Beer and burgers at HRC


It's season 2 of the Beer and Burger Fest at Hyatt Regency Chennai and if you like a brew with your burger, the Lobby Lounge has you covered. The menu is a little different this time and vegetarians have a choice of 5 burgers ranging from a pav bhaji to one with potato, pea and Cheddar cheese to another with chilli garlic stir-fried momo burger - extremely innovative or what!!

The Green Juice

Since this was an invite to review, the friend and I, on Chef Arun's recommendation, ordered a crumb-fried chicken burger and pulled lamb burger. And just about then we were told that it was a "dry day" and no alcohol would be served. There went the beer! BUT...but that was a good thing as I wouldn't have got to order The Green Juice made with green apple, celery and basil. So healthy and refreshing and I could literally feel the vitamins and minerals gushing through my veins! There was another called Stress reliever; since I wasn't feeling stressed out that day, I gave it a miss.

Pulled lamb burger

The burgers were served on black trays. Each burger is served with a basket of fries, sweet mustard mayo, a red cabbage coleslaw and homemade relish. The burgers were well crafted, lettuce and tomato slices lined the bases. The pulled lamb filling was generous yet easy to cut through. Thankfully, there were no toothpicks or skewers to hold the bun halves together. The meat was oh-so-tender, having been cooked for 6 hours but I would have liked it with a little more heavy on the flavour and seasoning.

Crumb fried chicken burger

The crumb-fried chicken burger, on the other hand, was a stunner. Meat from the leg of chicken had been coated with panko and fried. A slice of cheese placed on the hot patty melted, adding to its deliciousness. The crumb coating was so crisp that you could hear the crunch from across the room! Ok, maybe I exaggerate but I'd really like to know if there is an elegant way to eat a burger so good.

To wash down those burgers, there's a choice of imported or local beers. There are beer and burger combos which are a good deal and reasonable rates for top ups.
Iced tea

I also had a glass of iced tea. This one's not on the menu but you can order it. Very nice, very balanced flavours and it was a huge glass. Which reminds me, the burgers and the sides are pretty filling and you can make a meal of it.

The fest is on every night till Jan 30th at the Lobby Lounge, from 11 am -11 pm.

Novotel, ibis and The Square on OMR


Novotel ibis Chennai OMR is AccorHotel's newest combo property in Chennai. It's situated just before/after the Sholinganallur junction. 12 storeys high, the luxury brand has 3 room categories while budget brand ibis has 1. Together, they have a total of 342 rooms. 

The 2 hotels share a driveway and pillars divide the portico into 2. We had been invited to review Novotel's all-day restaurant, The Square. While waiting for the rest of the group to arrive, the MarCom manager took me around the property that has a contemporary, stylish look.

Reception area at Novotel; the lobby; kids' corner

Novotel's Lobby Bar; Spice It at ibis

The lobby is a compact one, the walls, floor and curtains are in shades of tan, colours pop out from the carpets and upholstery. What would gladden the hearts of parents who come in with their little ones is a kids' corner with activities to keep them busy. The lobby bar would have been a stark space if not for the bright red accents on the seating and cushions. This colour scheme is repeated in ibis and in their soon-to-be-opened restaurant, Spice It. It's a lovely space that exudes warmth, cheeriness and an air of informality.

The suite at Novotel
Meal stations at The Square

The Indian section

Dessert buffet

Clip art - fried snack and a refreshing malted drink

The Square is a busy place, if alfresco dining is what you prefer, you could step out onto the breezy deck. Back in the restaurant, Executive Chef G. Muthu Kumar had put in place a tasting menu for us. What kept the evening interesting was not only the food but also the quirky presentation.

Top: papads with brown onion sambal and tomato coriander chutney
Bottom: green veg & broccoli cheese dimsums with 2 dips

The brown onion sambal and tomato coriander chutney were both delish. Tiny papads were served to scoop them up with. I usually skip veg dimsums but I'm glad I did try both as they were yummy. The dumpling skins were a little thick but otherwise they were well made the fillings were flavourful and scallion, roasted chilli and tomato dip had just the right amount of heat and tang to accompany them.

