Food : Trivandrum Rating : 5/5 Stars

Hotel Highland – City Green : Veg Classic

If you ask which are my all time favourite spots to eat, then a name you’ll definitely hear from me is Hotel Highland, in Manjalikulam Road, Thampanoor, Trivandrum… For those who are unaware, Highland hotel has been around in Trivandrum for decades and back in the golden days when Malayalam film industry used to operate entirely in Trivandrum, the hotel has been a regular shooting spot for whenever there is a scene taking place in a hotel… One example I can give is that old famous movie called “August 1” which had quite a number of hotel based scenes and most of it were done in this hotel… It has been a hub of not only film crews but also politicians, beaurocrats, you name them… 🙂

My parents have been taking me there for as long as I can remember and it is still one of our preffered spots even today… Not much has changed there over the years… The menu still remains more or less the same… The only change which was a major one in fact was that they opened up another hotel called Highland Park in the same road, opposite to it… The difference is that this new place has a vegetarian multi-cuisine restaurant as opposed to the original Highland, where you get all options i.e. City Queen and City Green restaurants respectively, I guess to distinguish between the two…

The food thats available in these restaurants is what I consider to fall under the classic food culture of Trivandrum and what I love about the places is that they have managed to stick to it even today… For this particular instance, what I am writing about is about my recent visit to the City Green restaurant at Highland Park… The menu of City Green hasn’t changed much as well… Hence, since this was a visit after a while, I went for my favourites from their menu… These are the Cream of Tomato Soup, Vegetable Spring Rolls, Paneer Pasand along with Naan (went for Mughlai Naan as opposed to the usual Butter Naan)… Then as takeaway, we got a couple of Bhaturas and their Chole Masala…

Now coming to the food… The first thing to arrive was obviously the Cream of Tomato soup… This is basically the all time classic soup which you can get in practically any multi-cuisine restaurant in India… The version here is exactly how we used to get since years ago, which is a thick tomato soup topped with cream and fried diced bread as shown in the pic…

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The soup turned out to be exactly as one can expect… Great rich taste of tomato and cream along with the crispy fried pieces of bread… For those who are too young to remember, there used to be a time when restaurants in Trivandrum used to use a bit of tomato ketchup along with the tomato puree for some extra tomatoey kick to it… This place seems to still do that based on what I could make out from the taste 🙂 Also the size of the bowl is bigger than what we see in the new restaurants here and the soup is filled almost to the brim, just like the old days… A time-capsule indeed 🙂

After the soup, came the vegetable spring-roll… Spring roll is something we get every time we see it in a menu and is the absolute favourite starter for both me and my mom… Unlike the original vietnamese version, the indo chinese version is usually done by sauteing the vegetables you typically add in a fried rice or noodle dish with some ginger and garlic and some soy sauce and then wrapping it in pan cake made up of either refined wheat flour or corn flour and then fried to crisp… Its served usually with a spicy and sweet garlic based sauce… Here in this one, they used refined wheat flour pancakes, like how it has always been until the maida-police started showing up 🙂

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To be frank, this particular version of the spring roll is my favourite and what I consider to be the absolute best indo-chinese style vegetarian spring roll in the world… This is because, I have had similar spring rolls from wherever I have been in the world so far and nothing comes even close to this one for me… The pancake on this one is a thick pancake unlike the wafer thin ones we find in many of the “modern” places… The pan cake contributed into the flavour profile of the spring roll, which is why the thickness helps (I mean, if you can’t taste the covering, why bother making a roll, rt?) Also, the amount of soy sauce to seasoning in the filling is simply perfect in this one, unlike in most places where I find the soy and/or other sauces that they add to be overpowering, preventing me from tasting the vegetables… The vegetables in the filling remained crunchy and so, crunchy vegetables with the crispt crusted pancake together makes it a perfect roll… Another thing is that unlike many of the places, they don’t put in any noodles as part of the stuffing… There is a noodle spring roll option in their menu, but if you ask me, the noodles really doesn’t belong in a spring roll… The dipping sauce has a lot of garlic in it and they seems to be using Szechwan pepper for the spice component of it (Taste-wise it feels like a combination of the Szechwan sauce and the Hot Garlic sauce)… So, if anybody is there who haven’t tried the spring rolls from here, then I strongly suggest you do… 🙂

Btw, in the menu of the original Highland hotel restaurant, City Queen, you will find both veg and non-veg options… However, when it comes to the veg option, I felt that the one in City Queen is not as good as the one they serve at City Green… Just my opinion… Feel free to try and reach to your own conclusions…

