travel india on a designer thali


Designer Gaurang Shah’s new Hyderabad restaurant celebrates the spontaneity of Indian home meals with an vegetarian thali

This year in Hyderabad, Gaurang’s Kitchen is the flavour of summer. The designer, known for his remarkable work with Indian textiles and traditional weaves, is bringing something new to the table. True to form, this too has a mission: Gaurang’s Kitchen focuses on discovering and celebrating traditional Indian flavours.

In the open Indigo verandah, loosely hung khadi yardage in indigo flutters gently in the breeze as Gaurang overlooks the preparations for the day with an impressive eye for detail; checking on table reservations, chatting with the staff, replacing a couple of potted plants in the foyer with hydrangea, which is in bloom, then getting the foot mats dusted before putting them back in place.

Entering the huge bungalow that houses Gaurang’s Kitchen feels like walking into someone’s home. The expansive restaurant, which can seat 300 guests, opens with a minimalist, vibrant open space with traditional baithaks .

One cannot miss the designer’s signature style, though the space seems simple. All colour is from fabric, either aesthetically hung or framed to display the grandeur of Indian textiles. Walls are adorned with vintage Benaras, Kanjivaram yardage.

Gaurang explains, “Neel is the courtyard, while Katha is the home. The spaces infuse cooling indigo and warm madder to create a serene ambience. We want to awaken your senses through melodious music, soothing textures, and delicious food.”

I sit at the baithak (floor seating) with a bolster fitted gaddi (cotton mattress). As soon as Gaurang joins me, I ask for aam ras and puri. He smiles wickedly, saying it is not a part of the menu that day. However, he then requests the kitchen to make an exception.

As I sip tangy fresh falsa juice with a mild masala kick, Gaurang explains that his kitchen aims to celebrate timeless food traditions of India. So each day, the thali offers dishes from three regions.

The interiors of Gaurang’s Kitchen

The interiors of Gaurang’s Kitchen
| Photo Credit: Prabalika M Borah

“Even at home, do we make dishes of only one region? No!” reasons Gaurang, “If dal is made Maharashtrian style, the curry could be from another region and dessert from somewhere else. My thali follows this norm and offers unlimited servings of vegetarian homestyle food.”

Stating that he is passionate about food and textiles, Gaurang says “My food venture was on hold until now because I couldn’t find the right place. I wanted a place where one feels cosy and at home, where one eats food that is not restaurant-style.”

Known for his love of feeding people, Gaurang carries favourite treats from different regions with him like almond bisticks from Hyderabad, rossogollas and sandesh from Kolkata and so on, even on his Fashion Week tours.

The thali

The thali

The meal opens with bite-starters: a fun bhakri pizza (an idea from his home kitchen), crispy pulihora balls and masala mirchi bajji. Then comes the thali, including a creamy green moong dal khichdi cooked with ghee and served with a sweet Gujarati kadhi. It is so tasty that I cannot resist a second helping — even though I have already polished off two puris with aam ras, phulka with paneer sabji and a bhakri biscuit. Gaurang, however, skips the khichdi. “I have had too much of it at home,” he laughs.

Gaurang says the sides on the thali are planned every morning and a list of combinations is sent to him. “On days when I want to eat something specific, I pick and choose, but on other days we go by the team’s choice,” he says. My thali includes paneer curry, cauliflower bhaji, a tamatar alu curry and dahi bhindi .

After the starters, a big kansa (bell metal) thali with kansa bowls and a spoon arrives. “That is how all traditional Indian homes used to eat,” explains Gaurang, “Kansa looks grand, feels homely and is healthy as bell metal does not react with sour acidic food; it is the best metal to eat and cook in.”

Pomegranate kulfi

Pomegranate kulfi
| Photo Credit: Prabalika M Borah

For dessert, Gaurang’s love for sweets is expressed in a burst of jalebis, kulfis and rabri made by a dedicated team of halwais .

Gaurang’s Kitchen is at Jubilee Hills Road no 59

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