M'Bessy - at the Republic of Gastronomy

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Walk into M'Bessy and what catches your eye is the huge chandelier. Then you see a wall with the map of the world done with corks. Vintage European-inspired furniture dominates the dining area, and to the left, plated desserts looking enticing in the pastry counter and a pizza oven all fired up for its next order.



Flags of the world

Renovations are almost over at Esthell Hotel, Adyar and the city's newest Continental resto-bar is housed in it. We go up the stairs to the said bar and in the vestibule like foyer hang framed flags of different countries. Tiny ones. Great idea for a play on the word M'Bessy though it is actually a reference to Bessy Beach.

We were a group of 6 and considering it was a weeknight, many of the other tables are occupied.

Spirits on display

We're told M'Bessy has the largest bar in the city and one of the most extensive collection of spirits. Seating is mixed, high tables and bar stools, couches and even a private room which reminds me of a train compartment.

Maid in India; M'Bessy sour

Twisted Clover; Royal Tea Punch

We tried 4 of their most popular cocktails. Bacardi-based Maid in India had a big block of ice it in - ice cubes would melt too fast and dilute the drink; Beefeater gin-based Twisted Clover, my favourite of the evening - M'Bessy Sour with Black Label as the base and vodka-based Royal Tea Punch that arrived with a lighted stick of cinnamon, smoke and plenty of drama.

Citrus Junction; Ginger Cosmos

Beat the Heat - non-alcoholic mint julep and was it cold!!

They also have a few mocktails on offer. Interestingly, some of the drinks are decorated with house-made dehydrated fruit slices.

Mezze platter

The menu has plenty to order from; we try the mezze platter with lavash and pita triangles, served with 3 dips, the best of which is the baba ganoush.

Broccoli Polonaise

There's a plate of Broccoli Polonaise - florets of broccoli topped with cheese sauce that's been grilled and served with salad and yummy bruschetta. It's so good that we order a second one.

Dynamite Prawns; M'Bessy Spiced Chicken on skewers

'Bessy Spiced Chicken was served with a blue cheese dip. The chicken was tender but somewhat bland, the dip was just what it needed. The Dynamite Prawns was also really good, loved its freshness though it didn't quite live up to its moniker.


We go down into the fine dine restaurant below. On one wall, hang platters that are painted in gray and black. The platters represent the ones that are used for food service. I love the grays that dominate the room because it a beautiful background canvas for the food that is served.

Pizza Bianca; Pollo Fumet
 
We start with 2 kinds of pizzas - the Bianca with sundried tomatoes and the pronounced flavour of blue cheese (delish!) and Pollo Fumet with smoked chicken, scarmoza cheese, rucola and pesto. Both have thin crusts. There was a risotto but the rice was slightly underdone though it had a flavour that could grow on you.



The chicken steak that came next was served with fries, chunky steamed veg and salad. While the meat was fairly tender, the flavour of cumin was quite dominant for a meat as delicate as chicken.


The Australian lamb chops were overcooked and the the bone had not been frenched properly resulting in the meat being charred in places. The hickory flavoured sauce was delicious though.

Chocolate terrine; banoffee pie

Deconstructed tiramisu

The meal ended with 3 desserts - a bannoffee pie (personally I never eat anything that has a banana in it but the others seemed to enjoy it), a nice chocolate terrine but the best was a deconstructed tiramisu. The smooth marscapone-laden sabayon provided a wonderful contrast to the coffee flavoured squares of cake.      


While M'Bessy's bar menu is well thought out and varied, the restaurant's menu needs a little fine tuning. The location of the hotel couldn't be better and with a dynamic managing team in place, things can only get better.

A meal for two without alcohol should work out to around 1800/ ++
M'Bessy Kitchen and Bar is located at No. 1, Royal Enclave
Besant Avenue,
Adyar, Chennai.
Phone: 044 24463311

Il Grande Pranzo at Focaccia, HRC

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Here are a few Italian words you need to learn before hitting Focaccia, Hyatt Regency Chennai - antipasti, primi, secondi, dolci and Il Grande Pranzo.

