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For a Taste of Britain

If great British cooking is a well-kept secret, Chef Robert Rees, in New Delhi for "The Taste of Britain" festival at Maurya Sheraton, sure plans to let it out, says SUMITRA SENAPATY.


DINERS INDULGING in "The Taste of Britain" at Maurya Sheraton's Pavilion restaurant in New Delhi could win an English holiday over the next few weeks. The lucky draw prize is part of the ongoing British Food Festival. Soggy potatoes,mushy peas and the bland English staple with the horrifying title `Steak & Kidney Pie' illustrate the common perception of British cooking over the years, but visiting Chef Robert James Rees promises to dispel this myth. Hefeels British cooking has been a patchy cuisine over the years, but if done with more than a dash of spice and pizzazz can be rather good.

Robert Rees is the resident Chef for the Gloucestershire Farmers Market and was also chosen to cook for Her Majesty the Queen in Gloucester Cathedral in April this year. So it is natural that his cooking style promises to have the festiveness of a flaming plum pudding. If great British cooking is a well-kept secret, Chef Robert Rees sure plans to let it out. "Good food is a major part of the holiday experience, whether it is in a sophisticated restaurant, or in a simple pub. Either way, you are never far from good food and drink in the Cotswolds", says Robert Rees. Cotswolds is less than two hours from LondonThe Taste of Britain festival would be a revelation to all those who have never tasted real Cornish Fisherman's Pie with Nutmeg Potatoes and Cheddar, The Pepper, Aubergine and Tomato Bake with Cheddar Cheese and Herb Crust or the Classic Lamb braised till tender with Orange Juice, Red Onions and Herbs, served with Dumplings. Scones, savouries, some British beer and wines and all the typical things that England is famous for will also be showcased, perhaps spiced up a wee bit for local palettes. "I will be using Chutneys and relishes for marinating meats, and they can be sweet, sour, salty or sour," says the Chef. His ingredients could range from mint to sultanas, mangoes to bananas, tamarind to ginger to olive oil or Chinese Five Spice. Guests can look forward to luscious flavours and sophisticated seasoning in elegant dishes that celebrate the new British talent for turning home cooking into an art.

"It's all about the old way of life, the buying of food from the grocer, butcher and baker each day unchanged for centuries despite the convenience of supermarkets. Once a month the local produce of the Farmer's Market fills the marketplace, and the cries of sausage and cheese sellers mingle with smells of hot roasts and fresh mushrooms. It is a great place to try local cuisine from the grower". Ideally this is what Robert Rees is trying to preserve and promote, both for the locals and tourists. Finally, unless you simply don't like sweets, do not pass up the pudding - British chefs are known to make marvellously tasty sweets. And as often as not, `pudding' is served with a generous helping of cream. Once you have sampled Chef Robert's creations like Sticky toffee pudding, Lemon Meringue Pie with Bitter Orange Sauce, Steamed Ginger Pudding with Vanilla Custardthere can be no going back to a world that does not acknowledge the worth of such delicacies.

SAMPAN AT Crowne Plaza Surya does some great Lobster Salt & Pepper and it is quite busy and bustling, especially during the weekends. The pomfret and sole are also fresh and tasty. Service is fine, but you don't come here to worry about service, just enjoy the ongoing Seafood Festival. Prawns dipped in the Chef's Special Sauce, as part of the starter menu seem rather unique, with its coriander-like aroma. Likewise, the crab, squid, red snapper and kingfish. A nice Singapore Noodle as well if you can find room for it.


For the main course, go for seafood dishes like the Steamed Crab with Ginger & Spring Onions, Prawns with Hot Garlic Sauce or any fish cooked with a Chilly Black Bean sauce, wash it down with some warm Jasmine tea or rice wine and you'll have a cool time!

The decor is not particularly fanciful but if you are looking for quality food, you will not be disappointed. The seafood is really fresh. The lobster could not have been fresher, which makes an enormous difference in the taste and texture of the dish. The sauce was, offsetting rather than

overpowering the natural flavours of the lobster.

Combined with the quality of the seafood are the interesting ways in which it is prepared, with myriad garnishes and sauces running the gamut from Black Pepper to Bar-be-Que sauce. Offering a wide range of seafood, cooked any way you want it, with all sauces imaginable, Sampan caters to all fish fetishes, with the only uniform factor being the guaranteed fishy taste!

The Seafood Festival is on till November 22, so dive in for a dinner or two.

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