Junior chef workshop


Any aspiring young chefs at your home? One who is 11 years or older? Well, this post is especially for them.

Get them over to the Junior Chef workshop happening on May 4th and 6th.

So what's on the menu?

On the 4th, it's all eggless - a quick pizza from scratch, camp-style macaroni, bubble and squeak, grilled mushroom and cheese sandwich and Tim Tam squares.
On the 6th, there's cheese muffins, 2 kinds of sandwiches, ooey gooey cake, cherry nut chocolate and choc-chip bread pudding. Not eggless!

Sounds yummy? Do call and register.

All classes will be held from 10.30am to 2.30pm at Kottivakkam.

Sunset, ceviche and seafood at Westin Chennai Velachery


Up the lift, past the pool, up a short flight of stairs and there, on the open terrace is the coolest, breeziest place in Chennai- the Sunset Grill at Westin Chennai Velachery.

When Sunset Grill opened up nearly 2 years ago, I was invited for a review. That day, rain played spoilsport but I do remember being shown those stairs and being told that up there was where the alfresco grill restaurant was located.

I'm finally climbing those stairs. Ooh the breeze... the gently swaying palm trees... the panoramic view of the city skyline... ok, ok... I exaggerate... not the city but the Velachery skyline...

The first thing I see are wooden boxes holding the catch of the day. There's fish, giant prawns, lobster tails, crabs and bivalves, a wicked looking cuttlefish and a coconut shell full of tentacles! And I have to make choices... this is after all the Seafood Bazaar and Ceviche festival.

Sunset Cinderella

The upholstered chairs are so comfortable; I sink into them, just want to stay there and not make any decisions. I'm joined by Executive Chef Yatendra Rawat who takes charge. Thank goodness because in a couple of minutes, our dinner order is placed and I'm sipping on my Sunset Cinderella. It's a great spot to unwind and do nothing more than watch a thousand stars twinkling up in the sky and trees that sway in the breeze, their branches lit up by tiny bulbs.

Snapper,  and sea bass; pomfret

Jumbo prawns; lobster tail and lobster

Salmon steaks, cuttlefish

Molluscs and mud crab
So here's how the bazaar works. Pretend you've gone seafood shopping. The catch includes beautifully pink Norwegian salmon, jumbo prawns, lobster tails, calamari, clams, mud crab, cuttlefish and bivalves like mussels and clams. Take your pick.

You choose from a selection of 4 marinades - peri peri, Asian, lemon garlic and Mediterranean. Then you choose a sauce - romesco or ravigote(a sort of vinaigrette) or peri peri or Bearnaise. The staff whisks off your choice of seafood into the glass-enclosed kitchen. And that's it - sit down, sit back and enjoy your drink and the breeze which nearly threatened to topple over our bottle of water!

Breads and dips - aubergine, romesco, cayenne butter

We are served a basket of Westin's deliciously soft signature breads along with 3 dips - roasted aubergine, romesco and butter slices with cayenne. That romesco is simply divine.

Seafood ceviche

Then it's ceviche time. The menu says it's made with tiger's milk ...where did they go to get such an exotic ingredient? Let's start with the ceviche - this one's made with a mix of seafood. Chef Rawat hastens to add it's perfectly safe to eat seafood raw as the lime juice "cooks" the fish. The juices that are released in the "cooking" process is called tiger's milk. Among other things, there's thin slices of shallots, finely chopped chilli peppers, coriander and small cubes of springy seafood and it is absolutely absolutely delicious. Nothing tastes raw and that hit of acid and chillies is stunning.

Papaya ceviche

We are then served a vegetarian version of ceviche - with papaya. The combination of sweet papaya, chillies, lime and coriander is fabulous. There are 2 vegetarian and 2 non veg ceviches on the menu.