Gosht gilafi seek kebab and blueberry yoghurt dip

Gosht gilafi seek kabab with its cheese crust was delicious. The meat was finely ground and the spice mix was perfect, no one spice dominated. Served with an interesting blueberry yoghurt dip in a gleaming little pan, I couldn't decide if it looked or tasted better!

Tofu and prawn roll with Thai chilli dip
Chalupa stand

Steel buckets on a bamboo frame caught us by surprise mid-conversation. The buckets held chalupas - roasted veg mash with Mexican spices, refried beans, sour cream, Monterrey Jack cheese and a slice of dehydrated orange that tasted like a dried apricot. To scoop it up was a polenta-masa harina nacho. This dish certainly brought smiles to our faces.

Palate cleansing lime syrup
Crisp chicken flower rice with Siracha sauce

Carrot pearls

Chicken burgers 2 ways

Our trays held a mystery box and they were opened to reveal chicken burgers. The meat was done 2 ways - pulled and crunchy. I preferred the pulled meat filling as the crisp chicken in the other kept falling out. The buns looked dramatic, were very soft and well made - they didn't crumble or break apart. The burgers were served with potato wedges and carrot caviar pearls.

Gosht roganjosh ; millet & ragi breads; murgh makhani

To showcase the Indian section, we were served murgh makhani and gosht roganjosh. With tender meat and balanced mix of spices, the tiny portions of ragi and millet roti were just the thing to mop up those gravies. The rotis were a little dry, guess you should eat them as soon as they are served.

Fantastic Four - and they truly were!

Dessert was served in a little dimsum basket - a river of whipped Philly cream cheese, macerated strawberries, soft-centered chocolate cake and an absolutely delicious chilli jangri. No, it wasn't spicy but the combination of heat and sugar was the perfect end to a dinner of surprises.

The Square has buffet services but if you'd like to have a meal like what we had, you could ask the chef to help customise one for you.

Novotel & ibis Chennai OMR
+91 44 6644 4777.

Dehydrated orange

Mayonnaise with wasabi


Ever made mayo in a roomy bowl with just a wire whisk? Boy, was I happy when we could finally afford to buy a food processor. No more watching beaten eggs fly out of the bowl or after minutes of whisking, ending up with curdled goo and stiff arms. Of course, it became even simpler with the advent of stick blenders. A whirrr, blupp and presto! - mayo is ready!! (and I don't really care what old school chefs think about this.)

A lot of stuff can be added into mayo, mine had wasabi paste. The stuff in tubes is potent so proceed with caution. Here's how it goes:

Mayonnaise with wasabi

1 whole egg
275 ml oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard paste
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon wasabi paste (or as needed)

Break the egg and gently slide it into the jar of the blender.
Add in all the other ingredients.

Slide whole egg into the jar, add in other ingredients

Position the dome of the blender just over the yolk.
Switch on.

Switch on and lift up the stick

Wait for the whirr and blupp, lift the stick a bit as the contents start to thicken. That's it - your mayo's ready.
Check seasoning.

Remove half the mayo, add wasabi paste into the remainder and blend again.

Pungent and creamy wasabi mayo

Pull-apart ham and cheese loaf with wasabi mayo


Nothing like a warm crusty bread to start the new year with, particularly one that involves a bit of pulling and sharing.

Isn't it amazing what you can do with bread dough - other that shaping it into a loaf of bread? Pull-apart breads, also called tear and share breads, are undergoing a revival of sorts these days. They make great conversation topics when you have a bunch of people over for a meal or are just the thing to serve with soup at a quiet family dinner. That's how versatile they are.

Cheese & chives

It was a day when I had some chives on hand. Usually I have no chives on hand. In fact, I've never had chives in the house. Never ever. Tried to grow them too but no luck. Anyway, the previous day, I had gone to the veggie store and seen this huge bunch of chives that had been grown somewhere in western India. It must have come to Chennai by air in business class as it was priced at some astronomical amount. Still, it looked fresh and green and the cashier was willing to sell me a small handful for 20 bucks.

