I have been married to a Bhopali for four years but I am still unraveling little treasures in the city. Madhya Pradesh loves its food. If you know anyone from Madhya Pradesh, you will certainly hear them praising the food from Indore and Bhopal. Every time I visit Bhopal, I instantly hit the fast-food places there. They are small but neat and extremely cheap for a person traveling from Mumbai.
Every time I am in Bhopal, my in-laws make it a point to take me some place new, so that I can explore the city one place at a time. This time when they suggested “Shaan-e-Bhopal” I did not know what to expect. The only input that I got was that its a unique restaurant. I had never thought that in the heart of India lies the World’s first Broad Gauge Rail Coach converted restaurant! Sheldon Cooper from TBBT would have had a blast here 😛
As we parked outside, and I saw the first glimpse of the station platform, I could not contain my excitement. The whole premise has been converted to give you the feel that you have actually reached an Indian railway platform, albeit spic and span.
The waiters were dressed up like railway porters (or Coolies). There were tables on the platform, for people who prefer to sit overlooking the green lawn and listen to the live singer outside.
The platform sign and the train signal completed the authentic look of an Indian railway station.
As I entered inside the single railway coach, my smile got even wider. Although they have done away with the traditional India interiors and replaced them with sofas and chairs for comfortable dining, the red “chain” (that you can pull to stop the train) has been retained.
The most interesting thing is that the windows are screens running a video. The video is of moving landscapes, probably shot from a moving train, and so you get the feeling that you are having dinner inside a moving train.
On top of that, an audio is played every few minutes with sounds you are familiar with from an Indian railway station – sounds of people moving rushing to catch their train and confirming if this is the right platform, of vendors selling tea and pakoda, of other trains passing by. It all adds up to a genuine train dining experience.
The menu opens with the story of how the creator had earlier planned to build this concept-restaurant in another Indian cities, but had to scrap his idea twice before finally getting help from Madhya Pradesh tourism. The restaurant is actually called “Bhopal Express” as you see in the menu, but Bhopalis love to call it “Shaan-e-Bhopal” because this was the name of the train (Bhopal to Delhi) from which the coach has been taken.
I have been inside European rail dining coaches, and yes they are a delight. They provide a unique experience of traveling through fabulous country-side, enjoying good food at the same time. But for most Indians, gaining such an experience is something they cannot ever think of. We do have the Palace on Wheels, but not everyone can afford traveling on it.
Shaan-e-Bhopal’s Bhopal Express provides an opportunity for the common man to enjoy the ‘virtual‘ railway dining experience.
The food was pretty good. That’s all that I remember as I was too mesmerized soaking in all details of the “Indian rail dining experience”.
I was not prepared for such an experience and hence all pictures have been captured by my mobile camera. As it was night, the pictures are pixelated.