Part 2 –Food and Drink
How many are the ways that I may tempt thee … is what the Taj Madikeri seems to be asking of its guests, as it springs forth cuisines from its array of restaurants that range from the much sought after local delicacies of Coorg, to the ubiquitous multi cuisine and of course what many of us cannot do without … our pan Indian fare.
In addition they delight their fitness conscious clientele with a delectable Wellness menu (yes there are some people who want to eat light on a holiday, yours truly included :-D)
Executive Chef Jose Tachil and team pulled out all the stops to *curate menus that fulfilled all our heart’s and tummy’s desires and you may join me to vicariously e-eat as I take you restaurant hopping at the luxurious Taj Madikeri Resort & Spa.
So place that napkin on your lap and pick up that cutlery and prepare for a shower of rose petals, for we are going to embark in style on our 2 day long food trail.
Fear not, the meals are interspersed with treks and rainforest walks across the undulating terrain and we shall hope that calories will be intermittently destroyed 😀
Taj Madikeri has 4 main restaurants and a bar. The Dew is just above the spa and hence in deference to its neighbor down under, it chooses to serve a variety of health foods 😀
Fern Tree is the multi cuisine space with indoor seating as well as a terrace and offers panoramic views of the landscape.
The Nellaki restaurant serves traditional Coorg cuisine.
The Grill is the barbecue by the outdoor poolside that is operational during non monsoon seasons when the stars are out in the sky and the sparks fly high without getting doused out.
The Grill along with its equipment, moves indoors and peacefully coexists along with the Dew, when the rains are on.
Hive, the lounge bar with its stylish modern decor, provides a unique setting when one can get high merely by gazing at the vistas below 😀 Of course the wines and cocktails also do their part, with the bartenders blending exciting herbs and spices to add to the zing.
In addition to all these spaces, there is a gazebo that is perched alongside the driveway, which provides a view of the pool that lies far below the slope. One can also see the Fern tree from here.
This pavilion is where romantic candle light dinners are arranged for private dining, again during the non rainy months.
I was a guest of Taj Madikeri and hence had the privilege of partaking of meals that were specially curated with a lot of thought and care. The selection was from dishes that are available on the regular menu for all guests, so fear not, they will also be accessible to you.
Breakfast is usually served buffet style and there are a vast number of dishes lining the counters at every meal, encompassing items from local, pan Indian and global cuisines. Lunch and dinner are from a la carte menus and one can opt to dine at any of the restaurants that are open at that time.
What followed on the 2 days of my stay, was a deluge of food that had me crying out to them to stop, even as I myself could not stop myself from that one last bite or one last lick … and of course click.
The meals kept coming at us in quick succession and each one so distinct and diverse that it left us overwhelmed at the effort that had gone into making sure that every detail was just perfect.
The moaning and groaning apart, I made sure that managed to sample a bit of everything because justice had to be done to such exquisiteness.
From the perfectly done meats to the vegetarian offerings (which are substantial), to the in house ice creams with home grown fruit (where is that starry eyed icon when I need it most), every meal experience carried with it the signature hospitality of the Taj!!!
Day 1 –
Our inaugural meal at the resort was at the Dew where they lulled our conscience with a specially crafted healthy menu (an ambush of sorts before the attack by all the other rich meals that followed for the rest of the stay :-D)
The Dew overlooks the indoor infinity pool and offers you absolutely breathtaking views of the water and the surrounding panorama.
The meal was an tasteful symphony of an array of fresh ingredients put together into cleverly devised combinations that were printed on an elegant scroll of a ‘luncheon’ menu.
So how does one begin a healthy lunch? … with a detox concoction of course and the beet apple orange and lemon grass blend sloshed into our glasses, a vision in scarlet, as appealing to look at, as it was to taste.
A light and intensely flavorful Lime chicken broth proceeded to titillate our taste buds, followed by a soothing organic garden salad. The innovative Pakchoy wrapped seafood dimsums were next, with their carbs cleverly replaced by steamed leaves ensconcing the seafood blend within. I actually unabashedly had multiple helpings of these … well you know my thing for seafood right?
