When Soma Bahadur of the BBC Good Food Magazine writes in to invite you to the Good Food Day celebrations, you don’t decline. My favorite Indian food magazine was celebrating its anniversary by inviting a few people over for a carefully curated series of Chefs’ Tables, and I was only too happy to be invited. Moreover, the lunch was to be held at an ITC hotel, and if you’ve read this, you’ll know I’d have high expectations. I chose a Modern European meal at Hornby’s Pavillion over Pan Asian fare at Shanghai Club and Indian at Kebabs and Kurries.

What I ate was a sampling of some really clever and elegant cooking. Here’s a sneak peek:

Bloody Mary Meets Gazpacho with Petit Vegetables

This small shot of amuse bouche designed by Chef Gresham Fernandes was clean and light in flavor, but I’d have liked a little spike of something to make it more Bloody Mary-like.

Roasted Beet, Duck, Chevre and Raspberry Salad

This was a beautiful salad with the creaminess of the chevre, the sweetness of the raspberries and beets and the salty, delicate duck coming together quite well. It had a very clean palate feel and I kept thinking about this dish all day. The menu didn’t say mention a non-vegetarian option, not that I’m complaining! Also by Chef Gresham Fernandes.

Tart of Roasted Tomato and Sherry Shallots

This gorgeous looking creature designed by Chef Jaydeep Mukherjee would have been more enjoyable had the flaky pastry been lighter and cooked through. It was tough and impenetrable with a knife beyond the first two layers so my fellow diners and I simply scraped off as much as we could. The flavors were classic–tomato, basil, olive oil (that basil oil was packed with fresh flavor). I don’t remember seeing any shallots in there, though.

Lasagna of Wild Mushrooms and Grilled Artichokes

This was probably the most beautiful lasagna I have ever tasted or seen. Shaped like a roulade and filled liberally with mushrooms (and not overwhelmingly cheesy). It was a huge portion as you can see, but I got greedy and finished every last bit of it. And am craving some now.

Jerk Spiced Roast Chicken with Couscous and Ratatouille Vegetables

This one was not very inspiring. The chicken was quite average, especially because it was made from breast and that put me off right there. The couscous was well-cooked, though. The basil oil returned and that helped me eat some of the dish, but I didn’t finish it.

Salmon Fillet with Risotto Milanese

This one really disappointed me. The salmon came to my plate dead cold and the risotto although well-cooked lacked any character.

Trip of Mini Tarts--Lemon curd, caramel and chocolate, and passion fruit and chocolate

Made to Pooja Dhingra’s recipe, these were particularly enjoyable. The lemon curd was perfect–zingy and non synthetic. The shortcrust pastry was nice and short and very buttery–the way it should be.

Pistachio Opera Cake

This one did not impress me. The pistachio flavor was very muted; in fact, the almond extract which they must have added to accentuate the nuttiness of the pistachios was so overwhelming that it took over everything else. I couldn’t eat beyond one spoonful. A fellow diner called it medicinal-tasting.

Some things about the service were a little off-putting, too. For instance, service started at least half an hour after everyone was seated. While we were seated, the team was being briefed by the maitre d’. We never got a single change of cutlery although it was an 8-course meal. Except for the desserts, I ate everything else with my beetroot-tinged fork and knife. The menu has a couple of mistakes and the waiters weren’t too sure what dishes were available in vegetarian and non vegetarian versions.

Having said that, I must admit that the experience itself was quite refreshing–I dined with a pleasant middle-aged, foodie couple and we had a lovely conversation. Also, since it was the first time that Good Food organized such a thing, I think it is only fair to be lenient. I continue to be a fan of the magazine for its high production values.