I turned to stare out of the speeding car. My reflection greeted me with despair. I was in Chandigarh, but I couldn’t stop to indulge in finger-licking-good Punjabi food, food that tingles your senses, satiates you immeasurably, and makes up for a lot of space in the mind and heart of a foodie like me.
I was on my way to Manali, and the road from Chandigarh airport barely touches the city interiors. I was hungry and disappointed, something that the kind man driving us to the mountains seemed to sense. He reassured me that we would stop at one of the best places to eat. “So, we’ll get butter chicken, right?” To which he slightly shrugged and said, “No madamji, you don’t get non-veg food on the highway.” Surprised as I was, I hung on to the hope of finding good food, just an hour away.
True to his word, we stopped at what-seemed-like a midway. It said Haveli. Looked inviting from outside and we hopped in. Very graciously, we were shown to our table, and as I peered into the menu, a gentleman came and stood next to me and read out the specials. I placed the order (having taken into consideration the expert suggestions of the gentleman serving us), and then asked, “Lassi hai kya?” (Do you have lassi?) “Of course”, he said beaming.
As I looked at the food being served, my disappointment dissipated a bit. And as I devoured the food, it evaporated almost completely.
On my plate: Sweet and salty lassi, missi roti, butter roti, kadai paneer, dal tadka, vegetable pulav, accompanied by mixed achar, pudina chutney, and salad.
A hearty meal after, I looked at my empty clay tumbler (they serve lassi in clay tumblers). I only had to ask, and they washed and packed the tumbler for me to take home. The tumbler, memory of a good lunch, now sits at home, proudly nurturing a plant.
I understand, there are a few maniacs like me who love a coffee after lunch. This place caters to such eccentricities with a Café Coffee Day right next to it.
As we drove on, I thought to myself, butter chicken along with this would have been good, but then, I wasn’t complaining.