Agra is a bustling city with a healthy mix of locals and millions of tourists who travel to the city every year to witness the grand splendour of the Taj Mahal. There's nothing like the Taj Mahal, really! Its grandeur can only be experienced first-hand; photographs don't quite do justice to Shah Jahan's monument of love. Luckily a lot of improvements around the structure (including cleaning of the marble dome, laying of cobbled roads near the main entry and banning horse-pulled carts in the immediate vicinity) make the 'Taj Mahal experience' better than what it used to be till a few years ago.
About ITC Mughal
Nestled in the heart of Agra city is ITC Mughal, a Mughal architecture inspired property that is set amidst 35 acres of luxurious gardens. The redbrick structure draws inspiration from the structures at Fatehpur Sikri - a small town close to Agra that served as the seat of the Mughal Empire for nearly 10 years in the 16th century. It is here, at ITC Mughal's Peshawri, that one can expect to have one of the finest meals when in Agra.
About Peshawari: ITC's Mughal's Jewel Crown
Peshawri is ITC's signature restaurant serving food from the North-West Frontier region.
The North-West Frontier region, as demarcated by the British in 1900, included parts of Afghanistan and the Northwest part of India. The food at Peshawri is inspired by the local cuisine from this region. It is high on taste and authenticity. The restaurant has a rustic vibe and guests are expected to eat with their hands while wearing a bib.
If all this is making Peshawri sound like another Bukhara, well then you are not far from the truth. Peshawri's food, decor, ambience and warmth of service make it a twin of the world-famous Bukhara. There are two differences worth mentioning though; the first one is fairly obvious as the names are different. ITC decided that there will only be one Bukhara in all of India and so this one was called Peshawri. The second major difference is that you don't have to worry too much about a reservation at Agra's Peshawri. Don't get me wrong, Peshawri does really well with both locals and tourists. But, unlike its older cousin from Delhi, there isn't a non-stop clamouring of people wanting to book a table here.
Peshawri has an experienced team of chefs, who have mastered the art of cooking in a tandoor. As a result, the food here is of an exceptionally high-standard. They don't serve 'curries', yet there is a huge variety of tikkas and kebabs, all cooked in clay tandoors, to pick from. The famous Dal Bukhara makes its way here too and is cooked in the good old Bukhara style - simmered overnight in a tandoor before finishing it off with ginger, garlic and tomatoes.
Dal Bukhara enjoys an iconic status in India's culinary circles, so let's begin with this. Enough and more has been said in praise of this dal dish; its creamy texture, the balance of flavours and how it is simmered through the night to achieve that perfect consistency. Dal Bukhara at Peshawri is all of that, and more. What I find most riveting about Dal Bukhara is that despite the arduous cooking process, the final dish never seems overloaded with spices. It has a distinct flavour that holds its own against the more 'attractive' non-veg fare. But even while you keep sampling the many kebabs and tikkas on the menu, a little taste of this dal (best enjoyed spooned with a piping hot piece of naan) is what truly completes the decadent meal. Another vegetarian must try here is the stuffed gobhi.
Raan at Peshawri
I asked Chef Bhaskar Sankhari, Executive Chef at ITC Mughal, what makes their Raan so soft and delicious. He said they take great care in ensuring that the quality of meat used is top notch. This mixed with the expertise of their kebabchis makes sure the Raan is cooked to perfection. Dal Bukhara, Raan and a hot naan make for a complete meal, if you ask me.
Barrah Kebab, amongst the best
A barrah is basically chunks of mutton, cooked on the bone, usually in a tandoor. Here at Peshawri, these are cooked to perfection by the chefs in a traditional clay oven. These kebabs make for a great appetiser as you warm up to the main course.
Of course, there is a large selection of rotis and breads to pick from. As far as the desserts go, our pick has to be the kesar kulfi, that is if you still have it in you to eat some more!
You go to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, enjoy its beauty, and marvel at all those legendary tales surrounding it. But, once you have struck that off of your list, you go to Peshawri for a truly warm, wholesome and hearty meal, one that you are not likely to forget anytime soon.
The restaurant opens for lunch and dinner and can seat 90 people.
Where: ITC Mughal, Agra
Time: Lunch 12:30 pm-2:45 pm; Dinner 7:00 pm-11:45 pm