Lavana is the recently opened fine dining restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Gurgaon, serving authentic Awadhi cuisine. This cuisine is the cuisine of the Nawabs of Awadh, and is centered around the city of Lucknow. The bawarchis and rakabdars gave birth to the dum style of cooking or the art of cooking over a slow fire, with elaborate dishes like kebabs, kormas, biryani, kaliya, nahari-kulchas, sheermal, roomali rotis, and warqi parathas. As per Wikipedia, the richness of Awadhi cuisine lies not only in the variety of cuisine but also in the ingredients used like mutton, paneer, and rich spices including cardamom and saffron.
As we enter the plush restaurant, we are met by Sunil Kumar Gangwal, Chef De Cuisine of Hyatt Gurgaon, and consulting Chef Rehmaan, who have both put the Awadhi menu together. They promise to take us through an interesting tasting session. As we are seated we are served with some papads and crudités with three chutneys – curds, garlic and yellow chilly dip, beetroot chutney, and a raw papaya relish.
Soon the starters start appearing on the table. The first to appear is a kabab from a hamlet called Kakori on the outskirts of Lucknow. Kakori kabab (Rs 750) which has mutton skewers with mince obtained from no other part but the raan ki machhli (tendon of the leg of mutton), khoya, white pepper and a mix of powdered spices including saffron, rose petals, and cardamom. This kabab is melt-in-the-mouth perfect.
Murgh masala parcha (Rs 700) is a chicken tikka in a clove and red chilly marinade. It is again perfectly cooked, soft and succulent. The mahi hasrati tikka (Rs 750) is a tikka made with river sole, tomatoes and clove. It is spiced well, but suffers somewhat in the texture department since sole is not a fish that can take the ravages of a hot tandoor without becoming dry.
On the vegetarian side, the dhungara smoked paneer tikka (Rs 500) with slow cooked paneer, tomatoes, mawa, and melon seeds is simply perfect. What stands out here is its smoky taste and the wonderful quality of the paneer, which the hotel makes itself. The chowk ki tikki (Rs 500), pan seared green peas and potato patty is enjoyable in a street-food chatwallah way. The subz shammi (Rs 500) having minced vegetable patties, cardamom, and mace somehow pales in comparison to the other options.
As the starter plates are cleared and fresh plates are being set for the mains, Chef Rehmaan suggests we try the breads separately rather than with the mains. It is an excellent suggestion for this is really the first time I get to taste the splendour of these rotis. Each of the three breads served, naan e tanak made with wheat flour, butter, sugar; gilafi kulcha (Rs 225), a double layered special bread; and sheermal (all Rs 225) a sweetish bread made with refined flour, milk, sugar, saffron and cardamom is addictively enjoyable by itself.
It is time for the mains. The first one to be served is nihari, a popular breakfast dish in the subcontinent. The word originated from the Arabic word “nahar” which means “morning” after sunrise Fajr prayers. The nihari (Rs 700) served to us is perfectly balanced and has just the right consistency, making it a memorable dish. The other traditional dish, kachhi machhli ka salan (Rs 650) is river sole in an onion and mustard based curry. It is a mellow dish, though a bit bland for my taste. Lagan ka murgh (Rs 650) with chicken thighs, spices, cashew nut paste, sandalwood powder, and khus khus paste is a rich dish, perhaps a bit too rich for my urban stomach.
For desserts there is a choice of three traditional dishes. Shahi tukde, a deep fried bread, saffron, milk, almonds based dessert, zaffrani kheer with almonds, pistachios and saffron, and sheer korma (all Rs 300) made with milk, vermicelli, almonds, and sunflower seeds (though somewhat thinner), all of which will appeal to all those with an extra-sweet tooth.
Lavana is the only one of its kind in Gurgaon, and one of the few such restaurants in Delhi NCR that serve authentic Awadhi food. Drive down towards Manesar, whenever the urge to have a good kabab or nihari strikes you.
Ratings out of 5
Food: 4.0 | Ambiance: 4.0 | Service: 4.0 |Overall: 4.0
Meal for Two: Rs 3000 | Alcohol: Yes | Credit Card: Yes| Timing: 12 Noon to 2:30 PM, 7 PM to 11:30 PM| Address: Hyatt Regency Gurgaon NCR, NH8, Sector 83, Gurgaon, India, 122004| Phone: +91 124 618 1234