NEW DELHI: As the clock struck 12 on the night of August 14, the dinner menu at an iconic hotel in what was then Bombay doffed its cap to a newly independent nation.
The menu -- mainly consisting of Indo-French dishes -- has been recreated at some Taj hotels across the country to celebrate 70 years of the country's independence.
"While flipping through the archives of Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, one of our associates found the menu from the night of independence. It was shared with head chefs as a valuable piece of history," says Rajesh Wadhwa, Executive Chef at Taj Palace Delhi.
The hotel in the city carefully curated the menu while keeping in mind the ingredients and methods used then, but giving it a modern Indian twist.
The menu, priced at Rs 1947, includes an array of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes celebrating independence -- such as the Consomme a L'indienne" or the "Indian consomme", "Vacherin de peches liberation" and "Poularde Soufflé Independence". It will be on offer till August 14.
"We have retained the Indo-French touches not only in the names of the dishes but also in the core French sauces. We are also presenting the food in sync with the culinary traditions of that year," says Wadhwa.
The three-course meal includes a classic French bouillon broth with chicken, flavoured with cardamom and pepper, a smoked creamy almond soup, "Delices a l'hindustan"- tamarind flavoured cottage cheese tikkas -- and the souffle independence -- a fluffy three-egg omelette with chicken. The "Paupiette De Saumon Joinville" is pink salmon coated with white sauce and garnished with herbs.
"We did research into how to localise this menu. It took us around ten days to create this elaborated spread. The challenge was to present our guests with a menu which is certainly dated and reminiscent of different times," he says.
The Taj is also offering all serving and retired Indian Armed Forces personnel a special discount of 70 per cent across its hotels in India.
"The Taj has been a proud partner in India's journey for Independence. In 1903, our founder Jamsetji Tata built the Taj Mahal Palace hotel as a tribute to India in its journey towards economic and industrial independence," says Chinmai Sharma, Chief Revenue Officer, Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris.
Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was the country's first Governor-General, bid farewell to India from the steps of the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai in 1948.
Independence was ushered in with music, dancing, speeches and merry-making, the hotel states in a release. "Everyone was very happy and gay," it quotes from its archives a guest, Catherine Courtney, as saying. "We were dancing round madly. At midnight the lights went out and D. F. Karaka, who then owned the Current Weekly, got up and made a little speech. Then the lights came on again and behind him there was the Indian national flag lit up in lights... Outside the Taj the streets were absolutely packed with people," she said.
The guest recalled seeing "hundreds of people" coming up the stairs. "They were all happy and gay and I said, ‘Jai Hind’ and they said, ‘Jai Hind’".