Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hotel Radisson, Kharadi

In the inhospitable locality of Kharadi, the newly completed Hotel Radisson stands as a haven if you are looking for a nice meal. Its two restaurants, the coffee shop Carmine and the Great Kabab Factory, offer the only two fine dining options in the area.

Since the Great Kabab Factory is not open for weekday lunch, we reserved a table at Carmine for their lunch buffet. At Rs.250/- a head including taxes, the buffet is reasonably priced and definitely a good option. With high ceiling and tall windows, the coffee shop situated on the ground floor, has a pleasant and open ambience. The buffet does not overwhelm you with many options and is quite appropriate for a weekday office lunch. The luncheon crowd consists of office execs from the nearby IT parks.

Coming to the buffet menu, there were the usual two soup options - the egg and chicken clear soup was decent enough. There were 4-5 salad preparations available, the apple and chicken mayo salad being the best of the lot. The main course was well thought of with a mix of cuisines and without being very heavy on the stomach. The chicken dhaniyawalla was very well prepared and tasted awesome with warm rotis, the tofu dish was palatable (I have never been too fond of tofu), rice and dal makhani good as usual and jacket potatoes with bacon and . They have two live counters - a noodles counter and a pasta one. Both the noodles and pasta perparations that we tried were very tasty with the right mix of sauces, meat and vegetables.

The dessert counter was quite creative with the cinnamon fruit cobbler winning the prize. The chocolate brownies with chocolate sauce and a sprinkling of chocolate shavings was also irresistible. Besides this, other choices included a pineapple pastry, chocolate mousse and rabdi as the Indian dessert.

Carmine is definitely worth visiting if you are in Kharadi and looking for lunch options in the neighbourhood. Radisson hotel's other restaurant, the Great Kabab Factory, is open only for dinner and weekend lunch and at Rs.900/- a head, is quite expensive. Still, these places are a welcome addition to Kharadi's culinary landscape and hopefully a sign of things to come.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

11 East Street Cafe

Generally the name of 11 East Street Café does not spring to mind when one is in the mood to eat some fine continental food. However, I would label this place as one of the best continental places in town.

Located in the relatively quieter East Street area, this place has been styled on a happening London street theme. Old lamp-posts, the characteristic red telephone booths, a red double-decker bus, an old fountain in the centre, posters of old English films and some London place names displayed, give the atmosphere of a busy London street. And the seating arrangement with the dim lighting enhances the impression of sitting by a road-side, with people hurrying by.

Once you get used to the place décor, your attention will be diverted by the options available on the menu. Right from sandwiches, soups and typical English dishes like bangers and mash, the Sunday roast, fish and chips, the English ratatouille, lamb chops to regular continental fare like the chicken roulade, stroganoff, pastas and pizzas, the place has a huge variety of food to offer. They also have some select Indian and Middle eastern dishes on the menu. The diversity of appetizers is awesome with bruschettas, poutine and spring rolls to crispy calamari, falafel and jalapeno cheese balls. In the main course, the Bacardi chicken and the grilled lamb in pepper sauce are awesome. The English ratatouille, stuffed mushrooms with bbq sauce and bangers and mash deserve a special mention. The collection of desserts is also very tempting and is housed in the double-decker bus at the entrance. You just cannot refuse the chocolate vodka lava, the blueberry cheese cake and the lindt hazelnut fudge brownies even after stuffing yourself with the delicious food.

If you have to find a few faults in the place, there are definitely not many in the food section. The quantities may be a tad less as compared to the prices and please do not follow the attendant’s suggestions. The service is a bit lacking and getting a table is a problem, especially on Saturday nights. A meal for two from soup to dessert would cost about a thousand, but the food is definitely worth a visit.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Spice It at Hotel Ibis

The newly started Hotel Ibis on Nagar road has a lunch buffet at their restaurant called Spice It. Its a nice spacious place with a cheerful and bright decor. The weekday lunch buffet is reasonably priced at Rs.300/- a head. But as far as buffets go, its not a place which you will want to visit again and again.

First of all, the variety was slightly limited, but that can possibly be excused if its meant to be a working weekday lunch. What got me down was the quality of the only two non-veg items in the buffet. The fried Calamari was awefully chewy and the mutton curry with potatoes was undercooked. There was a choice of two soups and some salads which were decent enough. The veg items were much better with the panner makhanwala and dal makhani being the best of the lot. There was a pumpkin stew which I avoided. The live chinese counter - rice and noodles with a variety of sauces and chicken/egg/prawns was a good option, though there wasnt much difference in flavour whatever the combo you take.

The dessert section comprised a banana pie (avoidable), exquisite pineapple pastries, strawberry ice-cream, gulab jamuns and carrot halwa. Again the mistake of not having some chocolate based dessert left something to be desired. The service though was quite attentive, but that is to be expected for a new hotel with limited visitors at the moment. The restaurant a-la-carte menu is limited and priced at par with most hotels of this class in that area. So all in all, visit this place only if someone else is paying for the meal.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Good Breakfast Joints

Enough about fine dining places! Lets discuss a few good breakfast options in Pune which will ensure a merry start to your day.

For sheer quality and consistency through the years, Vaishali on FC Road would definitely be at the top if you are looking for a good South Indian breakfast. The onion tomato uttappas, idli wada sambar, the various dosa options, the filter coffee are probably the best in Pune. With all due respect to Wadeshwar, Madhuban and Ram Krishna, I have not tasted a better sambar and chutney anywhere else in Pune. Vaishali also makes a fabulous upma sambar and batata wada sambar and with their famous cold Bournvita provides a terrific start to your day.

