Bukhara & Taj Mahal
For our second last night in Delhi, it was almost 7pm. After a short chat with the hotel concierge, we decided to give it a go – Bukhara. It is highly recommended and we were told it was tough to book a table. But, we got lucky to be able to book a table for 2.
By the time we arrived at ITC Hotels - where the restaurant is, it was almost 8pm. It was quite a distance from Connaught Place. We saw a lot of people waiting outside of the restaurant. “Mr. Lucky”, (that’s how the restaurant manager prefers to address himself as), gave us a very warm welcome. When asked him why “Mr. Lucky”, he has explained to us “Bukhara” is a city in Uzbekistan and also means a place of good fortune or lucky. That’s why he has called himself as “Mr. Lucky”.
Before our table was ready, we were taken to a smaller table and were served with drinks. The restaurant is very authentically decorated and the kitchen is part of the restaurant that can be seen through a glass divider. It looked clean and neat. A few minutes later, we were taken to our table and we were given the menu.
Bukhara offers traditional clay oven or tandoor-cooked kebabs, vegetables and breads. Once this rustic cuisine was enjoyed at the harsh terrain of the North West Frontier Province, which comprised parts of Afghanistan and the Northwest part of pre independence India, since year 1900.
The use of tandoor/clay oven guarantees food is cooked at constant temperature without making meats/vegetables/breads dry. This style of cooking is robust in flavours though not accompanied by any sauce or gravy, but only pre-marinated and cooked before serving.
We decided to go for Barrah Kabab (chargrilled chunks of leg of lamb and chops marinated in a mixture of yoghurt, malt vinegar and melange of spices), Murgh Malai Kabab (grilled creamy “kabab” of boneless chicken blended with cream cheese, malt vinegar, green chill and coriander) and Dal Bukara (black lentil, tomatoes, ginger and garlic, simmered overnight on slow charcoal fire, finished with cream and served with a dollop of unsalted butter). And of course accompanied with some Naan breads.
All the dishes came in really big portion. My favourite is the grilled chicken – nicely grilled outside and moist inside. For me, the dal is too creamy and heavy, though it did taste nice initially. The lamb was not bad but there was nothing too special about it. For our sweet endings, we had Kulfi (dairy dessert, almost like ice-cream) and Gulab Jamun (dumplings made of thickened or reduced milk, soaked in rose flavored sugar syrup). Though I am not overly crazy in desserts, but Gulab Jamun managed to get my 2 thumbs up!
The bill came to about over £90, for 2 people for all the dishes, a beer and a bottle of mineral water. I feel neutral and not disappointed. But in terms of food, there was nothing too amazing about it too. It is popular amongst the locals and a lot of foreigners. But that for me, doesn’t necessary mean or guarantee outstanding food. Or, it could be that I went to the restaurant with high expectation, looking at the fact that it is in a 5-star hotel! And for the price we paid, I think it is expensive and I could have spent it eating something better in London.
We woke up extremely early the next morning as we had a train to catch to go to Agra – best option to get to Agra, slightly more than 2 hours from Delhi. Yes! To see the Taj Mahal – one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Though Agra is a small town but with long and rich history – it was once the centre of India’s great Mughal empire and its legacy lives on in beautiful artwork and architecture.
When you read up a guidebook, it probably suggests the best time to see Taj Mahal is either at sunrise or sunset. Since we didn’t spend a night in Agra itself, we just have to see Taj Mahal in daylight. Maybe we were not very lucky as the day was very hazy. (I couldn’t figure out whether it was hazy or was it because of pollution!)
The Taj can be access through several gates – west, south and east. At the Taj, they are strict about what you can take or cannot take with you. You are ok to take cameras, mobile phones, water bottles, small bags and books.
The Taj Mahal is located on the right bank of the Yamuna River in a vast Mughal garden that encompasses nearly 17 hectares, in the Agra District in Uttar Pradesh. It was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal with construction starting in 1632 AD and completed in 1648 AD, with the mosque, the guest house and the main gateway on the south, the outer courtyard and its cloisters were added subsequently and completed in 1653 AD. If you’d like to read up more about Taj Mahal, you can check it here.
Though Agra is a dusty small town. But to set my foot in this little town to see the majestic view of the Taj is unquestionably worth it! It is quite an experience to see Taj Mahal in real, right in front of you. Just like a dream comes true! Well, I guess, I will let the pictures speak for themselves.