Maharaja Palace sets the scene for a captivating culinary
experience – Roshini Galappatti enjoys a spicy aroma
Maharaja Palace is a ‘new kid on the block’ amongst restaurants in Colombo. Yet, it has become a place that’s much talked of, in a short span of time. Many attributes set Maharaja Palace apart from other Indian restaurants in Colombo, but possibly the most pronounced difference lies in how it has recreated an ambience that’s reminiscent of Moghul royalty. It’s obvious that the restaurant has spent lavishly on creating a dining space that sets the scene.
Housed in one of Colombo’s old colonial mansions that has been beautifully renovated, the restaurant features Moghul architecture, art and furniture. With a colour theme that’s decidedly royal – i.e. red and gold – the interior dazzles as striking chandeliers call on your eyes for attention.
Three times a week, dinner guests are serenaded to traditional Moghul music, as the restaurant takes on the atmosphere of a dining hall in an ancient Moghul palace.
The restaurant is large and can accommodate up to 150 guests. It has a variety of dining spaces, from the main lounge downstairs to VIP rooms, private dining rooms and conference facilities on the upper floor. Cocktails and mocktails are prepared at a dedicated bar, while six Indian chefs work hard recreating sophisticated Lucknowi flavours in the restaurant’s impressive kitchen.
Specialising in Mughlai cuisine, Maharaja Palace imbibes a style of cooking developed by the imperial kitchens of the Mughal Empire in Northern India. Strongly influenced by Persian cuisine, Awadhi Lucknowi food represents Uttar Pradesh. This culinary heritage is brought alive at Maharaja Palace, as diners find a quiet balance between the extremely mild and surprisingly spicy. Traditionally, Moghul cuisine is characterised by an elaborate buffet of main courses with a variety of accompaniments.
The restaurant strives to recreate this with an array of condiments and accompaniments, along with an impressive variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes which are rich and exotic. Ground spices and nuts (cashew, almonds and pistachios) are infused with great enthusiasm to most of the dishes on offer, releasing flavours and a nutty richness, which brings to life the textures and tastes that are unique to Moghul cuisine.
Maharaja Palace specialises in the Mughlai Dum style of cooking over a slow fire. It offers delectable Dum Biryanis with chicken, mutton and vegetable, all cooked in steam, inside a covered pot with a blend of traditional Indian spices to create a distinctly exquisite aroma. Aside from the aroma, the Dum style biryani is delicious, and the rice fluffy and devoid of the usual heaviness.
The restaurant’s other signature delicacies include Butter Chicken, Mutton Korma, Tandoori Chicken, Tandoori Prawns, Chicken Hazarvi Kabab and Tandoori Pomfret Fish. Succulent soft meat in a rich flavourful sauce, the Rogan Josh is appealing with fluffy steamed rice. Service is prompt and orders are taken promptly and delivered with speed. The Manager attends to the needs of diners and is resourceful in giving advice on complementing dishes that suit individual palates.
On the dessert menu is the creamy, spice-packed Kulfi that completes the meal and the extreme sweetness of the Gulab Jamun is counteracted by the restaurant’s unique conclusion to a meal, the ‘fun shot.’ A combination of fresh tobacco leaves, betel and spices blended together and served in a shot glass, this green concoction is believed to aid digestion by offsetting the effect of rich ingredients. The staff at Maharaja Place extol the virtues of the tonic, and it’s hard to resist their urging and not take a swig!