Food halls were once a local staple in Europe—more so in England, think Harrods and Selfridges—and America. Now India too can boast of its own food hall in Delhi. Located in Andaz in the spacious confines of Aerocity, Annamaya spells paradise for artisanal and organic food lovers. Traditionally, food halls were where people could buy artisanal ingredients for gourmet cooking. Annamaya grows its own greens and herbs and uses them in the food they serve, while stocking it for direct retail to the consumer.
“This was something that had not been tried before. With so much information about international cuisines and gourmet food being readily accessible and a lot of people being conscious of what they are eating, we thought why not,” says Alex Moser, Executive Chef, Annamaya, who is from Germany, and has worked in Istanbul, Vladivostok and Zurich.
The green- and orange-stained glass wall is the backdrop to the food hall. Floral sculptures by Rajeev Sethi dot the venue. A workforce in jeans, denim caps and aprons paired with informal serveware are a welcome change from the usual staid and very ‘in place’ common dining experiences. Annamaya’s kitchen offers fares such as char-roasted carrots topped with black onion seeds, butter nut pumpkin flavoured with cinnamon and homemade butter, garlic prawns baked in butter, and lamb and spinach crepinettes. The staples—Delhi butter chicken, Kashmiri rogan josh, flavoured lassis and sukkhe aloo—are also on the menu.
“The char-roasted carrots are slowroasted over indirect heat and are coated with Himalayan honey. They are topped with black onion seeds (kallonji), that gives it a very full-bodied earthy aftertaste. The effect is not overpoweringly sweet,” says Moser. Annamaya also has a huge retail space with a range of ready-to-eat pickles and chutneys, marmalades, organic honey, preservative-free sugar, salt and spices, handcrafted chocolates, and varieties of flour. All these have been sourced from NGOs and self-help groups.
“With a food hall, we are bridging the gap of what people eat at a gourmet space, and the comprising ingredients, which are usually the other side of the counter and are hidden. To get these artisanal products in their purest forms, we have gone to the source, Chef Moser spent a lot of time travelling, researching and figuring out regions in India and what they are best known for,” explains Heddo Siebs, general manager, Andaz.
The pickle and chutneys are sourced from Umang, a woman’s self-help group from Ranikhet, Uttarakhand. Rock salt, which is used liberally in savoury dishes, is sourced from MiraDi farm in Majkhali, Uttarakhand. Devbhumi, a women’s group that has partnered with farmers in the Garhwal region, supplies a select range of honey.
“This is a win-win situation for us. While me as a chef, I get the best of ingredients, they enhance the experience of cooking. We are also helping and empowering a lot of women and people,” explains Chef Moser.