So, after the starter, the main course arrived… I had ordered for a Mughlai Naan and their Paneer Pasand along with it… I guess its a new addition to the menu as I don’t remember having seen it listed before… Usually I take either butter naan or roti or the kashmiri naan along with the paneer pasand…

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It came as shown in the pic… Its basically your regular naan topped with some butter and a sauce made with the mughlai spices and grated paneer… They also seem to have sprinkled some chopped coriander leaves and green bell pepper (capsicum/shimla mirch) to it on top as well…  If you ask me, it felt as if they made and blended a version of the shahi paneer curry and applied on the naan 🙂 The reason I say that is because, I could taste that typical shahi gravy which is the almond-cashew-melon-seed paste made with fresh yogurt and then having some saffron infused into it as well… So, if you have had shahi paneer before, then imagine that reduced and mashed lightly into a coarse paste and then smeared on top of the naan 🙂 To be frank, I didn’t like this one, but do feel free to try for yourself… 🙂

Then along with the naan came the Paneer Pasand curry… This particular dish is by far my favourite paneer dish… I simply find it to be heavenly and again, just the spring roll, I consider this too, based on my experience to be the best version of the same in the world… I am yet to find a better option than this… If you know one, please feel free to let me know… From what I could make out, this dish is made by toasting slices of paneer with a filling made up of potatoes and dry fruits (mostly dry fruits and very very little potato – just enough to hold them together that you almost don’t taste the potatoes in it) sandwiched between them… Then they finish it in a sweet yet flavourful almond-cashew-cream sauce and serve as shown in the pic…

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The sauce is quite sweet but yet has the complex flavours of the masala infused in it… I have had other versions where they use either a creamy and rich tomato and almond based sauce and I have had versions were they use fried onion paste as well… This particular version is sweeter than the others and its uses cream instead along with the nuts ground into it… The stuffing appeared to have almonds, cahews, pistachios, tutty-frutty and cherries in it and as you can see, each of these paneer sandwiches is topped with a piece of pineapple (pickled in a lite sugar syrup) and a whole cherry held in place with a toothpick 🙂 Altogether a dish so rich that its fit for the mughal emperor and ofcourse fit for any celebration… Only downside is that if you don’t like sweetness in a curry then you probably won’t be able to enjoy this, which is why I guess that the waiters do warn the customers of the sweetness when they take the order…

That was it for the meal, I mean clearly, because of the sweet curry, I didn’t feel the need to order any dessert…

Now coming to the take away, Chole-Bhature is my grandma’s favourite vegetarian thing to eat… So, if a restaurant we visit has that in the menu, then automatically we order it as take away for her… Now, ordering this one here is a bit tricky because there is no such thing as Chole-Bhature in the menu… Here, in order to have the same, we have to order the Bhature and Chole Masala seperately… This can become a problem if you are capable of eating only one bhatura because then the 500ml portion of the curry becomes too much for you… Anyways, once again, just like the spring roll, I can say that this combination of their Bhature with their Chole Masala is the best chole-bhature that I have ever had… I mean, I have had the same from Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi and I am yet to find anything thats better or even close to the version they serve here…

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Regarding the Bhature, I guess because they serve it piping hot on a banana leaf and in case of take away, they wrap it in the same condition in a banana leaf, the Bhature gets infused by the flavour of the banana leaf… This coupled with the seasoning in the dough makes these Bhature enjoyable as it is, without any curry with it (especially when you do take away as thats when you get the maximum banana leaf flavour in it)… I find this to be a unique characteristic of the Bhature from City Green…

Now, coming to the chole masala… This is hands down my favourite version of the punjabi chole masala… A thick curry with perfectly cooked chickpeas in an amazing onion paste and tomato puree based gravy cooked with coriander leaves and a spice mix thats just mindblowing to taste… They serve it topped with some pieces of freshly sliced tomato, onion, a green chilly split into two and a slice of lime…

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The best way to eat this in my opinion is to squeeze the lemon on top of the curry and then with a piece of the bhatura, scoop in some of the curry with some of the chickpeas and then push in around half of the tomato slice and then one or two (depending on size of the morsel you are taking) rings from the onion (optional: add a bit of the chilly) and then put the whole thing in your mouth 🙂 As I said, this is my favourite chole-bhature and I am yet to find a better version than this… Again, if anybody knows a better one, please do let me know…

Altogether, its a reaffirmation of the fact that classics are called classics for a reason… No matter how many fancy and modern places come up serving equally fancy and modern food, the classics will still continue to be the comfort food thats enjoyable forever… This is why you see places like Highland still standing strong serving the same timeless classics… 🙂  🙂

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