Luxe

Fresh, fruity and floral

Arzoo Dina | Updated on December 25, 2019 Published on December 24, 2019

Rainbow-hued: Passion fruit explosion at ROOH in Mumbai

Edible flowers and exotic fruits are no longer limited to just a garnish; they now occupy the high table. We delve into this trend as part of Luxe’s fourth anniversary — where we celebrate all things floral and fruity, silk and linen

Ever fancied elderflower in your cocktail? Or steamed banana flowers tossed in your salad? Well, that’s just what restaurants across the country are offering, ensuring that your food doesn’t just taste good, but looks pretty too. Edible flowers and exotic fruits have been around for a while, often used as a garnish — a way of making your dish look visually appealing. However, of late, these ingredients are being elevated to the high table. You now have beverages infused with natural fruits and flower-based cordials, garnished with edible florals for an Insta-worthy look. At restaurants, dishes are not only topped with edible flowers such as pansies, roses, elderflower and nasturtium, but are being used innovatively — for flavour and not just aesthetic appeal.

For instance, at CAARA, a European-style eatery in New Delhi, you’ll find marigold flowers being used for their crème anglaise, yellow and orange cosmos flowers in the burrata salad (for a sweet taste), and rose petals in the shortcrust pastry for the gulab jamun cheesecake. At Nara, a fine dining Thai restaurant in Mumbai, you’ll find the butterfly pea flower lending a vivid, purple-blue hue to the iced tea and the Thai fried rice, while at Ishaara, a contemporary Indian restaurant in Mumbai, the desserts incorporate exotic fruits such as the yuzu lime mousse, served with a green tea moss and Japanese sponge.

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As restaurants are increasingly leaning towards natural, organic ingredients, and exotic fruits and flowers certainly fit the bill. Apart from popular options such as pansies, nasturtium and rose, local varieties of pumpkin flowers, marigold, mogra (jasmine), moringa flowers and banana flowers are being championed too.

“Growing up in a Bengali household we would often be eating pumpkin flower and agassi flower fritters,” says Chef Sujan Sarkar, founder and head chef at ROOH, a progressive Indian restaurant in New Delhi. He’s tried to incorporate these influences into modern Indian food.

At ROOH, you’ll find a carambola (star fruit) sorbet alongside the avocado bhel. Similarly, the water for the pani puri is infused with passion fruit instead of tamarind. Another dish calls for marinated prawns to be wrapped in pumpkin flowers before being grilled. Several exotic fruits are used across the restaurant’s dishes, including guava, ice apple, sea buckthorn berries and persimmon.

Sarkar points out that the aesthetic appeal of any dish multiplies with the use of such ingredients, besides adding to the taste.

These delicate-looking florals are making an appearance in beverages too. Across restaurants you can find mixologists whipping up cocktails with a twist — think, naturally-infused syrups and cordials, using flowers and fruits.

At Vice Global Tapas Bar, a newly-launched resto-bar in Mumbai, the cocktails feature elderflower and violets as a garnish, along with yuzu lemons, passion fruit and other ingredients. Similarly, at The Daily Bar & Kitchen in Mumbai, there’s a whole menu dedicated to fresh fruit cocktails using plum, passion fruit, kiwi, grapefruit and more. There’s even a marigold flower liqueur.

Insta-worthy: Cocktails atVICE Tapas Bar

 

“The use of exotic flavours is exciting and it’s growing as a trend,” notes Alice Helme, director, CAARA. “Eating is a sensory experience. We eat with our eyes, hence bold colours and beautiful-looking garnishes can really lift a dish,” she says, pointing out that nowadays even crystallised petals are making an appearance on menus.

Celebrity chef Sarah Todd, who is also a partner in restaurants Antares, The Wine Rack, and The Wine Company, believes that this trend is here to stay as Indians become more experimental with food, but the usage of edible flowers, for instance, shouldn’t be limited to just a garnish.

“While dishes should be visually appealing, the flavours need to make sense in a dish,” she says. “So, if you are using a pumpkin flower or zucchini flower, it’s an interesting ingredient that can help build a dish rather than just use it as a garnish,” she notes.

As these ingredients become more accessible, edible flowers and exotic fruits have made their way into desserts, teas, jams and more, helping this become a mainstream trend and not just a novelty. Think floral tisanes, and jams packed with unique flavours — rose and hibiscus, kiwi and melon, among others.

By the looks of it, this floral, fruity trend isn’t going away anytime soon.

Arzoo Dina is a Mumbai-based freelance writer

Published on December 24, 2019
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