Novotel Hyderabad Airport is hosting a ‘Best of West’ food festival that celebrates the cuisine of the Western states of India. The festival showcases the culinary traditions of Maharashtra (Vidarbha and Malvan), Gujarat, and Rajasthan. Earlier this week, I was invited to a blogger’s table hosted by the hotel. The Square, Novotel’s buffet restaurant where the festival is being held, has been decked up in vibrant colours and decorated with paintings, puppets, colourful vases, and various knick-knacks from the region. Harshvardhan Dengwekar, Marketing and Communications manager at Novotel Hyderabad Airport, explained that one of the goals of the festival is to move away from the usual five-star, restaurant food and offer something more rustic and homely to the guests.
We began our evening with a Farsan platter. The buffet had Navaratan, Namkeen, Bakarwadi, Dhokla, Khandvi, Patra, and Handvo on offer. This was my first taste of Handvo – a lip-smacking steamed Gujarati savoury cake preparing from various lentils, rice, and veggies. From Maharashtra, there was Fish Kolivada (deep fried marinated fish cakes) and Aloo Til Tinka (veg croquettes made of potato and sesame seed). There were also a couple of live stations dishing out Pav Bhaji, Keema Pav, and Thepla Rolls.
Gujarati cuisine lead the way for main course also. We began with a selection of delectable vegeterian dishes from India’s westernmost state. My favourite was the Khichdi and Kadhi. Khichdi is a simple rice and lentil preparation that has dozens of variations across the country, and I pretty much love them all. The Gujarati Khichdi was no exception – this spicy, dry Khichdi is loaded with veggies and is traditionally served with a bowl of tangy, yoghurt based gravy called Kadhi. Undhiyu, which is usually the star of any Gujarati thali, didn’t quite match up to my expectations. The veggies didn’t really gel together, and the muthiya was a tad too tough. I also dearly missed Pooris with the Undhiyu. The Daal Dhokli, however, was fabulous. It’s a wholesome Gujarati curry that is essentially wheat flour sheets immersed in a sweet and sour daal. Also from Gujarat was Memoni Biryani. This was the only non-vegeterian dish from the state that I spotted on the buffet. Memoni Biryani is somewhat similar to Sindhi Biryani and belongs to the Muslim Gujarati community known as Memons. Memoni Biryani is quite different from the other more popular Indian Biryanis. It is not as aromatic as Awadhi Biryani and not as spicy as Hyderabadi Biryani. But don’t let that fool you. The Memoni Biryani is a star in its own right – the chunks of tender, juicy lambs will make you crave for more. I’ve heard numerous tales of the Saoji Chicken from my Nagpuri friends, so was excited to see it on the menu. The gravy contains grated coconut, black pepper, and poppy seeds, besides the usual Indian spices. However, the real claim to fame of the Saoji is its killer heat levels. However, the Saojis served to us was rather tame – milder than most of the Chicken Curries served in regular Hyderabadi Chicken preparations. The gravy was still delicious, but didn’t look quite like the Saoji. Also from Maharashtra was the Paneer Kolhapuri – a delectable tangy, spicy gravy made using dry coconut, tomato, and cashew.
No lavish Indian meal can be complete without a platter of mithai or sweets. Novotel has on offer Malpua, Puran Poli, Murmura ka Laddu, Makkhan Wada, Rajgir ka Laddu and more! The highlight was the Rajasthani Ghewar. Novotel conjured up an absolutely perfect rendition of this spectacular dessert – crisp edges with a soft mesh at the center that had soaked up the creamy malai.
The ‘Best of West’ dishes will be available in the dinner buffet at Square, every day, until 11th September. The buffet spread is quite large. I counted over twenty-five festival dishes on offer – many of them being dishes that you’d rarely spot in eateries around Hyderabad. The spread is a bit light on non-vegeterian options with Gujarati cuisine taking centre stage, but still has enough on offer to make everyone happy. The spread is large enough that even tasting all of the dishes proved to be an unsurmountable challenge for me. The buffet is priced at Rs. 1499 (taxes extra).