A ‘mega’ hotel that recently opened in Chennai, India, the ITC Grand Chola (the third largest hotel in India), is an architectural paean to the Chola Dynasty, one of the longest ruling empires of southern India.
The hotel is contemporary Dravidian temple design a la Chola : four entrances (as found in temples in south India), soaring spaces, tall pillars (462), grand columns, sweeping staircases, bronze sculptures and motifs adorning walls, pillars and ceilings reminiscent of the long ago empire.
According to Wiki, a whole marble quarry in Italy was purchased to source the one million square feet of marble that make up part of the hotel.
Given the focus on southern India and its past, curiously, one of the hotel’s signature restaurants is the Peshawri, offering north-west frontier cuisine. (The North-West Frontier was a province defined by the British in 1900, which included parts of Rajasthan and Punjab, Afghanistan and today’s Pakistan).
Then again, it is not so curious. Peshawari is a signature ITC restaurant, a part of the ITC brand since 1978, currently found in six of their properties across India.
A far cry from southern India’s banana leaves, rice, coconut, tamarind, chili and yoghurt, Peshawri is a ‘rustic’ sensory feast in every sense. The ambience of stone walls, rough-hewn trestle tables and wooden stools, earthen and copper crockery, authentic Afghan carpets and wall hangings evokes the esprit de corps of North West frontier traditions – a nomadic life, the warm glow of a campfire, succulent tandoori fare, simple, hearty food and good company. Guests are encouraged to eat with their fingers, vital to the experience.
Tandoors (clay ovens) dominate the kitchen and skilled chefs gauge spices, mix marinades and judge the heat of the tandoors, delivering a selection of fresh, fragrant and hot breads cooked to perfection. Pre-marinated meats sans sauces or gravies sizzle, dals that have been simmering overnight in traditional Bukhara style are ladled into earthenware bowls and the food makes the journey from stove to table in a satisfyingly short time. Low on oil and high on authenticity, the dining experience is enriched by quintessential north-western hospitality.
It is about the larger glow created by the communion with friends and family over a meal that you eat with your fingers and feel with your heart. It is about communing with the earth, and bringing others along to share in an experience that is flush with the flavours, succulence and the taste of life. – Nakul Anand, Executive Director, ITC
Singapore’s Miele guide rates Peshawri among the ‘Best Restaurants in Asia’. The Peshawri @ ITC Grand Chola serves the iconic cuisine of ITC Maurya’s internationally renowned Bukhara restaurant.
Favourite (and recommended) dishes include the Dal Bukhara, the Sikandari Raan and the Naan Bukhara.
Photographs by Anita Thomas. The first one was taken from the hotel’s website.