As one walks down the market street on the way to the pristine Kuta beach on Bali island, Indonesia’s major tourist destination, it is hard to miss the Queen’s of India.
For the Indians who come to this beach resort for rest and recreation, but crave for “desi” food, especially vegetarian fare, Queen’s of India is like manna from heaven.
In the street dotted with many restaurants and bars, the Queen’s stands out not only for its shiny nameplate on top or its huge swing on the side, but also because it is packed with food lovers – both expats and tourists, including westerners.
No wonder the aroma that floats in air stops many a passer-by who are compelled to take a bite of the delicious Indian fare on offer. From south Indian (dosa, uthapam), to northern (tandoori) or the western (Gujarati thali), all food Indian are served here.
There are many Indian restaurants in Bali from Athithi to Indian Dhaba to Ganesha Ek Sanskriti Indian Restaurant catering to mostly honeymooners thronging this favoured tourist town.
However, the Queen’s, which began its journey in 2004 and now has a chain of restaurants (four outlets) in Bali and two in Jakarata, remains the most famous. So much so that they are booked by Indians who come all the way from London, Dubai and India to Bali for a destination wedding.
New Delhi-based Puneet Malhotra, the owner of the Queen’s, said their restaurant is an epitome of authentic Indian cooking which is served in the most exotic of locations.
“At our chain of restaurants, we understand the basic principle of cooking food – it is not good food unless it titillates your taste buds into a happy submission.
“People choose Queen’s, when they want to experience the enriching, authentic flavours of Indian food along with a memorable dining experience.
Being one of the oldest Indian restaurants, of not just Bali but Jakarta as well, Queen’s brings together a pleasurable experience for our each dining guest,” Malhotra said.
The mouth-watering butter chicken, chicken makhanwala and prawn tava are most sought after here, while paneer makhanwala, bhindhi masala and aloo gobhi are the vegetarian fare that is most in demand.
The delicious biryani – both vegetarian and non-veg – served in earthen pots is also a favourite.
“We have the maximum number of Indian chefs specially flown from India so that our guests get to taste the true flavours of the delectable Indian cuisines,” Malhotra, who is helped by his wife, Neeta Shamdasani Malhotra, a fifth generation Indonesian citizen of Indian origin, born and brought up in Bali. She is also founder and president of BIFA (Balinese and Indian Friendship Association) and organizes Diwali and other Indian festivals here.
Chef Devendra Singh, who earlier worked in a Noida hotel and is now working in Queen’s Kuta branch for the past two years, said: “We largely cater to Indian groups. Indians mostly look for Indian food whenever they are visiting a country for either leisure or official work.”
“Apart from touring Indians and expats, foreigners love our food. From our vegetarian delights to our ‘gosht’ segment, the visitors have a wide choice. We source our spices and ‘Basmati” rise – to prepare briyani – from India and thats why the taste is truly Indian. Our “Butter Chicken”, “Rogan Josh” and “Tandori Chicken” is very famous, even the natives love it.”
They have catered and served Bollywood actors (Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Shahid Kapoor), politicians (Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and Manmohan Singh) and business tycoons (Lakshmi Mittal), the list goes on.
As the brand is making its mark in Indonesia, Malhotra said they are planning to expand in Australia.
“It feel great when people who have come thousands of miles away from home compliment us about the food or the westerners who come again and again for our non-vegetarian fare. We want to continue this tradition of giving a sensory journey into Indian cuisine in Bali to all our customers,” Malhotra added.