There are two things and two things only for which I will happily get up early (and by early, I mean “before 10am” – I’m a night owl if you’re kind, a slugabed if not). One is guaranteed sunshine. Another is an Indian hotel-restaurant buffet. Ideally – as at the Four Seasons Bengaluru, where I stayed for a glorious and gourmandish stopoff on my way home from Sri Lanka to London – I get to combine both. An hour’s tanning before the buffet opens and I’m in a sunny mood that’s only boosted as I rush from station to buffet station, plate in danger of slipping from my grasp not because it’s overloaded but because I’m overawed by choice.
The Indian options at the Four Seasons are all vegetarian: one counter offers breads and bread-adjacent morsels, from soft little steamed idli to paruppu vadai, crunchy lentil cakes, and my favourites, medu vada: deep-fried, terribly moreish savoury doughnuts made with black lentils and flavoured with curry leaf. A full dozen chutneys and accompaniments – none-more-verdant coriander and curry leaf relish, a wonderfully maroon beetroot dip – made return visits a non-negotiable requirement.
Elsewhere, a breads and pastries counter sagged almost visibly beneath a weight of different carbs that would have shamed a mid-sized bakery in London; fresh juices in rainbow combinations can be blended to order; and among the Asian options were dim sum in hues of turmeric yellow and indigo blue.
But for me it’s all about eating as much Indian food as possible. I found dosas handmade to order and packed with spiced potato aloo gobi, tomato rice, vermicelli flavoured with lemon, and a series of curries: chole (chickpeas, darkened in tea), and a bright and mild aloo curry of potato and tomato. Something new, too: sabudana kichadi: tapioca pearls cooked to retain a bit of chewiness, mixed with cubes of potato, cumin, curry leaf and nuts – paradoxically (given how much I ate of it) I learned later that this is a dish traditionally associated with periods of fasting. I just hoped no one was watching me overdo the diet food.
Equally ignorantly, to my plate of savoury treats I added some moong dal halva. Having lost a filling earlier that week I was dicing here not with death but with deep dentistry: like ginger-cake batter studded with pistachios, almond slivers and cashews, the halva was so intensely sugary and wonderful that one big spoonful of it was enough.
A no less generous buffet at lunch included meat and fish curries, tapioca poppadums lighter than air (as demonstrated when the mildest breeze wafted a bubbled sheet of it away from my table and my grabby hands) and the chef’s speciality, a handsome array of grilled kebabs, from a patty of ultra-soft minced lamb to grilled paneer cheese, a splendidly giant prawn, and half a dozen more besides.
What, asked the staff as I chowed down, was I planning to do later in the day? Was I going out to enjoy the powdered colourbursts of holi? I looked up, chicken skewer paused halfway to my mouth: in my enthusiasm to stay in and eat, I had no idea the world-famous festival was happening that day. My waiter and I had shared expressions of mild horror at my ignorance. “Not to worry,” I said, eyeing the groaning buffet tables. “I’ll definitely be coming back here.” C
Four Seasons Hotel Bengalaru at Embassy ONE, Mekhri Circle, 8, Bellary Rd, Ganganagar, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560032, India