There have been conundrums when you head out with your family and the infamous question pops up. “Where shall we eat?” This usually causes a major confusion where the matters often lead to unpleasant disagreements.
Especially if you are from Pune, where below every high-rise building is a fancy restaurant with a 4+ Zomato rating to its name. Not necessarily a bad thing, but when all the members of a big family crave for a different palette, that tends to be a problem rather than a solution. However, if there’s a single trait that runs through the masses of Pune, it’s that of a heartfelt love for authentic Maharashtrian cuisine. But herein lies the problem. Finding an authentic cuisine of any kind is a rarity in today’s age, what with the “fusion food” takeover. Lucky for that confused big family, from June 8th to the 17th, there’s a Maharashtrian Food Festival that’s going on at The Orchid Hotel. And the kind folks over at the hotel invited us to have our fill of a Paripoorna Bhojan. And man was it authentic.
The gastronomic journey began with a serving of cleanly cut mangoes of different kinds and within no time, the only the remnants were of the skin of the fruit. And mind you, this wasn’t a walk-to-the-nearest-grocery-store kind of mangoes. You could tell that the fruits were carefully chosen so that the customers only got to taste the best. This was followed by a quick walk over to Chaat Street, where a plate of paani puri and dahi puri titillated our taste buds. But right before popping one of those into my mouth, a thought crossed my mind. “I’m about to eat street chaat, but from a five-star restaurant. Can you really beat street food at their own game?” The answer was a straight “nope”. We then retreated to our seats where a pinkish red mocktail was awaiting us. “Pineapple cardamom colada" said the waiter draped in a traditional garb. The sweet drink had a strong aftertaste of the spice and it was absolutely delicious. Never thought I’d say that about a mocktail.
Then we moved on to the main course. It took its own sweet time getting to our table. But when the food finally arrived, we could see why. A gigantic thali, with fourteen different types of dishes, was placed in front of us. It included some stuff straight from the hinterlands of Maharashtra. Mutton kholapuri, anda curry, jhinga masala, pomfret curry, and tambara rassa, to name a few. The kind ladies at the live roti counter made sure we never ran out of bakhris, and it just kept on coming. An interesting fact about the Orchid hotel is that it’s not a hotel. It’s an ecotel, that too with a five-star rating. What this translates to is that there aren’t any disposable plastics used throughout the hotel. They’re extremely environmental friendly. And more interestingly, they grow their own herbs and spices. So whatever touched our taste buds were fresh, pesticide-free, and full of flavour. It was then time for desserts. And as you might have guessed, only traditional sweets here. Puran poli, aamras, gujia, chikki, gulab jamun, you name it, they have it. And all prepared to perfection. There were some cakes and brownies too, to appeal the “fusion foodies”, but if you ask me, they felt out of place in an otherwise authentic experience.