Savoir-faire at a sabha affair: Here's how the Margazhi season is stepping into the future
The grand piano, with a delicate wooden finish, stands temporarily moved to one side of the spacious foyer at the GRT Hotels, T Nagar.
It will be so for the course of the ongoing Grand Gana Sabha festival of live classical musical and dance performances, every weekend until mid-January next year.
The setting is intimate, with a makeshift stage occupying the central area.
The guests are often in modest gatherings of families, with appreciative members seated across from all ages, and at least a few generations apart — always a heartening sight to catch.
If you ever felt the need for quiet, contemplative moments in the city — these evenings are meant just for you.
What’s more — there’s a specially curated menu at hand, in keeping with the mood of the Margazhi season, put together by Chef Ganesh and Chef Maninder Singh, of the in-house ‘desi diner’, J.Hind.
Served up in some interesting themed cutlery, with mini table-side shows involving a blowtorch, and even dry ice for dessert — this really is all things classical served up with a contemporary flourish.
Eat, listen, feel meditative
To put things into perspective, this year’s Margazhi season has an unofficial category of venue to speak of — and it’s a fairly chic affair.
A good point for purists to note — when it comes to the food, the clanging of tableware is removed from the performance time and area.
And, you’re invited to partake in the special menu, once the show’s done.
Sure, the hotel is running busy in the background, what with weddings, conferences, and other in-house eateries running to capacity.
In all fairness yet, the ambient sounds and activity here doesn’t compare to what we found at some of the other shows we’ve been to.
Through an hour-and-half vocal concert, we were served some very soothing refreshments.
A point begs to be made about the cheerful hosts at J.Hind, who were eager to inform us about the dishes, and origins of each element.
The festive attire, and general mood did play up our expectations, and truth be told, the meal hit high notes all through.
Performance of a meal
At J.Hind, the meal is crafted into a little performance in itself. And, it did help to have someone close who could help us with the local tongue.
And we did get to savour that Gana Sabha feeling, even if it was with freshly laundered serviettes, some collectible and curious items for dinnerware, and reasonably good wine on offer at each table.
The amuse-bouche in our first course named ‘Pallavi’, of a Ragi Tart with Paruppu Espuma and Sambaram was a little mouth-bomb sensation, and rightly teased us over the mix of flavours to follow.
The ‘Anupallavi’ second course brought in an aesthetically plated serving of Ven Poosani and Cherry Tomato Soup; you get to play with the Crispy Tamarai Tantu (lotus stems) steeped in the warm and creamy broth, along with bright pomegranate seeds strewn about for that sharp, semi-sour hit.
The ‘Charanam’ third course brought in a few treats — Steamed Kuchi Kilangu, Vazahaipoo, and momo-styled Pumpkin and Kadalai Neer Upundai, a must-try.
Our dishes to go back for were in the ‘Chitta-swaram’ section — Doughnut Idlys with Kosthu, a heartwarming Puliyogare Thimbale, and a charming portion of Uthukuli Butter Curry.
The Mor Kalli Ellu Thuvaiyal, ultimately, is our top dish from the spread — authentic in taste, and seemingly served ready for a New York diner.
By the time the absolutely marvellous Maravalli Sago Kheer came in from the ‘Muktayi Swaram’ desserts section — we’d been lulled into a seeming state of euphoria, with the soft strains of a veena on loop, at the back of our heads.
Dec 20: Arthi V Lal (flute).
Dec 21: Deepika Varadarajan & Shantala Subramanyam (vocal).
Dec 22: Deepika & Nandika (violin).
Dec 27: Charulata (veena).
Dec 28: Kannan Balakrishnan.
Dec 28: Moumita & Group.
Check details for performances in January 2020.
Meal for two: INR 3,600 +tax.
— Jaideep Sen