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Published on: Nov. 7, 2022, 3:42 p.m.
Northern tales rediscovered
  • The menu has many innovative dishes such as Teen Mirch Paneer

By Suman Tarafdar

North Indian fare is rarely seen in restaurants. That might as well be the tagline for Loya, the newest restaurant launched by India’s leading hotel group, Taj Hotels. Any restaurant launch by the Group is noteworthy of course, but there are added layers to this one. Not only is its first, flagship outlet replacing another well-established Taj brand, Masala Art, at Delhi’s Taj Palace Hotel, but the ambitious roll out plan for the brand includes outlets in Bengaluru and a couple in Mumbai in the next 12 months.

As Puneet Chhatwal, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, IHCL, puts it: “IHCL, with its rich culinary history has, for over a century, been renowned for pioneering global and regional cuisines and concepts. With the addition of Loya, IHCL strengthens its food and beverage portfolio of over 400 restaurants and bars.” 

Loya’s tagline – ‘journey through the heart of the north’ – implies a deeper dive into the cuisines of the north of India. Read this as meaning several steps away from the heavy, cream based, fat laden curries that have come to dominate in the name of north Indian – read Punjabi – food. “The name elicits times of communal feasts and the order of the day was that everyone shared the food.

Think of the Pashtun/Pathan loya jirga, still extant today in Afghanistan,” explains Taljinder Singh, Senior Vice President and Brand Custodian at Taj Hotels and a Taj veteran who was General Manager of Taj Palace, Delhi. In his former post, he had dispatched a bunch of chefs from the hotel, with instructions to disappear into the hinterland of north India. 

 “They went to small towns, villages, tribal areas to research cuisine… to discover what it is that we are missing in cities,” recollects Singh. “That led us to decide about 6 years ago that there is a gap in how we view the cuisine of the north. And what is it that we can bring to the table in terms of discoveries and traditions and methodologies long forgotten.” This has translated to the restaurant in terms of its underlying philosophy, amply reflected in the menu.

  • Loya’s interiors are reminiscent of grand tents of yore

    Loya’s interiors are reminiscent of grand tents of yore

Loya has a rather open seating plan, evocative of tents that once dominated the area. Once past the grand entrance with its rose gold doors, there’s an open kitchen, and interested guests can look on at the various traditional cooking processes, behind glass screens of course.

Prominently visible are chefs poring over processes such as dhungar, baghar, sigdi and dum. Instead of the usually creamy rich curries, there are delicate, flavourful dishes, divided into courses – pella swaad (appetisers), saajha swaad, (main dishes) and mittha (desserts). From the Himalayan foothills, to Kashmir, from undivided Punjab and the upper reaches of the northern plains, these are recipes that bring alive home style dishes, albeit with premium plating and ambience.

Loya Kachori Chaat, Timbri Jhinga, Attari Murgh, Malerkotla Keema Chole and Dum Nalli are just some highlights of the menu. The restaurant does not use packaged spices, reveals Singh. Ingredients are sourced from local regions, and certain dishes are only available seasonally.

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