“So, how's Brown Sahib,” someone or the other would ask me every now and then. “Don't know,” I'd reply, “I haven't been there.” The questioner would look at me with surprise – for the restaurant had already gathered eyeballs and was getting reviews that were as confusing as they were sharp. Some said it was wonderful; some impolitely disagreed. And how!
I haven't gone there yet because I really try to avoid malls. I have been to a couple of restaurants in South Delhi malls – but it has always been because of a good cause. I haven't found a good reason to visit Brown Sahib, which is situated in MGF Metropolitan Mall in Saket. I will go there one day, I used to tell myself – but I'd take my time.
Then, the other day, my brother-in-law asked me if I had eaten at Brown Sahib. I replied in the negative. This was just before we went to his house for a dinner engagement that had been decided at the last moment. I was wondering what he was going to serve us, for his old cook, who made the most delicious Calcutta biryani in town, had packed his bags and gone (as Saki wrote, she was a good cook, as cooks go; and as cooks go, she went). I needn't have worried – the food came from Brown Sahib. And it was simply wonderful.
But let me begin at the beginning.
Brown Sahib serves Calcutta food – which includes Bengali as well as Anglo-Indian, and Conti dishes that the city is known for. The brother-in-law, who grew up in Calcutta, missed the wonderful Bong food that his mother used to cook. So he went the whole hog and ordered everything he could think of. He asked for curried crabs and prawns in a gravy. He asked for steamed hilsa in mustard sauce, and roast chicken with sausage stuffing. Then there was chicken a la Kiev, and sundry vegetables – such as pumpkin with coconut, lau (bottle gourd) ghonto and mashed potatoes.
I had a bit of the hilsa and the prawns – and loved them both. The pumpkin, cooked in a Bengali way with a few Bong spices, was simply superb, as was the bottle gourd. And the chicken a la Kiev oozed butter in the most mind-boggling way. My wife, who, alas, couldn't eat any of her favourite dishes because she's been unwell, focused her attention on the roast chicken – and gave it full marks. The roast came with a buttery mashed potato, and steamed baby potatoes, broccoli and other veggies, but they missed out on the brown gravy.
I can't tell you how much it cost – for despite my valiant attempts I couldn't get a peek at the bill. But I know that Brown Sahib is not inexpensive. But then, which top restaurant in a mall is?
The vegetables, I later found out, cost between Rs.195 and 225. The prawns are for Rs.475 to 575 and the crab for Rs.425 to 475. The hilsa is for Rs.545.
The only complaint I have is about the sweet dish. The pithey that was ordered was too thick and rubbery, though the sweetened and thickened milk it came in was heavenly.
I now have a New Year resolution. I am going to squash my dislike for malls, to go visit Brown Sahib one day. For good food, I am ready to traverse the earth.