A flatbread topped with a trio of heirloom tomatoes then preceded the main course which was organic red rice served to the accompaniment of Asian flavored braised chicken and the contrasting flavor of Kodava kuru curry, which is a gravy made with the local bean seeds called kuru that are chunky and of hearty texture.
Dessert was a dark chocolate semifreddo along with frozen berry yogurt … (stars in the eyes again!!!)
The menu at Dew carries all these choices and this restaurant is a must visit when at the Taj Madikeri.
This meal was thoroughly enjoyable and was a wonderful start to our culinary journey.
Dinner of course was an extravagance. We dined at the Fern Tree which awaited us with flaming torches and its central sunken pool adrift with floating lotus leaves bearing gently flickering diyas.
The setting was elaborate and regal with rose petals strewn over the table and candles casting their muted glow. The cuisine was so local that the menu scroll too was held together with a blade of local grass 😀
The chef had crafted a Coorg thali (platter) with an eclectic selection of traditional fare, right from the breads to the vegetarian and non vegetarian curries and stir fries.
A chilled rasam in a salt rimmed shot glass, heralded the meal by clearing the palate, followed by a light broth of Attukal soup – lamb broth with local spice, to open up the senses.
A glass of bubbly stood by, standing sentinel next to the plate to rescue the palate from time to time 😀
Yella chuttah meen and Koli chuttad, the turmeric leaf wrapped MahiMahi fish and grilled chicken morsels were the starters.
The mains of course included the quintessential Pandi curry, the pork dish that is said to be the trademark of Coorg cuisine. However, the chef took care to let us know that it was not just the Pandi that defined Coorg food but a whole lot more and we were just on the edge of our discovery of the whole gamut of what Coorg had to offer.
Chef had also intended to give us a quick demo of this but we threw the schedule out of gear with our incessant photographing and hence the demo meat lay unfulfilled in its bowl 😀
Koli curry – chicken in coconut milk, Toppu palya – greens stir fry and Kuru curry – the local organic beans, made up the rest of the dishes. These were accompanied by the traditional Coorg rice breads of Otti – the griddle fried flat bread and the Paputtu and Kadumbuttu – steamed rice cake and dumplings respectively.
A warm bowl of Carrot payasam had been planned for us to end this grand meal but we talked the chef into extending the grand finale to include the homemade ice cream 😀 Apparently we were lucky to have the last of the stash of the mulberry flavor and then of course there was a scoop of the all time favorite avocado ice cream which was currently in season. At the end of this fest we needed someone to Scoop us out of our seats and and roll us back to our rooms.
Day 2 –
Breakfasts are buffet style as mentioned earlier. The spread is vast and the counters are laid out at the pavilion adjoining the Fern Tree restaurant. One has to climb a couple of steps to serve the food, a small price to pay for what is going to follow 😀
Apart from Western options of breads, cereals, home baked viennoiserie, assorted pastries, cheeses, cold cuts, fruit, yogurt bowls, muesli shots etc, they also have quite an impressive Pan Indian range that encompasses not just the ubiquitous North Indian cuisine like puris and parathas but they also reach out to the east and west with luchis, theplas, sabudana wadas and the like.
The serving staff also try to make your life easier by bringing some of the items to the table, like podi idli, bonda, ‘podi dosa spring roll’, vadas, paddus etc, served in tiered stands … some outStand’ing stuff there 😀
Live counters produce choice of eggs, varieties of dosas, sizzling bacon etc.
The local delicacy counter has around 3 dishes that change on a daily basis. I had the Koli Kande Korma (chicken curry) with Thalia Puttu (rice and coconut cakes steamed in flat plates) and the Molai kuru curry (sprouted local beans gravy). I also threw in a red rice dosa for good measure.
Tea is served local style, with the little glasses brought to your table in a chai stand into which the liquid is poured with a flourish. A great ‘pourto’ op there and we harassed the patient server quite a bit for the perfect ‘pouring shot’ 😀
Coorg is coffee country and the local filter coffee of course is much in demand.
