While walking along the classically scenic sea-side compendium of restaurants, cafes and watering holes which is Auckland's North Wharf near Viaduct harbour, one chances upon a snappily-named Indian joint named Urban Turban. Their menu ,apart from unfussy concessions to the Caucasian palate also features such Indian stalwart snacks like Bombay's Vada Pav. Whilst chomping on the scenery of turquoise and sails, we decided to take a few desi bites before resuming our promenade. A prawn-topped pizza was a serviceable specimen but the star of the show was a triple-scoop ice-cream featuring the respective flavours of gulaab, alfonso and paan.
I'll dispense with the least bewitching of the triumvirate first. The rose or gulaab ice-cream was a no-surprises, no-complaints ,straight-arrow agreeably feathered affair. In case you haven't had your fill of descriptions here, I'll go on to say it was Audrey Hepburn without nakhras. But the paan ice-cream was Chikni Chameli + Halkat Jawani ! The zippy essence of a fully loaded paan was beautifully infused into creamy ice-cream. Bits of granulated components which one actually tastes on eating the original product, were finely incorporated into this chilled concoction. Flavour balance was exquisite - every time I thought the complex spice of this desi favorite was going to acquire too sharp an edge, it would dovetail into sweet currents which in turn would melt into the cool smooth finish of visionary ice-cream. It was a masterpiece of "Banaras meets Auckland". (Kiwis are the world's biggest per capita consumers of aaish-keem)
Next flavour - Although Indian TV has sported innocently carnal shots of Katrina Kaif enjoying "Slice", I will eschew her,Monica Bellucci and also a mature Madhuri Dixit (stiff competition no doubt) in saying that the closest metaphor for the Alfonso delight I sampled, can be found when one conjures up images of an in-form Nagma. Of this third dollop, several initial tastings were like a plunge into a deeply tropical, lushly sweet bosom. While experiencing this ripely flavoured ice-cream, it is easy to imagine sinking your teeth into the soft,luscious pulp of premium Alfonso, and it also helps in understanding why mango is crowned the most voluptuous of all fruit.
Of the justifiably much-praised "Natural" brand of ice-creams available in India, I have tasted only the tender coconut variety- this was enough to convince me of the formidable caliber of that company's offerings.I can confidently say that the version I ate in Auckland gives excellent takkar to the former variety. Moreover, those 3 scoops of different flavours were priced at an all-in-one cost of NZ$ 9 ,which when combined with that picturesque outdoor ambience or surf-'n'-turf, is an absolute steal. This experience has re-affirmed my faith in the possibilities of modern Indian dessert.