Have you ever had the wonderful feeling of friends taking over your lives?
It’s like lying on your back in a cool sea, staring up into the bluest sky dotted with cotton tuft clouds. Or like crowd surfing over hands and heads, riding the surging human wave in a trippy rock concert. It’s a sense of falling and rising at the same time, and the feeling that someone’s got your back, no matter what!
I had this feeling recently in Delhi. Staying at my friends Pooja and Sandeep Sharma’s place, I was already completely spoilt. Somehow they had figured out the secret path to my heart – big breakfasts! So every morning there would be something special and elaborate ready for me to dig into and get my spirits soaring!
Then there was sweet Vikas Narula, whose journey from an ex-colleague, to a good friend, to the proud owner of a Tex-Mex restaurant Depot 29 in collaboration with one of the hottest chefs in the country, Ritu Dalmia, has been bizarrely beautiful!
And Vinay Mulchandani, my good ol’ house mate from Melbourne during my B-school days. A father of 2 lovely daughters he may be now, but that doesn’t stop him from fighting me over the last crumbly, Crispy Pakoda on the snack plate, or arguing over whether it was an apricot tree or almond tree in our backyard as he takes me on an emotional Google Maps Street View tour of our cottage where we lived, cooked, fought and studied hard for 2 years… Sniff!
And finally there was Sonali or ‘Priy’ as I love to call her, because she truly is ‘dear’ to the heart. She wanted to make my first visit to Farzi Café one of the most memorable evenings, and what Priy decides, she gets!
So it happened that our group of seven trooped into Cyber Hub in Gurgaon and, despite the buzzing rush of the weekend, were ushered into the best table at Farzi, bang in the middle of all the action.
What action, you ask? Well, apart from the live Goan band striking up some old familiar classics with gusto on the stage right before us (pumped up a few notches by Teddy’s booming vocals on a few classic favourites!), all eyes were firmly riveted at our table where some of the best culinary theatre was unfolding, with flair and high drama. The palate-cleansing ‘Mishti Doi Spheres’ exploded into sweet nothingness in our mouths with a collective gasp, the Vindaloo Pulled Pork Buns created a mini-riot of hungry hands and excited chatter, and the red spicy ‘Chutney Foam’ spilled languidly over Raj Kachoris as we all watched in wonder. Whether it was the crispy Dal Chawal Arancini, the deliciously rich Spaghetti with Hyderbadi Tamatar ka Kut or the heart-warming Parle G Cheesecake, every dish that Chef Gaurav sent our way had a playful ‘Farzi’ take on a classic Indian or world cuisine dish, and the element of happy surprise. This was molecular gastronomy at its funnest, quirkiest best!
And then it was time for the showstopper! The theatrics of food peaked with the towering Grey Goose cocktail called ‘Farzi Everest’. Assembled at our table by the dapper and chirpy in-house mixologist Arjun, the 3-foot Towering Inferno of a cocktail garnered the maximum ‘ooh’s and ‘aah’s. Murmurs of wonder echoed around the room and then erupted into applause as Arjun set the delicately balanced tower on fire, and urged us to watch our eyebrows as we dipped into the flaming blue liquid with our straws!
Apple Fomentinis and Farzi Ritas flowed and ebbed. We giggled and guffawed through the night like kids in a magical land. Cheerful diners around us, strangers no more, joined heartily in the celebration of food, while Mumbai friends like Deepti Dadlani and Siddharth Jalan, who we bumped into amid noisy chatter, grooved along. The atmosphere was so electric even Gaggan Anand, world-renowned figure in molecular gastronomy, and chef of ‘Gaggan’, one of the top restaurants of the world, joined in the proceedings.
Perhaps it was the sweet, billowing clouds from the Phirni Oxide. Or maybe it was the happy, smiling faces of my friends, old and new, around me. Whatever the reason, that feeling of crowd-surfing came back to me again. There I was, drifting on a familiar wave of cushioning hands, bobbing heads and familiar faces that the city had created lovingly for me. Wow, what a ride, and what a motley crew to ride with! :)