Christmas Eve at Vasco's

A white Christmas tree stands in the lobby of Chennai's Hilton Hotel. Above and around the tree are strings of white lights. We are told that white trees represent peace, the global symbol of Christmas 2017. Beside the tree is a pretty gingerbread house; more than 2800 gingerbread slabs have been used to construct it. The pastry chefs at the Hilton have certainly been busy!

Invited to review the Christmas Eve dinner, we were escorted up to Vasco's, Hilton's all-day restaurant. Can you believe that a staggering 260 dishes comprised the entire buffet menu? And another thing - the chefs are pretty proud of the effort they have put in because they took us around to all the counters to show off the results of their labour.

Gingerbread house centrepiece

Vasco's is a quirky space. It's high-ceilinged and that's because the PDR, shaped like a crow's nest, sits above. There's also what looks like an upturned table beside it, the legs going all the way up to the ceiling. In honour of the intrepid traveller Vasco de Gama, there are miniature replicas of Santa Maria placed around the salad counters! The centrepiece on each table is a tiny gingerbread house, just the thing to put you in the mood for Christmas.

Salad and appetiser spread 

The menu has plenty of choices for vegetarians and even the fussiest of diners. The salad section looked like a garden. Of course I chose the one with Christmas colours - watermelon slices decked with basil, rucola, maple syrup and feta cheese. Yummy!

Waiting for the grill

Char siu
Grill and barbeque counters had been set up in the deck area. Skewers with cubes of beef, pork, chicken, lamb and an array of vegetables only need to placed on the red hot grills. In fact, it's so pleasant out there under the open sky that we were tempted to dine under the stars.

Chaat counter
Cheese and cold cuts; mezze
The cutest little pita I ever did see

Every station was a riot of colour. The cheese and mezze counters had all kinds of dips and tiny pita breads to scoop them up with.

Vietnamese fried rice

Baos, dumplings & siumai


Executive Chef Achal Aggarwal specialises in pan-Asian cuisine and there is a fair bit of South East Asian dishes. Com chien thap cam - Vietnamese fried rice with sausages and prawn was delicious with  the Thai red curry. However, the chef's art lies in the the presentation of sushi. If sushi is your thing, just go for it - it's outstanding and the seafood is so fresh.

Turkey and cranberry sauce

Christmas and turkey go together and this golden brown fellow looked simply magnificent. All around lay roast baby potatoes, fries, sauteed brussels sprouts and pastry-wrapped sausages. The meat was carved expertly and oh so tender.

Arabian-style chicken

Spinach gnocchi in eggplant sauce
Pancetta-wrapped pork; sammak sayadieh; cheese, pear & rosemary tart; thyme & mustard chicken drumsticks
Dumba biryani

Wild mushroom tart

A whole section dedicated to Western-style bakes and the one that caught my eye was sammak sayadieh, a Lebanese dish of baked fish and rice. While the skin on the fish was thick, it did a good job of keeping the flesh moist. The rice was lightly spiced and very fragrant. If the wild mushroom pie is on the menu the day you go, just go for it. It may look rustic but is so exquisite.

Live music by Johnny, Cindy and Chester 

The dessert table had everything from mince pies to macarons to marshmallows, meringues, gateaux, chocolates, Yule log and puddings, even a croquembouche! The strawberry tree dusted with powdered sugar was my favourite.

What a feast!

Dessert mayhem - gingerbread houses; strawberry tree; macaron tower; Yule log & strawberry tart

Christmas may be over but I hear New Year's Eve at Vasco's will be more lavish  yet family-friendly.
For reservations, do call +91 9500075219.

Baketales wishes everyone a New Year of hope, peace and joy.


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