A pull-apart loaf, or two, was what I had in mind; one with ham and cheese the other with just cheese and chives. Classic combinations, right? And wasabi mayo from scratch to dip it in. The dough for the loaf is simple to make, and it just so happens to be a no-egg one. Just bung all the ingredients into the bowl of your planetary mixer, food processor or on the countertop and mix and knead into a smooth dough. While it is rising, chop up the ham, the chives and grate the cheese. And oh... make the mayo (recipe here). The tools you will need are a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, a rolling pin, a brush, pair of scissors (or a pizza cutter) and a 3" round cutter.

When you've made your dough and the first proofing is over, divide it into 2 and roll out each into a 12" circle. It doesn't really matter if your circle is not really a circle, aim to have both somewhat the same shape and size.

There's mayo, ham, chives and cheese on this half

On one of the circles, spread a thin layer of mayo, leaving 1/2" of the rim plain. Sprinkle over the ham, cheese and chives, brush a little water over the uncovered rim and place the other circle over.

Ensure that the circles are more or less in position and stick the edges together. Transfer the roll onto the parchment-lined baking tray. Place the round cutter in the middle and mark a circle. Use the scissors or the pizza cutter and cut the dough into quarters and each quarter into half. You are now looking at 8 sections. Don't cut into the centre of the dough.

Mark off sections before slicing

Cut each of the 8 sections into 3, making a total of 24 sections. (In case your oven is too small to hold this size of loaf, make 2 smaller loaves and slice each into 16 sections.) Hold each section and twist it twice and place it down. Just make sure all the sections are twisted in the same direction.

...and twist into shape

This is how the finished loaf should look like. Brush a beaten egg all over and scatter a few black sesame seeds over the centre and leave it to rise for about 45 minutes or till doubled in size. Pop it into a hot oven and bake for about 25 minutes or till golden brown, whichever happens first.

No wonder it's called a sunflower loaf.

You could stuff it with anything from nutella to brown sugar, butter and cinnamon, chopped nuts, cheese and chillies or pesto with minced meat, finely diced and cooked veggies or even garlic butter. Do remember that if you're doing a sweet version, skip the mayo.

Pull apart ham and cheese loaf

Ingredients (for 1 loaf)
350 gm plain flour
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon milk powder
1 teaspoon gluten
50 gm soft butter
About 200 ml water

1/2 bunch chives or spring onions, chopped
3 slices ham, chopped
100 gm cheddar cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 egg, beaten
Black sesame seeds

Place all the ingredients for the bread, except for the butter and water, into the bowl of a planetary mixer.
Add in half the water and turn on the motor.
Add in the butter and enough water to form a soft dough. This should take about 10 minutes.
If you prefer to knead by hand, you could follow the instructions here.
Cover the bowl with a lid, leave to rise for about an hour or till the dough is double in size.
While the dough is rising, chop the chives and ham and grate the cheese.
When the dough has proofed, push down to expel the air and briefly knead it.
Divide into 2 and place one half on a worktop dusted with flour.

Almost the same shape and size

Roll out the dough into a fairly thin 12-inch circle, repeat with the other half of the dough.
Spread a thin layer of mayo all over one circle, leave 1/2 inch of the rim plain.

Chop the filling fine

Scatter chives (or spring onions), ham and cheese evenly over the circle.
Wet the rim and place the second circle over it, tug lightly to align the edges.
Press the edges together and place on the lined baking sheet.
Place the round cutter in the middle and mark a circle.
Use the scissors or the pizza cutter and cut the dough into quarters and each quarter into half.
You should now have 8 sections. Don't cut into the centre of the dough.

Cut into 8 sections

Cut each of the 8 sections into 3, leaving you with a total of 24 sections. (In case you are making a smaller loaf, slice it into 16 sections.)

Almost there...

Hold each section and twist it twice and place it down. Just make sure all the sections are twisted in the same direction.
Brush beaten egg all over and scatter black sesame seeds over the centre.

And done...

Leave the loaf to rise for about 45 minutes or till doubled in size.
Pop it into a preheated 190°C oven and bake for about 25 minutes or till golden brown.
Remove the baked loaf onto a wire rack.
Serve with mayo or wasabi mayo.

I made a second batch of dough and stuffed it with just cheese and chives.

Mark, slice & twist

Ready for 2nd proofing

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