Taj Coromandel recreates Independence Day dinner served in 1947
Six executive chefs were delivered an unexpected brief last month: recreate a menu that was served at midnight, 70 years ago, at the iconic Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai.
The memo was sent to the Taj Coromandel (Chennai), Taj Palace (Delhi), Taj Krishna (Hyderabad), Taj Bengal (Kolkata) and of course, the hotel where the meal was had and the menu found.
Now, all of this is fairly surreal to digest, long before our first dish arrives as we sit down for a tasting at Anise in the Taj Coromandel in Chennai. We take it all in over a Cream of Almond soup that looks straight out of a painting with its snow white surface and artistic pops of orange by way of curried sunflower oil. Halfway through the menu arrives, and we find out — it’s in French!
“For the first 40 years of its existence, the kitchens of the Taj were dominated by a succession of French chefs, just as its dining rooms were commanded by Italian, French and occasionally English maîtres d’hôtel,” explains Amit Chowdhury, Executive Chef, The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai. As for who discovered the prized menu that sits in their archives, all he tells us is this, “It was found a while ago, completely by chance, by a Taj Associate. We thought it was a valuable asset that reiterates the historic relevance of the hotel and shared it around, before it was picked up on as a great initiative to mark this special 70th year of Independence.”
With names like Delices al’ Hindustan (Delicacies of India) and Poularde Soufflé Independence (chicken soufflé), Executive Chef of the Taj Coromandel Sujan Mukherjee elaborates over our four course menu that liberties were taken with the interpretation of these names depending on region. In this case, the former is a platter of kebabs like Zafrani Murgh and Mutton Seekh kebab while the latter is a subtly flavoured chicken stuffed with pistachio with a side of buttered vegetables.
Digging a little deeper (into our chicken and then more about the night), we are passed on an extract from the book The Taj At Apollo Bunder with guest testimonies from that celebratory dinner. Catherine Courtney’s words give us a sense of revelry that accompanied that dinner all those years ago, “Independence was ushered in with music, dancing, speeches and merrymaking. At midnight, the lights went out and D F Karaka, who then owned the Current Weekly, got up and made a little speech. Then the lights came on again and behind him there was the Indian national flag lit up in lights.” Going all the way to recreate that night, the Taj Coromandel will do the same — illuminating the façade of the hotel with the colours of the flag on August 14 at midnight.
Dinner only. Rs 1,947 plus taxes. Ongoing till August 14.