Saffron, spice and everything rice

Barely two months at Oxford and I have already acquired a heightened sense of smell when it comes to sniffing out the best food in town. Emerging into the sunshine (atleast metaphorically) after hours of being closeted in the library, with nothing but food on your mind, only adds to the thrill of the hunt. But despite a more-than-satisfactory gastronomical journey throughout Oxford, I was acutely aware that I missed my daily dose of Indian spices. Needless to say, when a friend invited me for dinner at an Indian restaurant, I jumped, nay, I pole-vaulted at the opportunity.

As one steps onto High Street, it is impossible to ignore all the food trucks and patisseries and quaint looking pubs, feverishly vying for your attention. But if you do manage to wrest your gaze away from them and soldier on resolutely, you might chance upon an unassuming Indian restaurant, nestled between far more imposing shops.

Up a wobbly old flight of stairs and there I was, seated quite snugly, as the intoxicating aroma of spices wafted around me. After having read the menu from cover to cover, I decided that the Nawabi Biriyani sounded like the safest bet. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t sceptical about how authentic the Oxford version of a biriyani would be.

But suffice it to say that as soon as that platter of biriyani was placed in front of me, my eyes welled up with tears of joy, quite reminiscent of the reunion of long-lost siblings in a quintessential Bollywood movie. The long, delicate grains of yellow rice, jostling for space with the succulent chunks of meat, were truly a sight to behold. It would be criminal to even attempt to pen down the burst of flavours in your mouth, when you savour a spoonful of this divine concoction of spices, rice and meat. I must warn you though that this could be the crazed, spice-deprived biriyani-lover in me talking.

But if you have twelve pounds in your wallet, yearning to be spent, then hop along to High Street and indulge yourself. You might even catch snippets of Bollywood gossip, fresh off the press, from nearby tables.  The experience is truly, as they would say in Urdu, “Shezan.” For those of you who are yet to guess, yes, that is also the name of this treasure trove of a place, so petitely tucked away in a corner of High Street.