“We used to line up in front of the Taj Mahal Hotel during night to grab hold of their Cona Coffee that was served for Rs. 4/- at Machan back in our days”, said a middle-aged gentleman who happened to be a patron. Well, this is what spiked my interest in the legacy of Machan- the iconic gem in Delhi’s Taj.
It is easy to see the type of nostalgia that the place ignites in the hearts of the foodies and connoisseurs of the city who have been a part of the Machan legacy ever since it opened 40 years ago.
Some know it as the place serving Cona Coffee for Rs. 4, a little younger ones recall purchasing a cup for Rs. 5. Whatever the price maybe, it is intriguing how a restaurant that has been running for such a long time, still manages to be relevant in the age of innovation and tremendous competition.
Well, that’s the power of old-school. The power of classics.
I visited the restuarant today, I.e. on 20th June 2019 for a special tasting of the Machan classics from the menu that went live for the first few months of opening and also from the journey of the restuarant thereafter.
Getting my hands on the old menu, it was easy to see the trends that shaped modern-day food scene of the Capital. From mutton cutlets to crumbed fried chicken- there was a Colonial touch back then which is still easily seen in today’s Delhi. Be it in the form of club sandwiches, the shami kebabs or our mutton curries.
The chefs at Machan, recreated some classics from this first menu of Machan and it was a sheer delight to take the culinary journey back to beginning of this legendary restaurant.
We tasted the Mutton cutlet, herb-crusted chicken breast and the prawn cocktail for appetizers. The first one was a nice little flavor bomb of delicious Mutton mince inside a crunchy fried cutlet. The fried chicken was even tastier with tender free-range chicken that was flattened and fried with a nice crumbed texture that added just another dimension to the dish. The creamy prawn cocktail was a symphony of flavors with its fantastic components- fresh prawns, caviar and fresh coleslaw.
The signature Kathi roll filled with a nice, smokey chicken was also served and of course, it was just perfect. It is one of the more renowned dishes of the Taj Mahal franchise and it is easy to see why.
Heading on to the main-course, it was a rather dynamic mix and match as we began with an Italian classic- Spaghetti with a twist. The Chicken Montecarlo- a dish that is more about the chicken than the spaghetti and hence, not typically Italian. Nevertheless, it was one of the best renditions of Spaghetti I’ve ever had. A tender breast of corn-fed chicken (not your typical battery hen) in a nice and tangy manzanilla olive sauce on a bed of spaghetti.
The chefs of Machan clearly showcased their prowess of improvisation, innovation and perfection over the years of the Machan legacy.
In the Indian main-course, we went for the usual suspects- the comforting Dal Makhani, the tangy and rich Aloo Tamatar Gosht and of course the Hazratganj Biryani. All of these made for a hearty and filling lunch that satisfied the foodie soul within us.
To sum up, the 40 year journey of Machan at the Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi is an inspiring story for the F&B enthusiasts of the nation and it is also a lesson of consistency and perfection for all those budding restaunters and chefs of India.