‘Dawat-E-Hyderabadi' food fete at The Residency Towers promises rich, delicious food from the princely hearths of Hyderabad

“Hyderabadi cuisine is rich in ingredients, spices, aromas and flavours,” promises Siju Tilak, general manger of The Residency Towers as he escorts us to our table at the hotel's Orion restaurant. We're there to try out the ongoing ‘Dawat-E-Hyderabadi' food fete, an a la carte menu that features a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian soups, starters, main dishes and desserts, all individually priced.

Hyderabadi cuisine, we know, is the legacy of the Nizams of Hyderabad. “Meat-based dishes brimming with gravy is a speciality of this cuisine. So is biriyani, especially gosht (mutton) biriyani. Saffron is an unavoidable ingredient,” explains chef Vinoj John, as we try to decide what to order from the extensive menu.

As we wait for our order we're served with a welcome drink – a tall, chilled glass of lassi that's flavoured with a ‘secret ingredient' (which we've inferred to be dried fruits) and topped with a sprig of mint. First up is soup. There are two each of vegetarian and non-vegetarian soups and we've decided on Murgh Zafrani Shorba (Rs. 90), a spicy chicken, herb and vegetable broth topped with a generous helping of saffron. It has a nice bite to it (no need for salt n' pepper) and tastes somewhat like a gourmet version of rasam. Then its onto the starters – we've chosen three, which in retrospect is a bit too much as the portions in each are almost as big as the main course! Kachee Kebab (grilled lamb cutlets) was a gastronomic delight and tasted a dream with the accompanying salad and mint chutney (Rs. 260). Equally good was the Murgh Malai Kebab (Rs. 250), a plate of tender, melt-in-the-mouth chicken marinated in creamy sauce, and served with tangy tamarind chutney. Aloo Ke Garley (Rs. 150), which is deep-fried balls of potato coated in gram flour and similar to our traditional bonda, too was flavourful, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Choice aplenty

There are a plethora of choices when it comes to main dishes – six from the vegetarian menu and nine from the non-vegetarian such as Subzi Diwani Handi (a mixed vegetables preparation), Hyderabadi Veg Biriyani, Jinga Kadi (prawn curry), Machi Ka Salan (mildly spiced fish curry), and Sukka Gosht (dry and spicy mutton), to name a few. We team Hyderabadi Masala Kulcha (Rs. 50), a soft paratha stuffed with vegetables, with Kaju Khumb Makhna (Rs. 160), mushroom in cashew curry. It's a delectable combination, to say the least. Of course, we've also got to try the signature dish – slow-cooked Hyderabadi Gosht Biriyani (Rs 290). It's exactly how a ‘Hyderabadi' version of biriyani should be – fragrant long-grained basmati rice layered with marinated meat and not at all oily.

By now we're stuffed to the gills but there's always room for dessert! Phirni (Rs. 100) is semolina and dry fruits cooked in milk and garnished with an assortment of fresh fruits such as apples, grapes, and banana. Although it looks like payasam, Phirni was not as heavy and was airy on the palate. We rounded off the meal with Shahi Tukda (Rs. 100) – three slices of fried bread soaked in sweetened hot milk and garnished with saffron. Rich and scrumptious.

The food fete is on till May 20, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Contact: 2331661