick?
Sajesh: My grandmother, who was a wonderful cook.
Me: If you have ten minutes to prepare, which dish will you cook?
Me: Which is your comfort food?
Sajesh: Fish curry and rice.
If you are ever going to Hyderabad, check out the Taj Deccan:
The Taj Deccan, Hyderabad
No. 1 Banjara Hillis
Tel: +91-40 66669999 Fax: +91-40 66661070