I have always been intrigued by articles that exclusively layout the secrets of a Royal kitchen. Covered by top-notch media, these articles threw the spotlight on the exquisite ingredients and the nutrition value these Royal meals banked upon. So when I had a chance to dine at a former royal kitchen, at a heritage hotel, I felt honoured and humbled to be presented with the opportunity. Zaaiqa, the in-house Indian restaurant of Noor-Us-Sabah Palace is deserving of every ounce of praise. While Zaaiqa, the restaurant takes its name after Urdu word, meaning a strong taste, its intense interiors are just as impactful. From the minute you step inside the restaurant until you leave, you will find yourself basking into its glorified interiors.
Without a doubt, Zaaiqa unearths the essence of a Royal Kitchen, well complemented, with irresistible aromatic fragrances. With a menu boasting authentic Peshawari and Mughlai cuisine, this restaurant allows you to relive the forgotten Nawabi era of Bhopal. Typically designed for a formal setting, this fine dining restaurant is where you will find both the sophisticated ambience, as well as, culinary panache. An experience that begins with observing the LIVE kitchen where Master Chefs are seen celebrating the art of cooking. Noor-Us-Sabah Palace in Bhopal is famous, to have reinstated, its regal traditions including the culinary heritage.
Zaaiqa is a confirmation of that! Each element, whether it be the grand double door weaved in intricate designs of teak, the rose-filled earthen pots or the tall twisted Mughlai pillars are a portrayal of a royal kitchen. Steeped in unmatchable luxury, Zaaiqa welcomes you to dishes cooked right out of the antiquated royal cookbooks. Once cooked only for the royals, these dishes have now been made available for all who keep a taste for fine dining.
Bhopali Raan Masala
The Mughlai Raan Masala is an exclusive Middle Eastern Gosht dish, cooked in a traditional rustic pot for hours. The marination-seasoning defines the ultimate taste of this perfectly-cooked tender lamb leg. Drizzled with melted butter, lemon juice, and secret masalas, Raan Masala at Zaaiqa is just as divine as it smells.
Laal Maas may be a Royal Rajasthani speciality, however, it has been the favourite of Indian royal families since when. In Bhopal, this delicious meat curry became the favourite of Royals in the early 18th-century. To re-create a royal dining experience, Zaaiqa brings to you the spicy royal ‘Ghosht’ cooked in generous amounts of pure ghee infused with aromatic spices and green chillies. The deep red colour of the dish is what attributes towards its beautification. Ultimately, making it mega tempting.
I couldn’t have left Zaaiqa before tasting Bhopal’s very famous Nalli Nihari. This one, with a royal twist though! In earlier days, this speciality breakfast dish was served to the kings after they performed their morning prayers. Hence, the name, Nihari, which refers to ‘Day’ in Urdu. This slow-cooked mutton curry goes best with freshly baked Bhopali bread. It’s an absolute delight of flavours.
From serving lost traditional recipes to excellent hospitality, this restaurant is a reminder of everything kingly. Amongst all the reasons to visit this restaurant, the most important one is that you get to taste hand-written recipes that have been passed on from generations to generations.
Fun Fact: Royal residences always had separate kitchens in an attempt to lower the risk of fire. Hence, Zaaiqa, the restaurant too is built in a separate section.