When the Indian Hotel Company Limited (IHCL, or Taj group to friends) got to renew the contract for the Taj Mahal Hotel on Man Singh Road, there must have been a collective sigh of relief within the corridors of power that traverse New Delhi. Not only is the erroneously called Taj Man Singh a fixture of the Capital’s landscape, but it is also home to The Chambers, a private member’s club dating back to 1982. Many a landmark deal has been struck over its menu, and the destinies of millions decided over dessert.
Always only accessible to members, in its new avatar post renovation, The Chambers now comprises a new restaurant (Rayasina), seven meeting rooms, The Chambers Lounge, a whiskey bar, and a cigar lounge, sprawling over two floors of the iconic hotel. The Chambers, for those able to access it, is present across seven marquee Taj hotels in six cities including Dubai, and will soon have cream-of-the-crop up in London and Bengaluru. Membership to one means access to the rest, with newly updated technocrats, scions of business houses, and a select other few in line to become members. And yes, it is transferable to your descendants.
Not being a member, yet an invitee, I begin the meal with a splash of Stranger & Sons Gin and tonic water (the restaurant has a gin cart with a plethora of spirits, mixers and garnishes), which goes down as smoothly as do the starters: Treacle Cured Salmon and Crab on Toast. Needless to say, there is something to whet and satiate every appetite. Crab on Toast is my favourite; the carelessly placed medallion of chicken liver pate accompanying it reminding me of the benefits of success. Forget goodie bags, I’d like more sweet yet salty salmon, elevated by pickled cucumber, red radish and mandarin segments.
Continuing the acquaintance with Strangers, I gravitate towards the Nossoto, and a Double Baked Cheddar Cheese Soufflé, both dishes having such a powerful flavour profile that I can’t help circling back to these.
The Nossoto is, yes, a risotto, but made with pine nuts and pecorino, its utter umami broken up by citric grapefruit segments. The soufflé, the double baked cheese one, gives you a perspective on decadence, in that there’s no such thing as too much: the soufflé, drenched in truffle oil and accoutred with pickled mushrooms and charred leeks, hits every flavour note.
Speaking of bittersweet symphonies, let’s go to the mains: Grilled Sea Bass with Admiral Sauce; Curry Grilled Lamb Chop; and an Olive Dust Chicken designed to simultaneously beguile the senses. The last comes with a potato gratin shaped into a chicken breast and soaked in the fowl’s natural jus, attended by crisp-yet-tender pieces of chicken.
That’s why I stumble into the lamb chops, accentuated by quenelles of green pea mash and more. Indignantly stripping the meat off the bones, I go out to sea. Thank you Admiral (sauce) for your service, and thank you chef (meet him later this week in this publication) for the flaky fish and the lavishly scattered shrimp that festoon it.
For dessert, we dabble with the Raspberry and Yoghurt Semifreddo, the Tasting of Coffee, and Chocolate Cheese Center. The first is an orchestra of flavours and textures, a dessert sans saccharine sweetness; while secundo is every coffee aficionado’s dream dessert. Then there’s the price de resistance: three types and textures of chocolate shaped into a solid bar, with parmesan custard running through its middle. Enough said?