Many cities are known for their picturesque skyline. Be it New York, Mumbai or mana Hyderabad. Towering buildings dotting the skyline near Durgam Cheruvu or the necklace road with Buddha Statue and buildings around it, Hyderabad has a fair bit of places with a beautiful skyline.
If you are around the necklace road area, the one building that grabs your attention is The Park Hyderabad. This artistic, architectural marvel is one of the oldest and yet one of the iconic places in the city. I was always in awe of the place whenever I visited Necklace road and always wished to visit the place.
The wish came true last weekend when I was invited to a special vegetarian affaire at Aqua, The Park Hyderabad. Not only I was excited to visit the majestic hotel but to experience vegetarian food. Based on the 8 years I have stayed in Hyderabad, I haven’t come across a star hotel doing a pure vegetarian affair. It’s a bold move indeed in a city that lives around Biryani, Paaya, Nihari and the likes. So let me take you through a journey of vegetarian food at Aqua, The Park Hyderabad.
A Walk in The Park at Aqua
Aqua is one of the finest lounges in the city. Credits to the architects of the hotel, Aqua is what it is. Nestled between the towers overlooking the Hussain Sagar, Aqua is a breezy lounge. An open-air lounge with live music all 365 days a year and live match screenings when applicable, makes Aqua a wonderful place to be. Plus the beautifully lit pool overlooking the Hussain Sagar is a sight to behold. Genuinely one of the finest places I’ve been to off-late.
All new plant-based menu
One of the things that I love about my blogging outings is meeting new people. Especially the people behind the food that I eat. I feel privileged to spend time with them and understand the thoughts behind the food. This time around I got to meet Chef Thimma and Chef Teja from The Park. The two gentlemen helped us understand their motive behind the all-new plant-based menu. The idea was to showcase primarily plant-based food with organic ingredients sourced locally. Talk about eating less meat with exquisite dishes made from plants that one cannot think of. The entire spread had handpicked, seasonal vegetables and fruits which you won’t find otherwise.
The all-new plant-based menu at Aqua is an addition to the prolific menu they already have. Since the dishes comprise seasonal vegetables, the menu would be available only during the season. The team at Aqua can also provide customized themed dinner and celebration tables for guests from 2 to 20. All you need to do is inform two days in advance and you should be good to go!
Vegetarian Affaire – Maharaj’s Review
I wasn’t aware of the menu until I reached Aqua. It was only after I spoke to Chef Thimma that I realised it was a plant-based menu. The menu was exciting and had some interesting dishes. Most of the dishes that you see here are a part of their plant-based menu.
Exquisite Food Menu
The all-new plant-based menu is pretty elaborate and we had quite a few things on the menu. We started off with a light summer soup (if I can call it) with a cool coconut milk base, ice apples and fresh mulberries. A unique dish with very subtle flavours, perfect for summers. Next in line was the old-school yet different Caesar salad with seasonal veggies served as a flower bud. Not everyone can get the bread this way.
One of the highlights was this salad made from jackfruit, mangoes desi achaar. I had never imagined that fruits with achaar would taste that good! If you follow me on Instagram you know how big a fan I am of watermelon – Maharaj ka Booze – Tarbooze! I’m also a big fan of Watermelon and feta cheese salad. The one that we were served here was no less than a culinary marvel. Thin sheets of watermelon and feta cheese are topped over each other to look like a slice of cake! The best watermelon feta cheese salad I’ve ever had!
Moving to the starters, the stand out item of the night was the Gajar Ki Galauti. My meat-eating friends love Galauti kebabs, and I’m glad that chefs are coming up with vegetarian versions of the same. I’ve had jackfruit and mushroom galauti in the past, but these Gajar ki Galauti were outstanding. Perfect melt-in-mouth texture with the right amount of spices. The natural sweetness of carrot just elevated the taste. A must-try dish at Aqua.
The Makai Soya Chap was served as popsicles in shot glasses with a fiery sauce. The chaap was nicely flavour but hot for me to handle. The Til ki Shammi was also on the hotter side of the taste spectrum. Lastly, the Tofu Dimsums were made to perfection. The chutney that was served with this was outstanding. I loved the idea of a northeastern dish paired with an Andhra chutney. Then there were also Falafels with Pita Bread and Crunchy Lotus Stem.
Since this was a specially curated table for us, we had the privilege to taste a few other items that aren’t part of this plant-based menu. The Kolkata style Jhalmuri was my pick of the night. Served in paper cones, the aroma of mustard spread over the table as we took them. It was one of the best I’ve had in a long time. We also had dishes like Tandoori Broccoli and a few meat dishes for our meat-eating friends. Overall, the table was an extremely nice experience. Something that can be arranged for you too!
Standout Refreshing Drinks
Being one of the best lounges in town means you need to get your drinks right. Being a teetotaler, I’ve only seen colourful drinks being served with fancy names. And hence Virgin Mojito or an Iced Tea are my all-time besties at the bar. Things were different at the Aqua. I was served a refreshing drink made from coconut water, and fresh cucumber. I gulped at least 3 to 4 glasses of it! A must-try.
Another one that caught my eye was the Fruit popsicle. As the name says, it was an aerated drink with soda/ginger ale as the base with fruit popsicles in it. Loved the flavour as it wasn’t too sweet. There was another drink with sabza seeds and basil, I would give it a pass. For the tipplers, you can get these same drinks with Gin, Vodka as the base. Head to the bar, put in your request and see the bartender mesmerize you with a standout drink.
No meal is complete without the desserts, and the special plant-based menu comprises some really good desserts. We had a dessert plate with a portion of Coconut, Melon and Pomegranate rubies, Red Velvet brownies and dark chocolate pave. The dark chocolate pave was no flour and no sugar and was perfect for health-conscious folks. I’d give the rubies a miss, the red velvet cake was okay too. The Summer Berry Cheese Verrine was my favourite of the lot. Served in a classic wine glass, the verrine was nicely layered and the flavours too were pretty good.
The item that’s not on this plant-based menu, that I fell in love with was the Raspberry Sorbet. We all know how sorbets are, but this one was a class apart, thanks to the added Himalayan salt. A must try again.
Plant-based menu for all
An evening with the perfect setup – table, ambience, weather and food. The special plant-based menu at the Aqua surely takes a bold step and hit it out of the park. The menu not only showcases the innovations in vegetarian food but also makes a statement about sustainable eating habits. From carbon footprint to sustainability, the plant-based menu is a good environmental lesson too. The menu has more hits than misses, and as a vegetarian, you’ll fall more in love with what you eat. For a meat-eater, you’d be surprised to taste the dishes. If you are looking to experience something innovative coupled with a good ambience and hospitality, do check out The Park.
A big shout to Chef Thimma, Teja and the entire team at The Park for providing such a wonderful experience. More than the food, it was interesting to interact with the team, and understand how a hotel of that scale works. I’m sure, if you are also there for a meal, you can also have a word or two with them. For a first time visit, this was an outstanding experience for me. I’m surely going back with my parents soon to show them what all vegetarian food is all about.