By Alex Balimwikungu
WITH your leg firmly on the gas pedal, you would easily miss the Shahi Darbar Indian Restaurant positioned inside Hotel Ruch, between Sheraton Hotel and the Royal Imperial Hotel.
At snail pace you will espy the beguiling and illuminated outdoor poster that ushers you to the latest eatery in town.
However, as you will discover, it is more than the serenading Nakasero evening breeze or the amazing ambience at the restaurant that will make you want to visit again.
It is the Mughlai cuisine, a secret recipe that has been passed down many generations from the kitchens of the ancient Mughal Empire.
I fell head over heels in love with the mughlai parathas. This is stuffed flat bread with spiced minced meat.
It made a great meal even if it was just a starter.
The kebabs, the tandoori chicken masala and the vegetable garlic balls were so soft and tender; they melted in my mouth.
What made it tastier was the sheer fact that the lady who waited on us and catered to our every whim was the director.
The taste of the food should have had something to do with the good mood I later found myself in after the lingering shock upon my discovery that they did not serve alcohol here.
Idriss Pentagon, the Tanzanian chef at the restaurant, might not come from a family whose bloodline extends back to the chefs who conjured elaborate feasts in the courts of Mughal emperors, nevertheless, he was impressive.
His three-year stint in Delhiâ€™s top hotels should be the secret. â€œWe poached him from Delhi. We donâ€™t regret it,â€ Sangeeta Chaterjee, a director at the restaurant said with conviction.
She was itching to let me in on another secret. It was in a visitorâ€™s book she held close to her chest. The Buganda Kingâ€™s flattering comments about the restaurant are in the book.
â€œHe was here the other day with a group of people. He even confessed to being a big fan of Indian food. In the evening though, they requested continental dishes,â€ she said, chuckling.
Pentagon says Mughlai food is famous because of the exotic use of spices. All the dishes have a distinct aroma and taste of ground and whole spices.
He stresses that all of their spices are imported direct from India, since most local spices are prone to being fabricated. He mentions biryani as their specialty.
What is impressing about Shahi Darbar Restaurant is that even â€˜paupersâ€™ can eat like kings.
For sh20,000 vegetarians can enjoy a plate of vegetable biryani, nan, paneer makhani, papad nan and salad.
The mixed punch juice costs sh5,000. A non-vegetarian meal ranges between sh25,000 to sh30,000.
Chaterjee plans to introduce a live BBQ every Friday night where seven types of meats served with complimentary nan will be sold at sh30,000 per plate.
A prawn night is also in the offing and Chinese, Indian, mustard and coconut prawns served with complimentary steamed rice will be served at sh35,000.
With space for 300 people in the restaurant and a garden courtyard, she is determined to prove that what matters in food is not space but the presentation, taste and ingredients in the food, which they have.
I envy the Warid Telecom staff for whom Shahi Darbar Restaurant does outside catering for on a daily basis!