‘How’s the food, Sir?’ asked the server as he sauntered by our table at Taj Vivanta, Aurangabad. Not one to mince words, the husband made his displeasure clear about the food served at Latitude – the multi cuisine restaurant. A routine qns followed by a routine answer had a dominoes effect. Hierarchy of manager and chefs came to us with a lot of concern almost chagrined. Now the husband put up his nice side, “the food is good just that our expectations from Taj are higher!” The staff made some promises to take care and do better and we agreed.
We promptly forgot about it – and went about making our plans for visiting Ajanta and Ellora – the world heritage sites at Aurangabad that was the intent of the weekend trip.
The next day after a physically tiring trek at Ajanta caves – we entered Latitude for the usual buffet happily chatting about our day. Executive Chef Nisikant Panigrahi approached smiling and said, ‘While u have your soup, let me make a nice starter for you’ – he personally rushed to the kitchen and within minutes we were presented with the crunchy and soft , lightly garlic sautéed ‘water chestnut and shiitake mushrooms’ – every bite a conversation derailer!! Some of the other staff shared interesting stories about this signature dish of Taj Vivanta Aurangabad. Chef Nisikant was meanwhile busy mingling with other guests engaging in light conversation about food. What a home like atmosphere, with lot of ease, I thought – so unlike hotels.
Day 2 was a visit to Ellora caves and the Ghrishneshwar jyotirlinga. The ecosystem around these tourist spots were just reviving after the pandemic. Myriad sellers and guides shared stories of ingenuity amidst setbacks that helped them survive. The timeless monuments, talented artisans and simple hardworking folks made for a heady emotional mix.
Taj Vivanta seemed like an elegant and eloquent host welcoming the weary tourist with warmth and grace. After a restful evening at the poolside listening to the mellifluous Begum Akhtar gazhals – we sauntered for our dinner.
Chef Sainath Rathore walked up to us and said “We have something special for you today – a very authentic Maharashtrian meal” And lo and behold a sight for sore eyes set in a hungry body – bajra bhakri, zhunka, masale bhaat, vangechi bhaji, matkichi usal, thecha, puran poli and shrikhand !! Each dish completely captivating our tastebuds. We were bowled over by the energetic and successful efforts by each member of the team to make a guest happy and genuinely satisfied – a fine balance of detached attachment.
While Taj is an iconic brand often the face of India in the world, it is also the face of Bhaarat. A unique brand that captures the confident Indian claiming his space yet rooted in the timeless values of Sanatana Dharma.