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Lost in the chaos of Khari Baoli, the biggest wholesale spice market in Asia, I had first stumbled upon the Himalayan rock salt years ago, its pink crystalline shards peeking from an open burlap sack. More recently, I said hello to it again on one of the dining tables of AnnaMaya, a European food hall that has set up shop in Andaz hotel, in Delhi’s Aerocity. Doffing its hat to the colours and flavours of India, AnnaMaya focuses on locally-sourced ingredients and niche artisanal produce. If you can tear yourself away from the huge pomegranate sculpture with its red seeds spilling out at the entrance, you will realise that the outfit is a dining destination but also doubles as a retail platform for carefully-curated artisanal products.
The 'Make in India' concept is the cornerstone of this fine dining address, wherein all products used are from India, have a socially-inspiring story and also support a social cause. For instance, the pink rock salt that occupies pride of place at the table and can be grated on your dish of choice has actually been quarried by local women in Ranikhet’s tough terrain. Similarly, the multi-coloured painted pottery plates from Khurja add the perfect context to the assorted menu items, which can be shared family-style among large or small groups.
The feeding frenzy starts right away with an array of starters including the burrata (the soft-textured cheese with an outer shell of mozzarella and cream centre) that is served with Fire-Roasted Tomato and Basil Naan as well as aloe vera and micro greens from the hotel’s greenhouse that are served on grilled Rye Bread.
Elastic waistbands are recommended if you want to nibble your way through a raft of dishes from The Kitchen section of the menu, which features everything from Smoked Salmon Tartine (open-faced sandwich) on grilled rye bread with avocado and micro greens to Butter Baked Garlic Prawns, pepper flakes and a crusty baguette. Jazzing up your order are whimsical side dishes such as the Char-Roast Carrots, drizzled with Himalayan Honey and Black Onion Seeds and Sukkah Aloo (potatoes, garam masala and sun-dried mango powder).
The Sweet Corner of the menu is not eclipsed by its savoury counterparts, and it is hard to miss the showstopper Coconut Panna Cotta that is teamed with Papaya Compote as well as the wide range of home-made Gelatos, Sorbets and Kulfis. Also playing a cameo role in the dessert section are classic Indian confections like Rasmalai and Gulab Jamun.
Clearly, seasonal ingredients and Indian produce are finding a new fan base at AnnaMaya. And it is high time we raised a toast to that.