In its 41st year, Gaylord, Churchgate Street's most durable restaurant, is looking younger and brighter than ever. They have put Italian marble on the floor, Dholpur stone on the wall, bright chandeliers with a touch of speckled blue skies on the ceiling, they have changed crockery, glassware, linen, the waiters' uniforms. No, they have not changed the food, thank the good lord, or Gaylord for that.
Food, of course, is what Gaylord is all about. For that matter, all restaurants are all about. For its North Indian cuisine, it is justly and widely famous.
The murg makhanwalla, which, in spite of its name, is finished with just a small pat of butter and must be the least greasy butter chicken in the world.
Still available at Rs.150, the bird is first tandoored, then deboned and cooked in a tomato and onion gravy. More cream is used than butter, and the kasuri methi, which gives it a rich bitter taste.
Then there is the roganjosh, in saffron and kashmiri herbs; the pot-roasted lamb in its natural juice; and a variety of kababs, including the smoothest reshmi kababs this side of town.
But I am digressing. What I want to stress in this piece is the Gaylord's Continental food.
For it has some outstanding dishes in chicken and lamb (no beef), dishes that have won the restaurant twice the Best Continental Food awards of the Hotel Management Association, beating among others the Zodiac Grill and the Rotisserie.
If you are not familiar with the menu, take the assistance of Noel D'Souza, general manager. He will suggest the Gaylord perennials, chicken cecilia, roast lamb with mint sauce, the lamb steak aupoivre, the pomfret meuniere with the lemon butter sauce, lobsters, thermidor and newburg.
I shall try and express my opinion on a few of these, and, since I never criticise, get set for some praise. Decide where you want to sit, Western food will be served out in the streetlever garden patio also. But I would prefer inside, the garden's fine for coffee and sandwiches, or some peach Danish and cheese roll from the Bake Shop.
Inside the restaurant, it is a Bavarian Baroque world, with large panels by kahini Merchant, that most expressive of painters, and stairs leading up and down through three levels. All levels are equally comfortable, but I would go to the mezzanine, the bar is there.Of course, liquor is served all over the restaurant, Johnny Walker Black Label Rs.210 (30 ml).
The soups are standard, from minestrone to mulligatawny. If you are a big eater, or if you have got company to share it with, order the canneloni, the spinach, before wrapping it into the pancakes, is flavoured with garlic butter. Rs.125 for a portion, and it comes with a pure tomato sauce. Now, for the main dish: chicken cecilia is Rs.150, as are all the chicken items. They use the supremes, the breasts of chicken, roasted, then done in a fresh cream sauce, grated cheese on top (be specific, say you want Parmesan), cooked in a casserole, the casserole put in the salamander for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese, finally, an asperagus on top. Eat the creamy chicken with the crust. If you don't care for a baked dish, order the chicken Portuguesa, the chicken (all chicken served at Gaylord is boneless) sauted in olive oil with onions, capsicum, tomatoes, flavoured with thyme and red wine (Bosca/Riviera), a little bit of cream and a dash of brown sauce. You get it on the table with mushroom rice. The olive oil taste is very distinct, also thyme, in fact it is the olive-thyme combination that makes it such a well-sought dish. Try it, then let me know.
Chicken marina is cooked in a cream and brandy sauce, with fresh pomegranate juice, and though the combination may sound odd, it comes out very well.
Also available, chicken breast stuffed with butter and mushroom; chicken escalopes with scrambled eggs on side; pot roasted chicken with prime bacon; and chicken, ham and pineapple, though that I would prefer with duck. If you prefer lamb to chicken, as I do, we are all red meat eaters, you cannot do better than order the lamb steak (Rs.145).
It is a prime cut, flavoured with a substantial amount of crushed pepper corn (besides the meat, the pepper is also added to the thick brown gravy), and finished with a dry red wine.
The steak is done on an electric grill, then glazed with the brown sauce. You eat it with mashed potatoes, cream spinach, boiled young carrots. You may cut the steak with a spoon, if you wish, it is that tender. And when you bite into it, the senses are invaded by the meaty peppery juice. I prefer it any day to a beef steak in a noisy sizzler.
I shall now mention three or four dishes from the seafood section, what the menu refers to as the bounty of bay and ocean.
The grilled fish steak with the maitre d'hotel butter (Rs.160). I understand the fish is either ravas of ghol, cut into chuncky steaks. The dominating tastes are tomato and mustard, with the fish, naturally, and the parsley butter. The steak is dipped in butter, then grilled on order. Pomfret Portuguese (Rs.175) is baked with melting cheese.
The ingredients are paprika and tomato. Two lobster dishes and I have finished my meal, well, almost.The lobster thermidor is served as in many polite hotels in the West, the meat scooped out of the shell, poached in white wine, and replaced into the shell, along with chopped mushrooms, then topped with cheese and baked.
So, when you eat it, you don't have to struggle with fork and knife, battling to separate the meat from the shell. The lobster newburg is servea in a plate, minus the shells, and it is cooked, not baked, in a smooth sauce of cream, egg, white wine. The lobsters are priced at Rs.375.
I began this piece with describing Gaylord as durable. Look around it in Churchgate Street, how many other restaurants have closed down or changed their style: Asiatic, Gourdon, Berry's, Bombelli's Parisian Dairy, Talk of The Town. If it has remained, it is because of the consistency of its food and service, and the periodical efforts to update its facilities.
Credit for this goes to Mr A.N. Malhotra, one of the partners, who is at the restaurant every day of his life (when in town) for 41 years.
His latest addition is the Bake Shop, at the entrance to the restaurant, where, through a glass partition, you can watch the breads and cakes being made. Stop by and buy the chocolate doughnut.