For those who drink neither (yes there are aliens like that, yours truly included), there are fruit juices and also detox concoctions made from local vegetables and fruits.
An array of various flavors of rainforest honey and some local dark jaggery are available to sweeten your beverages or yogurts.
Our lunch on day 2 was an outcome of popular demand, where we insisted on an encore of the Coorg show of the previous night 😀
The chef willingly obliged us with Tharkari pulao -vegetable rice, Koli nallamullu barthad – a curry made from free range country chicken, Bambilee curry – Bamboo shoot curry which is my favorite, Kaad maanga curry – the mouth watering sweet and sour wild mango curry, Pache nallamullu yerachi curry – lamb curry, Pandi curry – the pork. These were accompanied by lacy, kerchief thin Neer dosas – rice crepes and Akki otti – rice flatbread. The pork was outstanding and it was difficult to stop taking more helpings despite being stuffed like a pig 😀
The table set against the backdrop of the scenery, made the meal that much more enjoyable.
Dessert was the interesting and unusual Bella paputtu, the steamed rice cake sweetened with jaggery syrup. Don’t miss this if you ever visit the Taj Madikeri.
Chocolate marquise and homemade ice cream with organic strawberries from the garden, made up the rest of the platter <3
Dinner was at the Grill which had moved indoors since it was the rainy season and was living in with its seasonal partner the Dew 😀
As I mentioned, the Grill restaurant is operational by the outdoor swimming pool only during the non monsoon months and dining there is said to be an experience not to be missed. Nearby candles and distant stars cast their soft glow and the bonfires do the rest and these are the lights that you will dine by, surrounded by the sounds of the jungle which are your background music.
We however, sat overlooking the indoor pool, which was quite a unique setting in itself. A special barbecue fest was organised for us, where in an untiring display of hospitality, Chef and team had again gone the extra mile (or several) to make our dinner a literally sizzling, smokin affair.
An innocuous looking healthy beet soup led the meal and was a delicious decoy for the rich food that was laid out for the attack 😀
This was followed by a salad that everyone pretended not to see because the sizzling had already begun in the background and all eyes and ears and lenses were trained towards that.
3 veg and 3 non veg offerings right off the grill, made for some seriously melt in the mouth and fall off the bone fare.
Rich and filling, it was a torture to juggle pleasing the tongue and showing concern for the tummy, as the Rajma galouti – kidney bean patty, Dahi aur pista tikki – hung curd and pistachio patty, Kitabhi aloo – hasselback potato, Jhinga nisha – large spicy prawns, Mirch ka murg tikka – chicken tikka and the Lamb galouti.
And there were mixed feelings of pleasure and guilt as the galoutis glibly glided down our gullets 😀
The main course (yes there were several), consisted of Raan so succulent and deliciously tender after being subject to slow cooking for hours, a slow cooked Black dal, that dissolved on the tongue, martaban ka murg – chicken morsels, Paneer makhana mirch – cottage cheese in a rich gravy of blended lotus seeds and Button mushroom gravy.
Assorted Indian breads and Jeera pulav accompanied this parade.
Dessert was a degustation platter of a 7 layer parfait (that was 6 layers too many for me :-D) and a Black and White which was goblet of Kala jamun with rabadi and nuts. Yes it drove me nuts that I could only manage a teeny bite because I was bursting full.
Day 3 – began with the usual breakfast at Fern Tree. Yes we came back for more despite the food orgy of the night 😀
After breakfast we had to check out and we did so regretfully, knowing that the pampering had come to an end and it would be back to reality very soon.
We returned home with sublime memories of the food and with the regret that 2 days had been quite insufficient to get a taste of all that they had to offer.
Now read on if you are curious to know how we dealt with all these calories 😀
Please Note – This trip was made in collaboration with Taj Madikeri Resorts & Spa. The narrative is based on the inputs that I received from various sources as well as my own experiences.
*This itinerary was specially curated hence some of the features might have been personalized accordingly. Before booking, please check the facilities offered in your package.
Jul 15th-17th, 2019