Our new year’s day had started a little late, like any others, some friends had come over the previous night and our party at home went on till it neared dawn. At noon our day had just begun with New Year wishes to family and friends. Weather however was a pleasant surprise, the dense fog which had been a nuisance for all the airlines in last few days was nowhere to be seen. It was a clear day, without the usual winter haze, the grey canvas above backlit by the sun which hid behind the clouds adding a comforting warmth to the proceedings. It was difficult not to be tempted by such a wonderful weather. Such days are few and far in between during winter here in Delhi NCR, hence we chose to go out and make merry while the sun shone. It was close to lunchtime so we looked for a place where we could have a good meal and a few searches on the internet were enough to lead us to “Shraman” at Hotel Ashok. My wife suggested that we also visit “Birla Temple”, starting the year with some blessings seemed appropriate to both of us.
Lutyen’s Delhi is without doubt one of the prettiest urban landscape you will find in our country. Beautiful streets flanked on each side by an array of huge sprawling bungalows and large green trees which provide a natural shade look even better on a warm sunny winter day. Aided by our navigation system we reached Hotel Ashok, one of Delhi’s old five star hotels. This hotel is a throwback to the times gone by with an elegance of a laidback veteran. Shraman is one of the specialty restaurants in the premises of this grand hotel. We had been enticed by its authentic Rajasthani and Marwadi cuisine which had received rave reviews online. A short staircase led us to this Satvik specialty restaurant tucked in one of the hotel building’s corners. The table right next to the entrance faced a big window through which you had a good view and we decided to seat ourselves there. The restaurant was quiet and calm, the décor had hints of Rajasthan’s royal lifestyle. It was just the place to have a relaxing time. The menu as the reviews had suggested had some classic dishes of Rajasthani, Marwadi and Gujarati cuisines. It was ironical that we failed to get such an alluring menu during our entire trip to Rajasthan last year and yet here it was closer home, albeit in a five star hotel. We were quite enamored by the dishes which were listed. Our meal begun with a Tomato- Coriander and Almond soup along with some “Matar Ki Kachodi”. The entrée always sets the expectations from any meal you are having and at Shraman we relished it. We drooled over the menu for some time, almost wanting everything on our plate, and finally went with what reviewers had suggested as the best Dal Baati Churma in town, Bedwi Puri and Papad Mangori ki Sabji. A few minutes later we were served with fairly big rounded Baatis which came floating in a bowl of ghee, 2-3 serving spoons of hot dal was poured over them. The way it was presented would have drawn out the foodie even in a health freak of the highest order. It tasted as delectable as it looked with a divine sprinkling of sweet Churma completing the palate. The combination of Bedwi Puri and Papad Mangori (which was like Badi, a dish prevalent in my part of the country) Ki Sabji totally delighted our taste buds, with its perfect blend of spices. These two immaculate courses were followed up by Ghevar Malai Mishri which capped off a perfect three course lunch which took us right into the soul of Rajasthani cuisine. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this was the best food we have had anywhere in Delhi NCR, doing perfect justice to its origins.
After our perfect meal, which had almost happened by chance, we drove down to Birla Mandir about 5 kms from the hotel, near Connaught Place. When we reached there I realized that it was the same temple which I have noticed while I went for my photo walks to Chandni Chowk. The vibrant yellow and red structure had captivated me and it was a wish to try and capture it through my camera. So here we were on the New Year’s Day at the Birla Mandir or the Laxmi Narayan Mandir and I was delighted that I had carried my DSLR along. The queue at the main entrance of the temple was not long when we reached there, perhaps due to that perfect hour just after lunch when the temple had just opened with people ambling having finished their own lunch. Once through security check, which made me go back and put my iPhone in a locker, we found ourselves in a fairly large campus with the main sanctum in front of us. The red and yellow colored temple reminded me of the Dakshineshwar Temple in Kolkata. The temple though not crowded had a buzz inside with people who were probably there to begin the New Year on an auspicious note while some others who were on a sight-seeing tour led by a guide. We offered our prayers, took a small walk around the premises and came out. A side entrance led us into the expansive park behind the temple. It was evening and the park was now full of people, with family and friends, having fun, wishing that it would be a happy new year. While the sun set I fulfilled my wish to capture this beautiful temple as we took a walk around it
The warmth in the afternoon was gradually being taken over by the usual winter chill and we headed back home. It has been a good start to the New Year.