Gourmet Passport @ East Coast at Madras Square


East Coast at Madras Square was the setting of a very different kind of dinner hosted by Ameeta Agnihotri, Brand Host of #GourmetPassportExperiences. At the restaurant, our group assembled in a private dining area for an evening of low calorie cocktails to be followed by a healthy dinner.

The menu

When I saw the menu, my first instinct was to turn tail and run because the promised "healthy dinner" was going to be completely vegan. Thankfully, curiosity got the better of me so I stayed put :)

Ameeta and Chandni from Gourmet Passport

Deepali of Aakaariya

Chandni Anzar of Gourmet Passport introduced some of us to the salient points of the program. Deepali of Aakaariya then took over to talk about the importance of being environment friendly not only in the way we live but also in our food choices. She told us how she had put together the meal we were going to be served. The focus of the evening was on healthy eating and what better than a complete vegan meal to put that point across.

A cocktail of strawberry, basil and kombucha


We had a selection of 5 cocktails to choose from. All of them were fruit based and sweetened with, not sugar, but honey or even stevia. The strawberry basil kombucha cocktail with a base of vodka, was refreshing; kombucha lent tartness and zing to the drink. That it was healthy was definitely a plus point. Pencillin was a very mild version of a whisky sour and minus the froth.

Pita triangles; beetroot dip; babaganoush; smoked pepper dip; vegan cheese & crudités

The hors d'oeuvre was a platter of pita slices, dips, crudités and what looked like slices of steamed sweet potatoes. The "sweet potatoes" turned out to be smoked vegan cheese made of cashew nuts. The texture was somewhat like very soft tofu though it didn't have the "cheesy" flavour of regular cheese. But it was quite an intriguing experience to eat a cheese made out of a nut.

Vegan summer rolls

Zucchini noodles

The second course was zucchini noodles with pesto sauce. Served warm, the noodles had lots of bite and strips of sun dried tomato provided welcome tang.

Main course 1: Quinoa risotto with mashed beans; chilli pineapple; mashed peas & grilled mushroom 

Main course 2: Herbed red rice; vegan cheese sauce; spiced tofu; grilled veggies & sautéed spinach

For the main course, the choice was between quinoa risotto and herbed red rice. The vegan cheese sauce served with the rice was outstanding. It had the flavour and creaminess of a regular cheese sauce and what was remarkable was that it had been made with a vegetable - the humble cauliflower, in this case.

Date snickers bars

A marriage of dates and chocolate, called date snickers bites, was the dessert of the day. The little treats kept disappearing into our mouths almost as soon as the platters were laid on the table. The other interesting dessert was the sweet potato mousse. Smooth, velvety and chocolaty.

More desserts - oatmeal jar

Sweet potato mousse

Prithvi, the young man whose family runs the restaurant, was a gracious venue host. We marvelled at the perfectly appointed dining area and the series of black and white prints that hung on the walls. At the end of the evening, he pointed to the "roof" of the restaurant and lo and behold, it retracted, leaving us gaping at the night sky. What a spectacular end to the evening.

Sitting under the stars

Il Grande Pranzo revisited


It's about 3 years since I went for the wildly popular Italian-style Saturday brunch at Focaccia at Hyatt Regency Chennai and have seen that it's gotten so much better. The cheese and salad counters are still there, also the one with cold cuts, hot appetisers and the bake and roast section. What's different is that it's now about quality rather than quantity.

Red rice salad

Spinach and ricotta cake



Leek & prawn quiche

Sausages on cabbage

All set for the grill

Do stop by at the pasta station

At the salad counter, the salads have got healthier - more fruit and veg based ones with lighter dressings. Quinoa has been given the cold shoulder, at least on the day we went and instead, there was a really nice red rice salad. If you see the spinach and ricotta salted cake, do pick up a couple of those slices -you'll be dreaming about it for days. While you can't really mess with the cheese counter, the cold cut section features just parma and cooked ham, salami and smoked salmon. There's chicken hamburger in a rustic puttanesca sauce, sea bass in a sunshine yellow sauce and yummy pork sausages that Focaccia always manages to source.

Roast pork belly

Asparagus and ricotta stuffed casoncelli

Pizza margherita

The roast of the day was pork belly and the apple sauce served was a fitting companion. Over at the pasta live counter, we chose a plate of asparagus and ricotta casoncelli to share. It is the stuff of dreams and crafted to perfection. The thin crust pizza margherita was so light; even after it got cold, the bread was still soft. Chef Mauro says the secret is in the kneading and using very little yeast.

Mirroring our reaction at the dessert table

The dessert section too has been trimmed of the flab. In the place of shot glass desserts, there are olive oil cakes, choux pastry, a delish rum truffle cake and chocolates of course.

Macs, of course and financiers

Passion fruit choux buns

Salted caramel tart

Chef Mauro's irresistible tiramisu

More tiramisu

What takes centre-stage is Chef Mauro's tiramisu. If you have wondered where in the city you get the best one, make no mistake - it's at Focaccia.

Il Grande Pranzo is priced at 2250/ (includes taxes) with alcohol; the non alcoholic version is priced at 1850/.

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