Foodie Extraordinaire

Feb 25, 2013, 08:02 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

Friday night we were in some very august company indeed at the British High Commissioner's official residence in Delhi, where we attended the investiture ceremony to confer on Camellia Panjabi the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) by Her Majesty the Queen of England

>> Friday night we were in some very august company indeed at the British High Commissioner’s official residence in Delhi, where we attended the investiture ceremony to confer on Camellia Panjabi the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) by Her Majesty the Queen of England.

The Panjabi sisters Namita and Camellia have been friends of ours since yonkers; both Cambridge educated, sophisticated in the truest sense of the word and in possession of a rare grace and intelligence.

Naina Lal Kidwai and Montek Singh Ahluwalia

Between them, they, along with Namita’s erudite husband Ranjit Mathrani (also from Cambridge), own a slew of some of London’s most celebrated eateries, like the Michelin starred Amaya, Veeraswamy and Chutney Mary.

After retiring as head of marketing at the Taj Group, Camellia had gone on to a successful career as an author (her ‘50 great curries of India’ has sold over a million copies) and international restaurateur. Namita had received her MBE from the queen last year. Camellia’s was a foregone conclusion.

In front of an audience comprising the likes of Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Navin Chawla, Ishaat Hussain, Naina Lal Kidwai, Reshmi Ray Dasgupta, MK Singh, and Shirin Paul, Camellia received her MBE with the customary pomp and flourish that it is bequeathed in. Her speech, witty, replete with foodie lore and cutting edge insights had the crowd applauding.

Taking guests down foodie history, Camellia shed light on Britain’s love affair with curry. “But yet, until recently, Indian restaurants were places where Londoners believed you took your mums in law but not your bankers,” she said.

The Panjabi sisters changed all that two decades ago, with a combination of flair and deep thought.

“My friend, the food writer Paul Levy, once asked me why all Indian food resembled brown slush when served,” recalled the lady whose restaurants are known to serve not only the tastiest and most innovative Indian cuisine but also the most aesthetically pleasing.

Incidentally, Levy (the author of The Great Foodie Handbook which, in many ways, set the international foodie ball rolling) is the man who we’d once asked that tiebreaker of a question: ‘Given a choice between an idli and sex what would you choose?’

We shall not tell you what he’d answered, gentle reader, just the fact that he’d taken a long while to reply.

As a true foodie would.

The Singing Lawyer
>> He’s not only one of the country’s highest paid lawyers but certainly amongst its most respected. Which is why guests at Namita and Ranjit Mathrani’s party to celebrate the conferring of Camellia Panjabi’s MBE were gob struck when Supreme Court lawyer and former Solicitor General of India, Harish Salve, took to the mike and belted out a few golden oldies in perfect pitch and key.

Cliff Richard, the Beatles, and Elvis have nothing on the dapper lawyer if his musical chops were anything to go by.

Guests like Delhi’s culture czarina Mala Singh and husband Jugnu (who edits Seminar), Textile guru Martand Singh Kapurthala, designer Rakesh Thakore and others were seen burning up the floor at the Taj Man Singh’s poolside dinner.

And when you couple that with marketing guru Suhel Seth’s excellent rendition of Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ it was a feast for music lovers of a certain ilk. (Like us, we must add).

Family celebrations
>> Spotted at Yautcha at a big fat family lunch on Sunday were Pooja Shetty with husband Milind along with bro-in law poet musician Mukul and ma-in-law Hema Deora — on the occasion of her dad Manmohan Shetty’s birthday.

Shetty is the visionary entrepreneur and media mogul who had established Adlabs as one of India’s largest entertainment and film companies (later bought by Reliance Entertainment).

Pooja, who mercifully has resisted playing a typical Delhi politician’s wife and is a quintessential Mumbai girl, has set up the enigmatically named Walkwater films, which has no doubt inspired brother-in-law Mukul (the elder Deora progeny) to turn film producer himself.

Former Minister of Petroleum and Congress leader Murli was travelling and so couldn’t attend the birthday celebrations we learn. We like families that celebrate together.

Movie Magic
>> Coming soon to a theatre near you: a spanking new uber luxurious cinema experience by Inox, Nariman Point.

According to our source, spurred by PVR’s hugely successful chain of high-end cinemas in Delhi called Director’s Cut (replete with viewing day beds, gigantic screens and every other facility for lovers of the big screen experience) Inox at Nariman point is waiting for permissions to convert one of its entire movie halls to a similar zone.

“Whereas Metro in Mumbai has a version of this, it’s way below the experience afforded to Delhiwalas,” said an insider. “Now with Inox’s plans, film lovers will get the same experience in the film capital of India.”

Good-bye cruel world — bring on the popcorn and dim the lights — see you at the movies!

Engaging Celebrations
>> On Saturday, we flew back from Delhi just in time to catch the Karan Bhojwani-Lisa Haydon engagement party thrown impromptu and with much joy by the couple for their ecstatic friends.

Spotted at the celebrations were Shazaan Padamsee, Sula’s Rajiv Samant, designers Nari Kumar and Surily Goel, London-based lawyer Anoushka Pinto,
former IMG supremo Ravi Kishen, the lovely (and talented) Shazmeen Lawyer, celebrated London composer Biddu, design maven Sumant Jayakrishnan and Tara Sharma with kids in tow. Held at the Indigo, the brunch that began at Rahul and Malini’s much loved Colaba eatery (which only recently had
played host to David Cameron) carried on past its 6 pm deadline at nearby Ellipses and then continued at Ness Wadia’s residence we hear.

“People are so happy with the announcement and we’re having so much fun - why didn’t we get engaged earlier?” Karan was overheard saying. To
which we his aunt said, “We told you so!”
No wonder we’re always packed home.

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