High Tea has become something of a phenomenon. From once being seen as a rather uptight affair, it's one of the most rejuvenating things to do today albeit an elegant, timeless ritual that deserves to be preserved. 'Ritual' is the key here — how many situations in our hectic lives truly have that sense of ceremony? However, if you've had your fill of smoked salmon sandwiches and English Tea and want something different then do what I did this afternoon and head over to the new tea lounge in Shangri-La's Eros aptly named 'Mister Chai'.
Now I admit I'm hopelessly old-fashioned and wished for the tea lounge to be swish, with flashes of drama. I just love food as theatre and was delighted to see that here it's provided by the ambience and food presentation. Uh huh, could get used to this… Then the quirky menu, with a flourish. The colourful teapots, the waiters delivering and removing plates of perfectly proportioned dishes, the menu with street-influenced bites crafted by Executive Chef Neeraj Tyagi. Yes, afternoon tea here was one of the few times when I could slow down and indulge in a leisurely hour with friends, sipping cutting chai brewed with ginger and cardamom accompanied by the 'namkeen ka dabba' filled with 'Ajwaini Mathi', 'Channa Jor Garam', 'Curry Patta Peanuts', 'Chakli And Chutney'.
The sliders had a selection of 'Vada Pao', 'Goan Chorizo Pao' and 'Shikampuri Pao'. My friends and I ordered all three! The pavs, which we ‘injected' with mint sauce (yes, it was accompanied with a plastic injection), were fresh, fluffy and each forkful melted in the mouth: 'wow pav' as promised in the menu! My favourite was chorizo pav; kudos to the chef for having transformed the poor man's burger into a gourmet delight. Up next was their signature 'Butter Chicken Samosa'. Yes, you read it right! There's not a single person I know of in Delhi who doesn't love butter chicken or samosas — here, chef blended it into edible parcels served with green chilli and it took will power not to wolf down all the crisp samosas packed with piping hot butter chicken and ask for seconds, maybe thirds!! How was I to know what was to follow would be just as sumptuous?! There were four chaats and we gleefully ordered 'Corn Bhel', 'SDPD', 'Shakarkandi Chaat'. The first was bhel puri in a gourmet avatar. SDPD i.e. semolina puffs, spiced potatoes, yoghurt and white peas is a chaat lover's delight! But it was the last one which had me lickin' my fingers, literally: crisp fried sweet potatoes smothered with tamarind and mint chutneys and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.
Just when I thought things couldn't possibly get better, the chef sent some of his best dishes last — 'MTDC', 'Colaba Fish Fry Sandwich’, 'Kanda Bhajiya' and 'Chocolate Toast'. The bhajiya is India's version of onion rings and was demolished in no time! MTDC — triple decker toasties with potatoes, onions, capsicum, tomatoes, cheese, coriander and mint chutney — is a must for lovers of the club sandwich! Then came the dish I had been salivating for since I spotted it on the menu: off-the-hook fresh, masala fried fish sandwich served with chilli chips... yes the same one we had as kids, remember? I was in culinary heaven! It's the one that'll reel me back in here time and again. Last, but not least, was sandwiches smothered with chocolate sauce.. and some pieces of Amul butter! That, in itself, was dessert for me even though the dessert counter was packed with sumptuous pastries.
Reminiscing back to the indulgent afternoon with delightful company, Mister Chai offers a unique take on high tea. Is it a wonder then that the week-old tea lounge was packed simply by word of mouth?! Bon Appetite!
— JASMEEN DUGAL
Mister Chai, Shanri-La's Eros Hotel, Ashoka Road, New Delhi