Last week we had a chance to check out Bhandini restaurant at the Intercontinental Hotel. The idea was to have a meal at the hotel and meet the Head Chef. We had booked an appointment to interview J.P as he is called. We sat at the Terrace bar waiting for our chance to interview him. But since the Bhandini restaurant is so busy over lunch we ended up having lunch at around 3 because that is when we could interview the Chef JP.
J.P. is InterContinental’s head chef who has been a chef for 25 years. The Bhandini restaurant serves mostly North Indian food. He has cooked for very many dignitaries, famous people and diplomats’ including Hilary Clinton who he says is his favourite famous person to cook for. He says she is very good with names and is always friendly.
I found out from J.P. that Bhandini means ‘to bind together’. If you have ever gone to an Indian wedding or watched it on TV you will notice that the Bride and Bridegroom usually have a cord that binds them together. If you want you can watch the chefs cooking because the Bhandini Kitchen has a glass enclosure on one side of the restaurant.
Most of the ingredients used at the Bhandini restaurant are local. They have a very good supplier for ingredients that cannot be found in Kenya. JP’s passion for cooking was ignited by watching his mother and grandmother cooking in India. His grandmother would allow him to help her cook. According to JP the most important ingredients for a kitchen are Garam masala, garlic, ginger, tomato, fresh coriander, oil, and chills.
JP is very tech savvy. He is on twitter, facebook and other social networks. He spends a lot of time on the internet checking up on new trends, looking at reviews of restaurants. He also asks Indian customers what they think of the food because he is trying to stay as authentic as possible. It must be working because Bhandini has a lot of repeat clients including Hilary Clinton and guests of the Indian Embassy to Kenya.
InterContinental hotels around the world also have some incredibly high food safety standards. A sample of 20gms of whatever is cooked at any of the Intercontinental hotel restaurants across the world is kept for 14 days 20. So if you get sick and claim you got food poisoning at Bhandini then they will send samples to the government chemist to check it out and give findings. Food poisoning can happen within 72 hours so you could eat somewhere else and then think you got poisoned at the hotel. The samples are labeled with date, item and time. The staff also gets safety lessons every week to ensure that the staff is safe and also to ensure that hygiene standards are adhered to.
After our interview we sat down to a great meal of Tandoori Lamb chops, Zafarni Murg Tikka (chicken), Chicken Tikka Lababdar, Navratan Pulao (rice with cashews), and Methi Naan. The meal was delicious, not too spicy, soft, and fresh. There were a choice of sauces and also some mango chutney that complimented the meal. The naan went very well with the chutney. I loved it. They have an extensive menu which has starters, mains, and desserts. If you are not sure what to order you can ask the waiters for recommendations.
We then washed it done with some Lassi which is a traditional drink which is a blend of yogurt, fresh mango, saffron, and sugar. It was delicious and a great way to clean the palate.
We then went to the bar to try out some of the cocktails. Intercontinental is celebrating 150 years of cocktail mixes with a dedicated bar menu for that. I had a non alcoholic cocktail that was still fantastic and was a great end to a great meal and interview.
The restaurant is open for lunch between 12-3 pm and dinner between 7-10 pm Monday to Friday. On Saturday and Sunday it is only open for dinner. I would recommend making your reservations early because it tends to get packed at around lunch time.