Inspiration Destinations India Signature Series Insider: Matt Preston & Gary Mehigan on Our New India Foodie Tour

Signature Series Insider: Matt Preston & Gary Mehigan on Our New India Foodie Tour

Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan at the iconic Taj Mahal - Luxury Escapes

Discover the extraordinary flavours of India with former MasterChef Australia judges Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston, co-creators of Luxury Escapes' second Signature Series foodie tour.

If you’re into food, there’s no place in the world like India.

It’s a perennial favourite of Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan, and after a decade on Channel 10’s MasterChef Australia, the duo now lend their culinary expertise to Luxury Escapes’ second-ever Signature Series Tour. This once-in-a-lifetime, 9-day journey whisks you from pavement to palace and back again, crossing India’s Golden Triangle in search of the country’s best cuisine.

Hungry to talk all things India, we sat down with Matt and Gary to chat about their biggest surprises and favourite moments in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Read on for more.

LE: What kind of travellers will love this tour and itinerary?

GM: India will be an adventure, and for first timers [it can be] a little overwhelming. Both Matt and I have been many times, we love the country, and of course the cuisine in all its marvellous diversity. So, the short answer is: regardless of what kind of traveller you are, we’ve got you covered. We can’t wait to introduce you to some magnificent restaurants, dishes and flavours that we hope will blow your mind … no experience required!

MP: If you love history, if you love good food, if you love a little luxury, if you love things to get occasionally a little more gritty… this is the tour for you.

Taj Mahal as the sun is beginning to set - Luxury Escapes
The Taj Mahal: a spectacular highlight of any India escape.

Do travellers need to be experts in Indian food to get the most out of it [the tour]?

GM: No, absolutely not. We’ve put together a delicious itinerary of markets, street food experiences, cooking classes and great restaurants so you can soak up the very best of what the ‘Golden Triangle’ has to offer. If anything, it may turn what you think you know about Indian food on its head!

MP: No prior knowledge of Indian food is required – just a healthy appetite!

LE: What would you say to people nervous about travelling to India?

MP: Without the right advice and team planning your trip, India can be a confronting experience. We want you to see the real heart of the country, but then be able to recuperate in the lap of luxury. You will be looked after. 

GM: India can be chaotic as much as it is colourful and awe-inspiring. Dealing with the crowds, the traffic, and the street food are all on the list of travellers' concerns. Our advice is to approach your trip with an open mind and heart. Avoid judging what you see, and let it flow through you: the history, the culture, the colour and mouth-watering cuisine will open your eyes to this wonderful country.

A delicious thali at New Delhi's Cafe Lohta - Luxury Escapes
A delicious thali, or royal platter, at New Delhi's Cafe Lohta.

LE: If you had to pick one dish that encapsulates everything you love about the country, what would it be?

GM: When you take this trip with us to India, you’ll begin to understand that this is an impossible question to answer.

MP: That’s like asking me to pick a dish that encapsulates Europe! Indian cuisine can differ radically across the sub-continent.

GM: It’s impossible. The diversity of India’s cuisines is incredible, and from one end of the country to the other unrecognisable.

MP: If we are talking about the Punjabi post-Partition food of Delhi, it would be butter chicken or dal makani; for the Mughlai court of Agra it would be a Qorma or white Shahi Korma.

GM: If I was to pick anything that tends to be universally loved maybe it would be a little cup of hot masala chai!

LE: How do you think street food differs from Vietnam to India?

MP: Massively - but also it differs from city to city in each country. Vietnam street food tends to use more fresh raw vegetables than the rich stew, chutneys, tandoor-cooked meats and bread-based snacks of Delhi. In the Golden Triangle, sweets are an art form!

GM: Both are wonderful and for different reasons. Vietnamese food is fresh, colourful, aromatic, sweet, sour, salty funky and juicy. India’s is all of the above but layered with complexity. The endless expression of spice, and the vigour and energy around the sellers and buyers, [is] mesmerising. 

MP: Obviously, the very different history, heritage, ingredients and palates make a fresh clean pho loaded with herbs and beansprouts very different from the perfect samosa or stuffed naan.

At Bukhara, tandoor cuisine is at its most theatrical - Luxury Escapes
Bukhara: tandoor cuisine at its most theatrical.

LE: How are you guys with spicy food? Do you expect things to get hot on this trip?

MP: It’s a common misconception that Indian food is all about heat – I’ve had far hotter dishes far more often in Thailand. I’m happy with some heat but I like this tempered, so it doesn’t drown out the subtleties of the spicing…

GM: It’s important to make the distinction between spicy and the heat from chilli. Indians are the masters of spice, from subtle and alluring to fiery and fabulous. We will experience it all and guarantee when you get home nothing will taste quite as good ever again!

LE: This is the second time you've partnered with Luxury Escapes. What brought you back to Signature Series?

GM: Every holiday I’ve ever taken is always centred around food. […] Signature Series allows us to share our passion with like-minded people. Carefully curated and organised so you can enjoy the very best of each destination we visit. What could be better?

MP: I love to travel to eat as much as I love watching others enjoy that experience.

LE: One final question. What makes India the ultimate foodie destination? 

GM: I said to Matt the other day, ‘Is it just me or does every photo of India we took on our research trip ooze a certain richness and colour?’ He agreed. The food, people, culture and history all intertwined to create magic like nowhere else on earth…

MP: Nowhere is the ultimate foodie destination! Everywhere is the ultimate food destination. Ask me again after this suite of Signature Tours.

After more? Check out Vietnam with MasterChef Australia's Gary Mehigan

Nate Robinson
About Nate Robinson
Mad for travel and an incorrigible foodie, Nate is as at home in a Mexican taqueria as he is at Tsukiji. When he's not abroad, you can always find Nate with a book in one hand and a tiki cocktail in the other.

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