Very rarely does one come across a restaurant that amalgamates gastronomic delight with cosy, home-like environs. The Whispering Willows, Zirakpur, a 20-minute drive from Chandigarh is one such place. Stained glass windows, gables, fireplaces, large settees, rambling lawns, a burst of colour in their flowers – The Whispering Willows is straight out of a fairytale and a world in itself. The fact that it is away from the main city is its biggest USP. It means a long drive can culminate in great grub. Or you can enjoy a romantic meal away from the cacophony and crowds.
Whispering Willows is my go to place on a weekend for a relaxed brunch. This is a farmhouse on the outskirts of the city with lawns and a pool. You can either sit inside – Dak Bungalow – or by the pool for your meal, weather permitting. This one gets the prize for being the restaurant most unlike a restaurant. Located in a farmhouse on the outskirts of Zirakpur, it was perhaps once the drawing room of the owning family. Part club with swimming pool and badminton court, part wedding venue and part restaurant, it is rather like being in an upper class home, with Kashmiri walnut wood furniture and copper samovars as accent pieces. The feel of this place is vintage. Very colonial, Dak Bungalow lives up to its name, be it the ambience or the menu. Views of the lawns and the pool from glass windows, flowery English interiors, this place has a light and summery feel to it. The Bar Lounge also has a very family room feel to it for relaxed evenings for drinks with friends rather than that of a happening club.
The food options go with the whole theme of the colonial era. The continental as well as the Indian selections are prepared well and served in a simple yet tasteful manner. The service is good too and since the place is never crowded (except when there is a function booked in the lawns) you are given due importance and served well. The staff is well-informed and friendly too. I would definitely like to mention Aman here – the ever smiling guy who comes rushing as soon as we walk through the door. He is ever-willing to please and suggest new dishes to try. He will often also know you favourite nooks and corners to sit and keep them ready for you if you call him and let him know you are on your way.
A great place to sit out, have a view and just relax into bliss. This is the best place to go for a nice and memorable meal, and their preparation is definitely world-class. The food moves between Anglo-Indian and excellent Lebanese. Their cold and hot Mezze Platter (the former is all vegetarian, the latter non-vegetarian) is excellent. Do try the Shish Touk or the Banoo Kababs for starters. The husband prefers not to have main course and sample their kabab platters – they are that succulent. The starters were well prepared, the pasta great and the desserts are delicious too. The Chutney Waale Aloo and the Shepherd Pie are quite popular too. Their pizzas have the thinnest crust you can imagine and worth biting into. While they have a good collection in the bar too, do try their Strawberry Daiquiri. A couple of glasses of this cocktail is my recipe for a good night’s sleep. Chocolate Salami is their signature dessert and I suggest you don’t stuff yourself with starters or main course if you want to do full justice to this.
The Whispering Willows is indeed one place where the whole experience makes the food even better.
Price: Rs. 2000 for a meal for two (including drinks)
Address: VIP Road, Zirakpur, Chandigarh; 0176 2287911
Review by Aarti Kapur Singh