Nainital is not just a hill station known for the beautiful Naini lake. This quaint little town is known for the wild life, the wild life conservators, educational institutions, clubs and the lush green pine forests with a blue hue that reflects magically in the Naini lake too.
Incidentally this is my birthplace too and there are many childhood memories attached to the lake, the sepia toned pictures in our family album have kept the memories alive. We have made a few quick trips to Nainital in between but I have been meaning to go and stay there for a relaxed holiday to get more insights into the culture and cuisine.
I got a chance to get a glimpse of the cuisine in the meanwhile, when EatwithIndia organised a culinary tour of Nainital is association with Abbotsford, the heritage home of Janhavi Prasada who graciously hosts guests in the ancestral property that has been converted into a home stay.
Along with Sonal Saxena of EatwithIndia we reached Abbotsford a little ahead of lunch time few weekends ago and what we experienced was nothing short of an ideal hillside holiday sprinkled with great food.While Delhi had already started getting hot around that time it was great to feel the nip in the air even during noon time.
After a customary welcome teeka, flowers and Rhododendron drink we headed straight to the lunch table set up at the Cafe Chica lawns.
The first thing served to start the lunch was sana hua nimbu and it was the best I had tasted till date. I took the recipe and created at home after I returned in fact.
I was not particularly hungry but the Kumaoni home style food was so delicious I overate after ages, so much that I skipped dinner that day. The sticky hand pounded rice had come from Janhavi's aunt's farm and the kapha (Kumaoni spinach stew) felt like the best pairing with that flavourful rice. The other dishes like gahat (horse gram) ki dal, alu gutka, ganderi ki subzi, kheere ka raita, bhang ki chutney and bhatt ki chutney were all so flavourful we all took multiple helpings, mopping everything up with mandue ki roti.
We went for a long walk towards the Naini lake after lunch, enjoyed boating, walked around the markets and the mall road after lunch.
Janhavi cooked a country style chicken curry on wood fire for dinner and one of the guests Kunal Mandal conducted a quiz that I participated despite splitting headache. We talked about how and why we need to conserve regional traditional cuisines so the ingredients and cooking techniques are not lost forever. I couldn't stay on for dinner but heard it was as good as the lunch.
Next day Janhavi took everyone for a farmer's market walk and then to the boat club. Once back the lunch was laid down again in it's finery.
These were all Janhavi's family recipes, cooked expertly by their family cook who takes care of the home stay kitchen too. It's very rare that cooks can recreate family recipes so expertly but Abbotsford has kept the mark high, the food is to die for.
The mooli ki kadhi, home style mutton curry, methi chaman, khatta meetha kaddu, bhune tamatar ki chutney etc were all great, bursting with flavour and made so well. Thanks to EatwithIndia we got to taste all such homely food from the region, that too from the repertoire of a family. We tasted delicious Singhal, a spiral deep fried sweet pastry made by the cook and it was delicious.
The Cafe Chica at Abbotsford is quite popular among locals and travelers, although it is located at a steep climb but the view is worth it.
The alfresco seating is the best as you get to see lot of birds and the cheena peak in the background.
I stayed in the Juliet room. Here is how the room looks.
The full length window opens to this breathtaking view.
My stay was short but I resolved to go back really soon to soak in the mountains, Abbotsford will be a natural choice now. All the rooms are different as it has been a private home, it actually adds to the warmth the homely hospitality extended by the people behind Abbotsford.
This short weekend trip packed so much and yet left us hungry for more.
Thank you EatwithIndia and Abbotsford for this cherishable experience. The taste of the best Kumaoni food I have had till date, will be etched in my mind forever.