There hasn’t been a better time for the Indian food industry with regional cuisines emerging out of the shadows and making way for local and hyper-local cuisines that are taking centre stage on countless restaurant menus, food pop-ups, festivals and even on international platforms.
From recognising the best of Indian and world cuisine categories that highlight culinary traditions, ingredients and provenance to honouring the best inclusive F&B establishments, a unique category that the LF Epicurean Guild Awards have been recognising are lesser-known, quaint restaurants and cafes that are quietly making waves with innovation and exceptional food, in different cities and towns across the country. Ones that are not easily spotted or recommended on popular food apps, but voted by true food aficionados, who travel far and wide in search of exceptional food that satiates the soul.
The fourth edition of LFEGA 2020 once again put the spotlight on such hidden gems that are stretched across the length and breadth of the country and are diligently working towards preserving and carrying forward their culinary legacies that make them a must-visit for any true-blue foodie. Called The Oyster Club, the restaurants that made it to this list, after a year-long effort based on research, background checks, jury meetings and deliberations won the appreciation of the who’s who of the food industry at the gala LF Epicurean award ceremony on February 7, 2020 at ITC Grand Central, Mumbai. Read on to know more about the hidden restaurants that are all set to be the next big thing in India:
Pearls and Chiffon, Narendra Bhawan,
Located in Bikaner’s Narendra Bhavan, created to match the personality of Narendra Singh, the last reigning Maharaja, the luxury boutique hotel gives us a peek into the flamboyant lifestyle of the maharajas of the yore. The restaurant is a marriage of Indian royalty and Victorian décor with rich fabrics, gold pendant lamps, and floral wallpapers. Featuring the culinary heritage of the Bikaner royal family, the restaurant serves traditional royal favourites along with a curated wine list and table-side preparations that make this a truly unique culinary experience.
The Culinarium, Coonoor
Tucked away in Ketti, The Culinarium serves up a mix of European, English and
American, with an impressive spread of breads and pastry, all of which are made
in-house. Known for exceptional service, and a cosy, high-roofed space that offers
diners a breath-taking view of the surrounding hills and a fireplace to keep
you warm. From croissants, mini baguettes, brioches, pot pies to vegan and
dairy-based ice-creams and sorbets, this hidden gem has a smorgasbord of dishes
to offer. Made using the best and freshest ingredients, with most of them being
sourced from The Culinarium Garden, the secret ingredient, however, they claim is
Sorshia & Co. Café, Kohima
Serving Korean and other continental dishes, this quaint café nestled within the hills of Kohima, is a reflection of the founders’ Arinaro and Wungchipem humble roots. Soft lighting, wooden furniture and a green coffee bar set against a dusty pink wall, this is the place to experience the warm hospitality of Nagaland. The café gets its fresh coffee beans from ÉTÉ Coffee, the first coffee roasting company in Nagaland, started in 2016. The menu is limited and features ‘Asian’ flavours in dishes that are best described as comfort food. Dig into pork ribs with sticky rice, Korean noodles and kimbap to relish the flavours of Nagaland.
Michinga Restaurant, Guwahati
Ethnic Northeast Indian food has been seeing a revival in the recent past with a number of eateries and restaurants, food pop ups and even home chefs serving traditional cuisine of the region to urban gastronomes. Of the many restaurants making way for this ethnic cuisine that bursts with unique flavours is Michinga Restaurant, the brainchild of Mustaque Ahmed, a food entrepreneur and Zubeno Mozhui, a socio-cultural activist-cum-entrepreneur. While wooden floors and powder-blue cane furniture lend Michinga an air of warmth and hospitality; the food here doesn’t disappoint. Primarily serving Naga and Khasi food, the meats are cooked in their own fat and the spices, while the condiments are sourced from rural areas. Must-try here are the Assamese Muslim Thali and the Naga Thali.
The Shap Restaurant, Kozhikode
Kerala is a city that’s easy to fall in love for hardcore food and nature lovers. Named as one of the 10 paradises of the world by National Geographic Traveler, this God’s Own Country is known for its beautiful backwaters and mind-blowing Kerala food. For a taste of traditional and spicy Kerala flavours, a visit to Calicut’s The Shap is a must. While the rest of Kozhikode's shaps which are toddy shop-turned-restaurants, this popular restaurant doesn’t sell toddy, but instead serves the flavours of a toddy shop. Arguably, the most popular restaurant in Kozhikode, this toddy shop-themed restaurant’s small-plate format and pocket-friendly pricing is conducive for sampling a wide variety of dishes. Must-tries here include ‘Chorum-Kootanum’ which translates to Rice-and-Curry, and the Chakka Manga Thenga drink, made from jackfruit, mango and coconut.