Grilled seafood platter

Chef Rawat has ordered a platter of octopus, snapper, sea bass and pomfret, along with tentacles. The marinades are peri peri, Asian and Mediterranean. The freshness of the fish in the various marinades is outstanding. The peri peri marinade was perfect with the cuttlefish and of course, everything was grilled to perfection. Incidentally, all the seafood used is indeed from the sea! And fresh!

The sides - dips and fries 

The sauces are interesting, the Bernaise toned down the spice level of the peri peri. The grills are served with roasted vegetables and a choice of mashed or baked potato wedges.

Dessert platter - baked yoghurt; cheesecake; tiramisu

Dessert is Sunset Grill's platter of baked yoghurt, classic New York cheesecake and tiramisu. The baked yoghurt with raspberry coulis is smashing, so too the cheesecake with mango coulis. The tiramisu had a strong taste of almond and a mild coffee flavour which threw the balance out of whack.

Vegetarians, do not despair for Sunset Grill does have a menu for those prefer it.

Seafood lovers, pick out your seafood and have it weighed. Prices range from 295/- per 100 gm for mud crabs and clams to 895/- for lobster tails. As mentioned earlier, it is served with a choice of sauces, grilled vegetables and potatoes. Ceviche costs vary between 325/- and 425/-. A meal for 2 would be around 4000/++.

The Seafood Bazaar and Ceviche is on till April 30th, 2016.

Westin Chennai Velachery
154, Velachery Main Road
Do call 044 66333777 for reservations.

Holiday Inn Express OMR


Holiday Inn Express opened another of its doors in Chennai a little over three weeks ago. It is an international hotel brand situated on Rajiv Gandhi Salai, better known as the Old Mahabalipuram Road. Located 20 km away from the airport, it's a boon for both business and leisure travellers. Holiday Inn Express has a partnership with the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) which manages the hotel and is owned by Duet India Hotels. It's a brand that is known for quality, service and good value and ensures the traveller has an uncomplicated stay.

(L)Naveen Jain; Shantha de Silva
At the formal inauguration on April 22nd 2016, Mr. Shantha de Silva, Head of South West Asia, IHG told us the property is the fourth one managed by the group in Chennai.

Mr. Naveen Jain, President, Duet Hotels said the JV was signed 5 years ago and since then, Chennai has the distinction of being the only city that hosts all 4 brands of Duet Hotels - Crowne Plaza Chennai and InterContinental Hotel Mahabalipuram Resort, Holiday Inn Express Mahindra City and now, the 8-storey Holiday Inn Express OMR.

Mr. Ranjan Malakar, Area General Manager for Central India and Holiday Inn Express hotels in SW Asia spoke about the various amenities the hotel provides. The hotel has a great location and functional meeting rooms. It offers complimentary high speed wifi services to all its guests. Complimentary Express Start breakfasts are offered and for those who need to rush out for early morning meetings, they have an option called 'Grab and Go' where they can take off with a simple packed breakfast. To ensure the guest has a comfortable stay, all 136 rooms offer comfortable beds with a choice of firm or soft pillows. All this adds value to the guest's stay. Mr. Abishek Verma, the GM of the hotel then invited us to have a look at the rooms.

Art on the wall

Thirst quencher - hospitality at the Holiday Inn Express

The lobby (that's the reflection of the chairs on the front desk); lobby store 

Self service business centre

The inauguration was held in the conference room and from there, we went around into the foyer and took the lift to the lobby on the first floor. The business centre is also located here and is accessible all hours of the day.

The bar

Great Room - all day restaurant 

But first, we were welcomed into the restaurant, Great Room which is open 24x 7. At one end is a cosy bar. All along one side are the buffet counters and seating is arranged in the middle of the room. Glass light fixtures in various shapes, lengths and colours brighten up the space. The soft furnishings and the lamps seem deliberately mismatched but they give the room a stylish and contemporary atmosphere.

Chicken soup; veg dimsum

Soup and appetisers were served at the table and included steamed vegetable dumplings. They are about the best I've had in recent times, the wrapper was thin and they went perfectly well with a red chilli dip.

