The taste and romance of Agra
It was a celebration fit for royalty. The sights, sounds and smells were in keeping with the atmosphere of romance and colour that Agra, the latest addition to Colombo’s dining scene offers.
With coloured bulbs paving the pathways and strains of vibrant music, one had some idea of the festive atmosphere ahead. At the entrance, brilliantly coloured canopies housed bejewelled women with sitars, seated alongside fortune tellers while the big screen showed Shahrukh Khan and other Bollywood stars dancing to the tune of Shava Shava. The drummers, flame coloured lanterns and jasmine garlands completed the picture perfect setting of a royal Mughal garden at the opening of the new fine dining restaurant – Agra on May 29.
|A traditional Indian welcome Pic by Ranjit Perera
Agra the city of the Taj and former Mughal capital of India, is considered one of India’s most fascinating cultural heritages, its rich tapestry of contrasts known as the zenith of art and romance. “It is the first name that comes to mind when people think of India,” says partner Shanker Somasunderam, explaining that in the restaurant, they have attempted to recreate the resplendent fort gardens where the 16th century kings feasted and entertained their guests with a variety of cultural events.
Up close, Agra’s fort like entrance opens into an exotic garden boasting an exquisite water feature. The silver stars on black domed roof are mirrored on the seats arranged in bays, with latticed arches taking inspiration from the Mughal architecture. The flutist and other instrumentalists are seated on a small platform against a carved bronze backdrop.
At the launch of the restaurant, a colourful event coordinated by PR firm Emphasis, guests were welcomed with garlands of jasmine that were tied to their wrists. Inside, graceful dancers carrying flower petals performed a welcome dance to the beat of a cymbal.
The restaurant is the latest venture of three friends - Shanker Somasundaram (Lexus Developers), Mohamed Naseer (Lily Enterprises) and Raj Sriskantha (Consultant – Exports, Lion Brewery). “North Indian food is the second most popular food in the world after Italian,” Mr. Somasundaram says on the choice of cuisine. “The name Agra though simple conjures images of beauty, romance and few cities in the world can match the history and heritage of the place,” he adds.
Going by the wide array of starters such as cheesy kebabs, vegetable sheek kebabs, tandoor roasted chicken, prawn, etc., as well as the lavish buffet, guests were given a fair sample of the North Indian delights one can expect at Agra. Traditional favourites such as Aloo Gobhi, Exotic Korma, Garlic Naan and Lassi as well as new dishes like the Paya Shorba, Peshawari Kebabs and Kabuli Channa to suit both the vegetarian and the non-vegetarian palates are on the menu.
The rear of the restaurant houses a fully equipped bar and opens into an appealing gazebo with a buffet counter. The beaten copper plate makes an attractive backdrop where various marinated meats can be hung, ready to be roasted, should a guest desire it. “We hope to create an ambience of an Afghani Bukhara where people have a choice of freshly cooked meat,” Mr. Sriskantha says.
Raj Sriskantha explained that architect Shayan Kumaradas was entrusted the task of making their concept a reality. Maldives Resort owner, Mohamed Nazeer who runs the the second largest company in the Maldives expressed his hopes for the restaurant. “I want it to be the pride of Sri Lanka,” he said.
Food Consultants Bantoo and Mini Singh who run the Harmony Restaurant in Mumbai and work as consultants for the Sheetal group of restaurants were largely responsible for designing the menu. They have the experience of catering food at events in Los Angeles, London and Jakarta. “We came here earlier and saw what was on offer before finalising details,” Bantoo Singh explained. The restaurant boasts four chefs from Mumbai – two curry chefs and two Tandoor chefs.
Among their specialities are, Phool-e-Gulshan - a combination of baby corn, cauliflower, mushroom and broccoli, marinated and cooked tandoor style, and the vegetable barbeque. Similarly, lobster, crab and prawn are also tandoor-cooked for a unique flavour.