With eating out in India steadily becoming a norm and dining out that was once conditional on a celebratory occasion—and where food was expected to match the indulgent effort—a thing of the past, the country is seeing more and more places where food is guilt-free, light and fresh. Eating out is no more burdensome—on the stomach, as well as on the wallet.
The capital’s newest gastronomic venture, AnnaMaya, at the newly-opened Andaz, is not only in resonance with this vibe, it also heralds the new trend of food halls in the country. What’s more, all ingredients in the kitchen and all products on sale are local, made in India.
A food hall is an indoor space that enables two of the most satisfying things—eating and shopping. Eat, drink and shop—all under one roof. A common phenomenon in Europe, where large spaces house small markets, restaurants and common eating places, the concept has found wide acceptance in America too, with over 30 food halls opening in recent years. Celebrated chef and traveller Anthony Bourdain is also enamoured with the idea, and has a massive food hall with international flavours planned in New York City. Some food halls operate all the vendors within their spaces, while others invite a variety of established, local names to either cook or sell.
AnnaMaya is not a massive food hall, being housed inside a hotel, but is extremely spacious for that sort of location. The gourmet goodies on sale include several artisanal products. You can find pure rock salt from Uttarakhand, organic honey, chutneys and pickles from the Devbhumi, bean-to-bar organic chocolates from Mysore, organic coffee by Blue Tokai, organic full-leaf teas, cold-pressed oils and more. All brands on sale have a socially inspiring story behind the business and help local communities and respective environments within India.
For fresh food, the space has several counters offering salads, juices, shakes, fresh breads, grills, dessert and main course dishes. A visitor is automatically drawn to the space on entering the hotel, as the tempting dessert section is right at the entrance, with enticing meringues, nuts, compotes, waffles and chocolates on display. Walk ahead and you are greeted by the vibrant colours of fresh fruits being juiced. Microgreens and aloe vera plants growing behind the salad counter make it a zero-mileage concept. Fresh breads being removed from ovens, meats and vegetables being grilled, and colourful salads being put on plates attract as much attention as the décor of the place, where heaps of spices, colourful windows, floral wall sculptures and checkered floors all come together in a melange of Old Delhi-meets-Europe.
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The food subscribes to no particular cuisine nor adheres to any particular concept. The common theme in the menu is that dishes are light and no-fuss, celebrating the core ingredient instead of complexity. Flavours are clean and fresh. The man behind it all, executive chef Alexander Moser, is quite the globetrotter, having worked in several Hyatt properties around the world, but takes great pleasure in cooking with Indian spices. However, his focus is on freshness and quality that yields modern and bold food. If a basil naan is accompanied by a burrata, a burger has both turkey and pineapple. Paneer tikka and roasted butternut pumpkin co-exist on the same menu, just as pork belly, smoked salmon, murg makhani and rogan josh are listed together.
Andaz general manager Heddo Siebs tells us that AnnaMaya is the first food hall under the Hyatt umbrella globally, but the group is not averse to even opening standalone restaurants under the brand name. For now, Andaz is where you need to head to if you crave the lively atmosphere of a food hall.