I spent the entire day racing around Agra, visiting the city’s famed Fort after romancing myself through the lush gardens and tranquil ponds of India’s crown jewel, the Taj Mahal.
The day left me inspired and exhausted. I got so caught up in the pretty of the place that I forget to nibble on nourishment. So it was perhaps no shock when I rolled up to the luxurious lobby at the Jaypee Palace Hotel that my stomach was grumbling and lips quietly quivered, “feed me please.”
After spilling into the hotel’s opulent marble floored lobby I tip toed down the stairs in search of a fine feast. Dinner that evening would unfold at Paatra, the hotel’s new fine-dining restaurant which offers a colourful collection of Indian dishes from Amritsar to Lahore.
The Paatra dining room is petite chic, a small intimate space featuring white tablecloth adorned tables which form a circle around a central water feature adorned with ornamental urns and copper pots filled with fresh flowers. During dinner service all eyes (and ears) are fixed on the front of the room where a local quartette perform traditional Indian ballads via guitar, drums, mini-piano and sitar.
Paatra’s Chef Pranjal Gogoi was born and raised in India’s famous Assam tea region. He pops by my table to say hello as I’m pursuing his menu and I immediately exclaim, “so many of these dishes I’ve never heard of where do I even start?” I figure my best bet is leaving the decision making up to him so sit back and relax while the band sitting before me fills the room with a sweet melody.
My memorable meal begins with the pomp and panache of a table-side flame show as skewers of seared Aatishi Murg tandoori chicken flambe before my eyes. I can still smell the rich BBQ aroma and hear the serious sizzle. Moments later the rest of my feast floated onto the table, allowing me to mix, mingle and muddle among the dishes before me.
I was surprised and delighted by Bhunee Chaat, a dish inspired by traditional street fare featuring tandoori char-grilled pineapple, potatoes, pears, apples and bell peppers. The vegetarian-friendly dish was covered in a thick mix of sweet spices and dare I say addictive.
I had a penchant for prawns that eve and the kitchens preparation of spicy Jhinga Kalimirch did not disappoint. However, my favourite dish of the evening offered a lovely contrast in flavours and textures. Chef Pranjal’s Palak Paneer Kofta arrives at the table in a large ramekin, filled with plump spinach dumplings stuffed with cottage cheese and pistachios swimming in a spicy tomato masala.
My final (and fondest) memory at Hotel Jaypee Palace: scooping fragrant dried fruit and nut adorned biryani into my eager mouth while in the same breath slowly smearing the inside of my bowl of Palak Paneer Kofta with crispy roti in an attempt to indulge in every last drop of delicious.
tandoori chicken flambe at the table
street fare tandoori platter of char-grilled pineapple, potatoes, pears, apples, bell peppers
prawns stir-fried in onion and tomato masala with black pepper
Palak Paneer Kofta
spinach dumpling stuffed with cottage cheese and pistachio
Saynfitana Subz Pulao
basmati rice with dried fruits and nuts
Bharwan Amritsari Kulcha
a flatbread speciality from the city of Golden temple, filled with raisins, potatoes and spices