Food Exchange at Novotel Chennai Chamiers

Accor Hotel's newest property in Chennai is the standalone Novotel Chennai Chamiers Road Hotel. And what a location - slap bang in the middle of the city.

Most Novotel hotels around the world have their all day restaurants named The Square but here, it's called Food Exchange. It's a stylish and contemporary space with lattice screens between some of the tables for a bit of privacy. Larger groups can book the private dining room. Black blinds over glass windows block out all noise from the road below.

Executive Chef Kalaiselvan

The kitchen is the turf of Executive Chef Kalaiselvan. His quiet demeanour belies his skill in cooking up a range of dishes across cuisines. He worked at Dubai before coming over to head the Food Exchange kitchen. If we were lucky, we could even have some Arabian delights on our dinner menu.

This part of the open kitchen is doubles up as the chef's table

The walls of the restaurant have plenty of niches and shelves that hold an array of interesting knick-knacks - serve ware, jars and tea caddies. Across the room, they house condiments and sauces, reinforcing the fact that Indian, Italian and pan Asian cuisines are the forte of Food Exchange. With the open concept kitchen, you can see the chefs prepare food. There's a buffet on weekends, otherwise, choose from the à la carte menu.

The Delicious Sour

We were offered mocktails from the Gourmet Bar; the menu could have done with a few more choices. The Delicious Sour, made with peach, apricot, lemon and soda was really refreshing though I couldn't taste either of the stone fruits. This is a mocktail that comes without a garnish! A good thing I think.

Chilli honey lotus stem 

Kasoori paneer tikka with mint chutney

Shish tawook that came with a tahini dip

Nawabi seekh kebab

Thai beef skewers with peanut sauce

Spicy bites- pepper smoked chilli chicken

Appetisers were a mix of Indian and Asian. The soft paneer tikka, seekh kebabs and Thai beef skewers were among the best. The flavours and spices were spot on. The lotus stems had been fried too much and were overdone. The shish tawook would have fared better if longer skewers had been used; the toothpicks were difficult to hold.

Burnt garlic veg soup

Mushroom velouté with porcini oil

Both soups were delicious. The garlic in the burnt garlic soup had been fried just right, perfuming the colourful broth with its aroma. Finely diced mushrooms in the velouté added to the overall earthiness and the umami flavour was pretty addictive.

Sage gnocchi, basil pesto, Parmesan

The gnocchi at Food Exchange is one of the best I've had in quite a while. Pan-fried with sage butter, the outside was crusty, the inside gooey. It was a brilliant burst of flavours from the herbs and cheese.

Mushroom ravioli with garlic bread

Half and half pizza

More Italian and this time, it was a really thin crust pizza. Mascarpone, parma ham and arugula toppings on one side while the other had bbq chicken, corn and jalapeno chillies. Definitely a good pizza that was baked just right, even the crust was edible. It was one of the few pizzas I've seen where the sauce was spread almost to the edge of the bread.

Thai red curry, prawns with jasmine rice

Green curry with veggies

Thai red curry with prawns was delish. The prawns were large and very fresh, the curry had a thick, almost velvety consistency but it was perfect with the fragrant rice. Leftover gravy? You can drink it up like soup - it's that good.   

Double chocolate mousse; Oreo cheesecake; tender coconut payasam parfait; brownie

The dessert platter was quite a sight and the portions, thankfully were small. Brownie fans can rejoice - it was dark and fudgy, the cheesecake was dense and tangy. The only thing that didn't quite live to its name was the parfait.

Food Exchange has many interesting dishes on its menu and obviously, the 3 cuisines are its strong points. The only downside to having an open kitchen is an exhaust system that is not powerful enough.

*This was an invited review 


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