Any tourist’s dream is to visit Switzerland. When I first went to Switzerland I realised the reason people wanted to visit this beautiful country. The picture postcard scenic beauty of the country simply mesmerises the tourists. But there was something more interesting than that. It is the presence of Indian food in this European country.
There are quite a few Indian restaurants in Geneva even though not too many Indians live there. Among the top restaurants are Rasoi by Vineet, Sajna Restaurant, Little India, Spice of India, India Curry House and Bombay Restaurant among several others. Then there are a couple of restaurants that immediately drew my attention like Rajpoute and Jaipur. Of course it is not a surprise that one finds a restaurant by the name of Bollywood knowing that this has almost become synonymous with the word India. As if this is not enough I find another one by the name Restaurant Indian Bollywood. Next time I come here I am sure to find more restaurants with Bollywood tag. It is difficult to say which is more popular — Indian food or Bollywood. The tag of Gandhi perhaps also helps one to identify an Indian restaurant so there it was — Café Gandhi.
Let me start off by talking about Rasoi. Vineet Bhatia the celebrity chef has Rasoi in many parts of the world. The one in Geneva is located on the River Rhone at the Mandarin Oriental Boutique Hotel. The location is terrific as the financial institutions and the upscale shops are all at a stone’s throw. This also happens to be the first fine dining Indian restaurant in Geneva. As is the signature of Vineet, here too he presents the traditional Indian food with a modern creative twist. The restaurant was awarded its first Michelin star in 2009. Being a vegetarian, as usual I have a problem eating everything available on the menu and because of that the choice gets a little limited. Here I found an interesting dish — a starter made out of beetroot. Beet is not much used in Indian cooking so this one called Beet 3 Ways made the menu different. It further explained the dish as Beetroot “Potli”, Beetroot “Momo”, Beetroot “Galouti” and Spiced feta chaat.
Spice of India seems to be another favourite of local Indians. The restaurant specialised in North Indian food, specially Punjabi cuisine. It was the décor that I found interesting, as it is bright and lively. The colours are so vibrant that a guest entering the place would immediately be prepared for a cuisine that is not only lip-smacking, but a feast for the eyes too.
The one thing I have noticed is that many of the Indian restaurants claim that they serve Asian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi cuisine, which shows that food from this region is popular even in Europe and there is a demand for such food. The entire region seems to have become a source of gastronomical delight.
I tasted some authentic idlis and dosas at a place called Shiva restaurant. This place served simple and delicious South Indian specialties. I found that this place was quite popular among the local Swiss citizens.
I was intrigued by the name Café Gandhi so I went there. Although the name was Gandhi it specialised in Punjabi cuisine, specially tandoor. I was a little shocked to find that they served non-vegetarian food as well though they profess to be inspired by Gandhi. However, I found that this place was quite popular among people because of its quality. Aloo gobi, palak paneer and naan are favourite dishes as I gathered from those who have visited the place. I saw that a variety of pakoras were available like gobi, pyaaj, aloo, baingan, paneer and mixed samosas too were available here as it is loved by people all over and this is one item that most Indian restaurants try to keep.
I was quite impressed by the number of vegetarian items on the menu. Apart from a few potato dishes, there was daal, chana, matar paneer, bharta, a few paneer-based items, navratan korma and vegetable biryani. There were quite a number of rice dishes like lemon rice, jeera rice, saffron rice to name a few. The page that listed naan was interesting as it featured quite a few innovative naans. There was Gandhi Naan — a naan stuffed with vegetables and garlic, Naan grapes, Coco naan, Naan peppers and some others along with chapati and paratha.
The desserts had gulab jamun, kulfi and something called Gandhi Cup, which was explained as a cup filled with exotic fruits.
Little India on Rue du Prieure was one restaurant that people raved about. I decided to try it too and must say that I was not disappointed. The only regret was of course being a vegetarian and I could not eat a lot of things offered on the menu. There was the usual daal, aloo items, baingan bharta, two or three paneer items. Raita seems to be everywhere. In the dessert section I found suji halwa that is not usually found in other places.
This place also informed its customers beforehand what they were going to serve special for lunch. The entire week’s menu was available on the website for people to choose which day to visit according to their food preferences.
So if you go to Geneva do not miss eating out Indian food from one of these restaurants. This is not exactly ma ka haath ka khana, but very palatable nevertheless and worth tasting.
The writer is a social and cultural activist based in Kolkata, and a frequent international traveller