Yes, Pranzo Saturdays are back! Rechristened Il Grande Pranzo, this Saturday brunch buffet at HRC's trattoria style restaurant specialises in the food of Southern Italy. Il Grande Pranzo lives up to its name- there are lots more on the menu this time around, both hot and cold antipasti and a huge display of seafood, prawns, crabs and mussels that are cooked in their shells with dips and sauces to accompany. Also pasta, pizza, soups, grills and breads.  It's going to be a long, leisurely meal. Don't worry that you may eat too much - every time you get up to help yourself at the counters, all that walking will help you lose a few calories and make space in your tummy! That's because the buffet counters are spread around the restaurant and the desserts are arranged in the adjoining room - not kidding! Now got an idea how vast the spread is?

All about the cheese

Start with cheese and wine though on the day that we were invited, the restaurant did not serve alcohol. Not a problem for they made us some refreshing fruit-based mocktails. Of the cheeses, there was Grana Padano and a cheese fondue that was a bit too runny.

Gorgonzola stuffed zucchini; cucumber with mesclun; Parma ham & melon; mushroom tarts

Among the antipasti, I liked the beef carpaccio, parma ham and melon and the mushroom tart. Tiny portions of vegetarian antipasti like the zucchini rolls filled with Gorgonzola and mesclun filled cucumber looked pretty in their equally tiny serving dishes.

At the deli counter

What's a buffet without cold cuts and deli specialties? With slices of smoked salmon, Parma ham, cooked ham and salami, you could even make yourself a sandwich with the interesting breads, dips and salad ingredients.

Pizza

Three kinds of pizza were laid out on paddles - veg Margarita, another with mozzarella, aubergines and peppers and a third with onion and chicken. Freshly baked, they were delicious.

Choice of pasta; penne arrabiata

The live pasta station had a variety of house-made pastas, gnocchi and risotto with a choice of arrabiata, cheese and pesto sauces and sausages, broccoli, prawn and mushroom. My pesto with tomato and basil could have done with a little more olive oil and a more pronounced basil flavour. The gnocchi tossed in arrabiata was also good but the best was the creamy risotto with prawns and mushrooms.


Roast leg of lamb
There was a huge arrangement of seafood - prawns, crabs, mussels and fish. The crustaceans were served in the shell and had sauces to go with them. There was also roast leg of lamb that had the enticing aroma and flavour of rosemary. A smooth jus complemented it. With it, a selection of breads and the focaccia roll was just the thing to mop up the juices.

Warm chicken and olive frittatas

There were trays of chicken chunks, tenderloin, prawn, and sausages. Just tell the chefs what you want and  they grill them and send them on to your table. All the meats were pre-marinated and were beautifully tender.

Marinated and ready for the grill

In case you're a non meat eater, there's eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini and pineapple that are grilled. There were some extremely dishy tagines and in them were secondis like potato stacks and cheesy cannelloni.

After the grilling - pineapple slices, "snail sausages", tenderloin; prawns

After all this, we still managed to save space for dolci -dessert. Everything looked tempting. The smooth, creamy pannacotta called out, as did the tiramisu and the chocolate pot. Most delicious was the zabaglione served over wafer shards and a thyme scented meringue. A fitting end to a wonderful pranzo.

Mix fruit tart; trio of verrine; vanilla pannacotta

Cake pops; truffles and fudges; tiramisu; chocolate pots; dark & white chocolate bark; zabaglione


Il Grande Pranzo is on every Saturday at Focaccia, Hyatt Regency Chennai. Timings are from 12.30 - 3 pm. With alcohol - 1699/++, non alcoholic - 1399/++. A swim in the pool is 500/++.

Do call +91 446100 1234 for table reservations.



ibis at city's centre

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The ibis is a medium size wading bird. It has long legs and is found mostly in wetlands and coastal areas.

There's a brand new ibis that's landed right in the middle of town and it's called ibis Chennai City Centre. This is the budget hotel's second property in the city and the location just couldn't be more perfect - on Anna Salai, as Mount Road used to be called. Older residents of the city would have gone to catch a movie at Anand Theatre. The entrance was through a narrow passageway, just wide enough for a car to get through (the theatre was eventually pulled down). Well, you need to see ibis CCC today to know how large the area  actually is.

