The Royal Afghan is one of the ITC Windsor’s restaurants unfolding the cuisine of North West Frontier, located under a spreading ‘Peepal’ tree by the side of the swimming pool, offering the most picturesque view of the of the property. Copper candle-stands with glass chimneys, rustic tumbler like shades suspended from the ceiling and conventional style wooden furniture it all combines simplicity with serenity to create one mesmerizing scene. The British demarcated the North-West Frontier Province in the year 1900, which comprised parts of Afghanistan and the Northwest part of pre-independence India. The cuisine has been inspired by the essence of North West frontier tradition, of camaraderie around the warm glow of a campfire – succulent tandoori fare, low on oil and high on authenticity.
The food at Royal Afghan is still cooked in clay pot ovens known as tandoors, the basic rule of Afghani Cuisine. The earthy aroma of the burning clay and appetizing sweet smell of roasting meats fill up the surrounding air and keep diners excited about the meal ahead. The Royal Afghan offers an ethnic experience along with the authentic food served, flatware on the dining table are not accompanied by the cutlery, to let diners enjoy the delectable kebabs conservative way. The view of the busy kitchen with chefs skewering kebabs for roasting add to the whole dining experience.
The great news for the food gourmands of the city is Royal Afghan has opened its doors for the weekend lunch called as “Weekend Afghani Afternoon”. Afghani afternoon is all about spending loaf time with family and friends in the company of unlimited delicious kebabs, supreme quality Indian wines and chilled draught beer. The menu for Afghani Afternoon consists of kebab dishes from the main menu, the same menu that is not been changed since the inception of the restaurant, so the quality and the consistency of flavors could be easily defined with this fact. The menu at The Royal Afghan has a strong persona of its own, painted on a block of solid wood, it compliments the name of the restaurant.
Being the meat lover I could not resist the temptation of tasting all the kebabs from the menu – Barrah Kebab (mutton kebabs), Tandoori Jhinga (Jumbo Prawns Kebab), Murgh Malai Kebab(Chicken Kebab), Murgh Reshmi Kebab (mince chicken kebab), Sheekh Kebab served with coriander mint green chutney and loads of sliced onion. Each variety of kebab is equally succulent, tender and bursting with delicate flavors, due to long hour marination masala penetrated into the deep layers of meat making kebabs uniformly flavorsome. The charcoal scented kebabs were cooked to perfection and there were no signs of dryness in the meat. It is tough to pick one as favorite but if asked which one I would like to taste again then my vote stands for Tandoori Jhinga Kebabs, those prawns were jumbo in the real sense, a rare sapor and tender. Though the world renowned Dal Bukhara is not part of Afghani Afternoon menu but dining at Royal Afghan and giving Dal Bukhara a miss is a sin for me so ordered Dal Bukhara with tandoor baked Khasta Roti, Pudina Paratha and Naan Bukhara. Dal Bukhara has it’s roots in Delhi-based ITC Maurya restaurant called Bukhara, the humble whole black urad dal is cooked overnight in the traditional Bukhara way on the tandoor, simmered all night with distinct ingredients and spices to create mouth melting pot full of dal.
And as all great meals end with dessert, we had creamy, saffron flavored, pistachio-laced Kulfi plated with rosewater, kewra splashed falooda. That Kulfi is surely one of the best Kulfis I have tasted so far, with no ice crystals in the center, engulfed with a pleasing essence of saffron, pistachio, and rosewater, it was a real sweet treat. You can now enjoy this world famous cuisine sitting by the shimmering blue pool with the regal old world charm of ITC Windsor as a backdrop between 12 noon and 3:00 pm every Saturday and Sunday at INR 1499++ for non-vegetarians and INR 999++ for vegetarians.
My sincere thanks to Chef Uchit Vohra, Chef Riyaaz, Harsh Shenoy (Restaurant Manager) and Murthy for sharing such insightful information about The Royal Afghan and making the whole dining experience so memorable.
Disclaimer: The review was done on an invitation from The Royal Afghan – ITC Windsor, my opinion, and words are unbiased and totally based on my experience at the restaurant. But, as they say, “Food is Subjective” so kindly exercise your own discretion, with the understanding that this is writer’s personal opinion.