Photograph courtesy of Moti Mahal
We like Moti Mahal. A lot! Beyond the fact that this upscale modern restaurant serves some of the best South Asian and Indian food we’ve tried in Central London, Moti Mahal has repeatedly wowed us with innovative tasting menus (apple chutney anyone?) and events (from wine pairing to Bollywood dancing). With the launch of a new Grand Trunk Road menu, we thought this might be a brilliant chance to stop extolling Moti Mahal’s virtues and simply find out from head chef Anirudh Arora his take on the new menu and his experiences as a chef.
So, what is the Grand Trunk Road and what inspired you to create a menu based on it?
The Grand Trunk Road is India’s longest road, which covers 2,500km. It was built in the 16th Century by Emperor Sher Shah Suri, to connect Agra with his hometown, Sasaram. Today, the Grand Trunk Road in India starts at Kolkata in the far-east and navigates the breadth of the country through Varanasi, Delhi and Amritsar before entering Pakistan.
I have travelled this road many times and I wanted to have a menu that showcased all the most delicious and unique dishes found along its path. The menu celebrates the rural bounty of Indian cuisine, and I am proud to have established a menu that retains India’s traditional dishes.
What are some of the Grand Trunk Road menu’s highlights?
Apart from featuring truly authentic Indian cuisine, I think the highlight for me is to be using a Clamp Grill in our kitchen. This very traditional process of Indian grilling has disappeared in Modern Indian cooking, and so it has been very exciting to bring the method back. How it works, is that meat is sandwiched between two clamps and grilled, making it incredibly soft and tender. The whole leg of lamb seasoned with cinnamon, bay leaf and green chillies is my personal favourite.
We also serve guinea fowl, which is a very traditional dish, but actually very rare in the more modern parts of India. You need to travel to the rural villages to find people who still use recipes with guinea fowl.
What can people expect from a dining experience at Moti Mahal and what sets your restaurant apart from other Indian eateries in London and the UK?
Moti Mahal is not your ordinary Indian eatery. We really believe in giving our guests a culinary journey through India, which is why we have recipe dishes sourced from Kabul all the way to Calcutta. You will find unique foods on the menu, and we hope to highlight some of the true authentic cuisine that has been forgotten in more modern venues.
How did you get into cooking? How long have you been with Moti Mahal?
I was born and raised primarily in Delhi, where I traveled all around India as a child to visit my father who was an army officer. These voyages brought me into contact with the most fantastic Indian cuisine from all across the country, which really became my inspiration for wanting to be a chef. My mother also cooked traditional Indian dishes and seeing my father’s lavish army parties just further cemented that this would be something I would love to do in life.
I have been with Moti Mahal from the very start, which was 4 ½ years ago.
Any special moments in your career as a chef?
The best moment of my career was when I was asked to be the Head Chef of Moti Mahal. Seeing how it has progressed, and looking back on how things were when I got started, really gives me an amazing sense of satisfaction.
Got any kitchen secrets or shortcuts you’d like to share with our readers?
Before making a spice mix, dry roast all the spices on a very slow heat on a dry pan without oil and let them rest, and then grind them into a powder. This allows the full aroma of the spices to come out, as well as bringing out the oils which will give it that remarkable taste.