Ohri’s group started its journey thirty-five years ago with Hotel Baseraa in Secunderabad. Now, Ohri’s has two dozen restaurants spread across the twin cities. Tansen is one of their signature restaurants, which brings the Nawabi khana of Lukhnow to the city of Nizams. This Mughal themed restaurant derives its name from the famous musician of emperor Akbar’s court. The decor of Tansen marries elements of Mughal architecture with modern sensibilities. As you walk-in through the walkways surrounded by carefully lit pillars and artificial lotus ponds, you are transported to a world that feels far removed from the hubbub of the city. Live Ghazal performances on Friday evenings make the experience even more memorable.
I was invited to a blogger’s table hosted by Ohri’s. We had a set menu for the event that was specially chosen to highlight some of the best that Tansen has to offer.
We started off with Yakhni Shorba. The Shorba was an absolute treat for the senses – the rich aroma and flavour of mutton was enriched by browned onions, mint, clove, and a hint of saffron. Next up were vegetarian starters – Paneer Dum Roll, Dahi ke Kebab, and Rampur ka Pyazi. Paneer Dum Roll might not belong to the traditional Lukhnowi gharana, but it is a cracker of a dish. Rolls of paneer are shallow fried and stuffed with veggies and cheese to create a brilliant blend of flavours. The Rampur ka Pyazi is nothing like the Pyazi or Onion Fritters that are a popular snack in many parts of India. Tansen’s Pyazi is shallow fried and is soft like a kebab. It is stuffed with browned onions,cashews, browned onion, and garlic.
The non-vegetarian starters on offer included Jhinga Til Tinka, Awadh Ke Galouti, Dum ke Machhi Patrewali, and Lahsoni Dhania Murgh. The melt in the mouth Galouti always steals the show when done right, and Tansen didn’t disappoint. The fragrant and soft Patrewali Machhi was a close runner up. This dish is prepared by wrapping Murrell fillets marinated in coconut and chilli chutney in banana leaves and cooking them on dum (steamed in a sealed vessel). Chicken dishes are oft overshadowed by mutton and fish, but the Lahsooni Dhania Murgh succeeded in making its mark thanks to the surprisingly smoky taste. The boneless chicken pieces were tandoored to perfection – slightly charred yet moist and tender. The crunchy, sesame coated Jhinga (prawn) is a surprisingly addictive munchy, but I was a tad disappointed that the much of the flavour of the prawn had been lost in the process of deep frying.
For the main course, Rara Gosht and Begmathi Murgh were paired with Gosht Dum Biryani and assorted breads. The chicken gravy was mildly spiced with the dominant flavours being that of onions and methi. The Rara Gosht is an extravagant dish that’s popular across dhabas in Punjab. Pieces of lamb are slow cooked with whole spices and minced meat. I was surprised to see this dish on the menu, since the aggressive use of spices makes this gravy quite different from the usual subtle flavours of Awadhi khana. The aroma of the Biryani and the flavour of the ghee was mesmerising, but given that Tansen serves Awadhi cuisine, I felt that the Biryani had too much masala. This could have been due to the Biryani not being mixed properly before being served, or it can be a compromise to please the Hyderabadi junta. Tansen serves speciality breads like Taftan, Sheermal, Bakarkhani, and Bhurani Paratha that aren’t widely available in Hyderabad. My favourite was the Bakarkhani – a slightly sweet bread, rich in ghee and nuts. It has a hard crust layered with poppy seeds that hint at its place of origin – Bengal. The Taftaan, on the other hand, is light and flaky, but equally delightful. The Sheermal was a bit of a letdown, since it didn’t have the sweet taste once would expect in a Sheermal. The Bhurani was something I hadn’t experienced before. It turned out to be a red coloured paratha gently spiced with chilli and chat masala.
The heavy duty main course was followed by quintessential Indian desserts – Matka Kulfi, Rasmalai, and Phirni. All of the sweet dishes were excellent, but the Phirni deserves a special mention. This vibrant yellow dessert is prepared from ground Basmati rice and is enriched with pista gratings. The phirni was embellished with aluminium foil and served in a earthen pot. The final surprise for the day was Paan shots – a wonderfully refreshing way to finish a lavish meal.
Tansen offers the ever so elusive combination of enthralling decor, sublime food, and pocket-friendly pricing. I took a look at the menu after our regal dinner, and was pleasantly surprised to see the Yakhni Shorba to be priced at Rs. 120, and the Dhani Murgh at Rs. 320. Tansen offers fine-dining in the truest sense of the word. It’s an experience that you shouldn’t miss out on.