Celebrating Iftaari at The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata
Kolkata was once known as the city of Palaces and if you take a walk down the roads of the older part of the city you would know why it was called so. Most of these palatial buildings are now almost in ruins but when a heritage hotel restores its buildings to welcome you all over again it makes me confident that a part of the old erstwhile Calcutta now Kolkata will live on.
The Great Eastern Hotel is now called The Lalit Greast Eastern Kolkata and all throughout Ramadan they had a beautiful celebration of this season's festivity every Friday with an array of dishes from different corners of the world to celebrate this festive season .
It was held every Friday throughout the holy month of Ramadan at their elegant restaurant, Alfresco.
Their motto is to spoil you with choice and once you are happily over fed you cannot but leave the restaurant with a smile on your face a satisfied heart and a reason to come back again.
The start to this lovely meal was very traditional. I have always been tempted by the range of fried fritters that are served just as roza is about to be broken and in keeping up with this tradition which I see in Kolkata our starters comprised of a range of assorted fritters from Bengal from poppy seed fritter to the humble potato chop which was very tasty by the way and some egg chop and meatball.
If the beef Moroccan salad tempted me in one corner the the haleem simmering away on another end of this restaurant to draw my attention.
On Chef's insistence I tried the vegetarian haleem and I must say this was a revelation. As a puritan I have mostly scoffed at vegetarian versions of non veterinarian dishes but this comforting amalgamation of grains and spices was exactly what I needed on a rainy evening. There are very few haleem even the non vegetarian versions which can taste as good as what I had been served. Chef later told us that the haleem was made the Lucknawi style which makes it spicier than its Kolkatan version and I have to say that it was completely and utterly triumphant in its own right.
The fresh aroma of assorted middle eastern bread instantly drew us to the counter.
There were the usual dishes such as Nihari, Mutton Kosha and a host of other dishes but what caught my attention was the Afghani meatballs and Khichda (the meaty version of Khichdi which is a dish made with assorted pulses , rice and meat) Though the consistency was more like Pulao than the creamy soft khichda I happily settled for it with some afghani meat balls as an accompaniment.
As I took a tour of the entire buffet spread all I could think was 'this spread is humongous'
What I also liked was how the chefs keep the customer's palate in mind when setting a menu. So the assorted European cheese platter is hands down a lovely combination with the Middle eastern breads along with some shorba to make it a fusion affair.
In case you want to enjoy a light bite there is a whole counter of salads to tempt you.
So impressed was I with many of the dishes that I hoped that they would include this in their regular menu but chef told us that if included in their regular fare it would lose its charm and somehow I could not but agree. I genuinely hope they put up this lovely spread for some other festival in the near future so that all of Kolkata might enjoy it.
I can never leave the dining table without something sweet and hence a visit to the dessert counter got me all excited. There was baked cheesecake and Baklava and then there was fig halwa 'anjeer halwa' , Sewain kheer , nutty tart and a host of other desserts which we did not have the guts to even look at so full were we by this time.
The baklava was excellent, rich inside with the pistachios with a thin crisp filo pastry covering it all up. What I liked was that it was less sweet than the traditional baklava. Somehow for me if a dessert is too sweet it becomes less enjoyable after the first bite . Then there is the nut tart with a perfectly crisp tart shell and nutty caramelized filling which I feel was again a revelation since I expected it to be much more sweet than it was.
To be fair the mild disappointment was the cheesecake which seemed a bit too compact after those desserts which took my heart away but then again who am I to complain when I had a fantastic phirni to enjoy.
In case you missed this event do try and drop in The Bakery for a lovely Sunday brunch.