The foyer of the hotel itself is quite unpretentious but when the lift doors open at the fifth floor, one steps out into a functional lobby. At the press conference addressed by Jean-Michel, Senior VP AccorHotels, JB Singh, President and CEO InterGlobe Hotels and Rajesh Gopalakrishnan, GM of the hotel, we learnt that the 155 room hotel represented both simplicity and modernity in terms of design and concept. A visit to one of the rooms revealed just that - the 'sweet bed' with impossibly comfortable bedding, flat screen TV, a work desk, storage space and a bathroom fitted into a corner of the room, all in 17.86 sq. m of space. Compact or what?

ibis' signature restaurant, Spice It offers a multi cuisine menu. Head chef Praveen Kumar who has more than a decade's worth of work experience, has a few signature offerings in the pipeline. Most definitely, sitting through a press conference needs plenty of concentration and that has to be rewarded with a good meal.

A view of Anna Salai from ibis

Spice It has large windows on either end of the room. One overlooks the bustling Anna Salai; in the daytime, the view outside is anything but pretty but I guess at night, it must be almost magical.

Spice It

Half the restaurant space is occupied by the buffet counters while the seating, done in vibrant shades of orange and cream occupies the other half. Banquettes run along an entire side.

The Hub

The lobby bar, The Hub serves non alcoholic beverages as of now while it awaits its liquor licence Sliding doors separate it from the restaurant and affords privacy to guests.


An open kitchen demarcates the buffet counters from the kitchen and one can see busy chefs at work.

Carrot slaw; sweetcorn with spring onion; German potato salad

On a trough of ice are salad platters that include a carrot coleslaw, sweetcorn with spring onion in an orange dressing and a particularly nice German potato salad.

Garlic bread, pesto bread


The menu is mainly Continental, Oriental and Indian. There was a platter of garlic bread fingers and pesto toast and a live pasta and noodle counter.

Sweetcorn chicken soup; penne with pesto

The meal started with soup - sweet corn and chicken and it was a very nice soup - flavourful stock, bits of egg white, chicken and corn. For vegetarians, they had a classic minestrone.
My serving of penne with pesto sauce was delicious - easy on the garlic and topped with grated Parmesan cheese. Yummy!

Roast chicken with mushrooms; grilled fish in lemon butter sauce

Roast chicken with mushroom and shallots was delicious; there was also grilled fish in a lemon butter sauce. Wish they had used any fish other than basa.

Murgh malai tikka; lamb shammi kebab

At the Indian section, starters included tender chunks of murgh malai tikka and lamb shammi kebab.

Chicken biryani; rogan josh; Alleppey fish curry

There was also fork-tender lamb rogan josh that paired well with a spicy chicken biryani and Alleppey fish curry made with basa. Indian breads are made to order and come hot off the griddle!

The vegetarian menu was quite interesting as well.

Chilli ginger corn; potato croquettes

Kadai subzi; paneer methi chaman

Ennai  kathrikai; lemon dal

Believe me, the ennai kathrikai (eggplant curry) is a particularly tasty accompaniment to the vegetable biryani.

Fresh fruit slices; badushahi; milk Mysore pak

Desserts included local favourites like gooey Tirunellveli halwamoong dal halwa, badushahi, milk Mysore pak and fresh fruits. Thankfully, there were no cream filled cakes but there was a delicious tiramisu made with real mascarpone cheese. Espresso soaked ladyfingers would have made a world of difference but all the same, it was very nice.

Tirunellveli halwa; moong dal halwa

Tiramisu meets Tirunellveli halwa

By no means is it an elaborate menu but the chef has evidently played to his strengths and worked on quality over quantity. There were minor hiccups in service though things are still in the teething stage.
The meal ended with a nice cup of cappuccino (a confession - it was my second cup - yes it was really good!).

For early bird guests, the restaurant offers breakfast from 4 am to noon.

The breakfast buffet at Spice It is 600/ per head, lunch and dinner at 800/ all inclusive. À la carte is also on offer.

ibis Chennai City Centre
684 - 690, Anna Salai
Block 6, Thousand Lights.
Chennai 600006.
044 71225588




 
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