More appetisers - sauteed corn; chicken with hoisin sauce; dahi kebab

Buffet counters

Chaat corner


A selection of  food from Asia Kitchen
Vegetarian specials, Thai green curry (R) is delicious.


The food is from Asia Kitchen, and is mostly Indian, Asian and some European. There's also salads, chaats and of course, desserts.

Chocolate cake with ice cream

Holiday Inn Express OMR, has 131 rooms and 5 suites. The rooms are cosy and furnished with comfortable beds and the bathrooms have power showers. The suites have larger fridges while the other rooms have the standard size bar fridges. There's also a fitness centre with treadmills and weights and a laundry room, both can be accessed any time of day or night.

Even if you are not staying at the hotel, you can have a meal at Great Room. Breakfast is 395/++, lunch 595/++ and dinner 695/++. Both buffet and a la carte are available.

Holiday Inn Express OMR is at Chemmencherry, Rajiv Gandhi Salai, Sholinganallur, Chennai. It is located opposite Sathyabama University.
Phone: 044 4295 6699.

Sawasdee Thai Celebration at Park Hyatt Chennai


Thai food may seem simple to make but it is actually a complex assemblage of different tastes that come together in harmony. Chef Supattra's seafood salad is an example - a blend of tart lime juice, saltiness from fish sauce, sweetness from sugar, a bite of heat from chillies, celery leaves added a wonderful brightness and of course, the textures of scallops, prawns and fish completed it. And the colours...food for the soul indeed!

As part of the Masters of Food and Wine programme, Park Hyatt Chennai has brought over Chef Supratta from Park Hyatt Dubai just in time to celebrate Songkran, the Thai New Year. The Flying Elephant is the venue for the Sawasdee Thai Festival.

Cocktails with quirky names are on offer. How does Love on Khao San Road sound? Or Siam Sunshine, a rum based cocktail? All of them have Thai elements and that's the twist in the tail...or tale?

Thai cocktails with names like Pattaya Special; Sunny Jim; Thai Collins; Siam Sunshine

The Bridge on the River Kwai

My favourite is The Bridge on the River Kwai. It starts sweet and smooth but oh boy...does it pack a punch!

Green papaya salad

Seafood salad with celery and cherry tomato; Bangkok Summer

We were floored by the amazing flavours of Thailand that the chef presented. That bowl of green papaya salad was crunchy and bursting with flavour. Vegetarians will be delighted by all that's on their menu. An unusual dish was the one with mock meat. The vegetarian version of Pad Thai was one we all fought over.

Tofu with basil
Textured vegetable protein

Thai red curry, all veg

Another stunner was the fragrant Thai red veg curry. It had a wonderful mix of vegetables and the deep red gravy looked fiery but was actually mellow.

Lamb massaman curry

Green curry with steamed rice

Chef Supprata has 23 years of experience as a Hyatt chef, having learnt the art and craft from her father. What could possibly be better than Thai food cooked by a Thai chef using the right ingredients.

We tried a hearty lamb massaman curry and the classic green curry with chicken. Both were served with rice.

Mixed seafood in banana leaf - a medley of fish and squid

Pad Thai with prawns

Glass noodles with shrimp, celery and spring onion

Favourites of the evening were Pad Thai and Glass Noodles with Shrimp. That dish had been finished with a bit of sesame oil which tied up the flavours beautifully.

Sago, cantaloupe, coconut milk; water chestnut with jackfruit

Delicious sticky rice with mango

Whatever you order, do not miss the desserts. All 3 are coconut milk-based and fabulous and a good way to cool down if you ate anything spicy. Or even if you didn't!

This festival is on till April 29th and only for dinner. It's a la carte and prior reservation is recommended.

Park Hyatt
39, Velachery Main Road (near Raj Bhavan)
Chennai 600032.
044 7177 1655.

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