If you are looking for a good and cheap bread-omlette breakfast, I don’t think you need to look beyond Vohuman Café and Good Luck. Cheese omlette, buttered toast and Irani chai at Vohuman Café will put you in such a great mood, you wont mind the slightly shabby ambience that has always been the way at Vohuman. Ask any of the regulars here and they will swear by the place.
Good Luck as everyone knows is another Irani joint on Deccan and with a similar, albeit slightly better ambience than Vohuman. Bun omlette, scrambled eggs on toast, baked beans on toast, sweet French toast, brun maska and chai – can you think of anything better for that ‘feel-good’ breakfast? Both these places get full with their regular patrons, so mind that you go early.

The popular German Bakery has plenty of healthy and slightly unusual breakfast options. Mostly frequented by foreigners and Osho people, this place has only continental-style dishes with various egg, potato and bread items like the Spanish omlette and fried egg on mashed potatoes, home-made muesli and cereals, variety of fruit and vegetable juices, sandwiches, cakes and what-not. They also have a lot of snack items on display which you can order or parcel home with you. It’s a shaded cozy little place, though not very comfortable with wooden benches for chairs.

Now if you are looking for more expensive places for breakfast with non-veg options, then Mocha is a good bet to go for. There you will find pancakes and waffles, mind-blowing omlettes and Panini sandwiches, crustinis and croque monsieurs and an amazing selection of coffees. Mocha is very comfortable and people here spend hours chatting away with friends. It’s a little expensive, but the food is worth it and definitely a place where you can indulge in now and then.

Fine dining buffet breakfasts – Le Meridien is the best in this category. Priced at 450 a head, the variety is mind-boggling and I guarantee you will not be able to have another meal in the day if you sample all the available options here in the buffet. Everything from cold meats, eggs made to order, waffles, pancakes, south Indian items, milkshakes, juices, fruits, cereals, variety of breads and on and on. Spare a couple of hours for breakfast and do visit on some special occasion. Aubergine (on Nagar road) and the Glass Window (Deccan Rendezvous) also have good breakfast buffets and priced cheaper than the Le Meridien one.

Apart from these places, if you want some typical Maharashtrian (upma, pohe, misal, khichadi) breakfast fare, you can try the Sunday buffet breakfast at Shabree for Rs.100. Café Coffee Day is a decent option for a quick sandwich-coffee breakfast. Or Marzorin of course, for chicken mayo rolls, almond macroons and cold coffee.

So go ahead and explore and let me know how it works out. Also any new places you find, I will be very interested in knowing!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Polka Dots

Polka Dots is a small inconspicuous eatery located in Aundh and Kalyaninagar. But for a diehard foodie, its a very valuable joint in Pune’s gourmet scene.

It’s not a place where you can have a nice romantic dinner or a quiet family outing. It’s a place which you can frequent with a group of college friends or office colleagues. The crowd is young and colourful and the décor is minimalistic. Its best to go very early, especially if you are going for dinner as the place gets packed to the brim soon.

The main thing about Polka Dots is the eclectic cuisine on offer and quite reasonably priced. They specialize in continental food, though the menu does have some Indian options as well. The food is rarely disappointing in quality and well presented with the Paprika Chicken, Traditional Roast Chicken, Chicken Teriyaki, Shepherd’s Pie that are at the top my mind, having sampled them recently. The menu also boasts of specialty dishes from around the globe like the Hungarian goulash, the Greek moussaka , Italian pastas and the traditional Thai curries among others. The only downbeat thing about the food is probably the quantity. If you are really hungry, then maybe one dish may not suffice and you may have to order a side dish as well. Most of the main course dishes are priced for Rs.185/- Veg options are slightly limited, but the desserts are definitely worth going for. And sorry, no alcohol here!

For me, Polka Dots will always be among the first places in the list for an economical, yet delicious continental dinner.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mixed experience at the Season Hotel

After planning for a long time, I was finally able to check out what the Seasons Hotel, Aundh has to offer in terms of a dining experience. From what I was able to try out, I came away with fairly mixed feelings about the place.

I visited their sports bar, Time Out, recently with a group of dear friends for a drinking night out. Its a decently designed lounge with limited seating, but a good deal of privacy with each group having their own private corner. The flat screen TVs and the sports related decor lends a theme to this bar. The low sofa seating and the dim lighting is perfect for the place. The drinks menu is pretty impressive and is not overly expensive. All the cocktails were quite strong and well prepared. The snacks and appetisers on offer were quite tasty and overall we had good fun watching the T20 game and getting blown.

That night, Flavours, which is the multi-cuisine buffet restaurant there had an Oriental festival going on. Even though we were all quite full with the cocktails and snacks at Time Out, we still grabbed our plates and sampled the Chinese food available. Sadly, the buffet was quite disappointing with both the variety and quality on offer. There were 2 non-veg main courses and 2 non-veg starters and surprisingly, more variety in the veg section. The pineapple rice was pretty bad and the only other option was regular steamed rice. The soup was nothing great either. So at the end we were more interested in what the desserts would hold rather than the free glass of wine on offer. Of the 4 dessert choices available, coconut custard was the best and the only one worth even tasting.Priced at Rs.500 a head, it definitely was not worth it.

So, a week after this visit, I surprised myself by revisiting Seasons again. This time to try out the rooftop Greek food restaurant called Galaxy Grill, with my darling wife. I have never tried Greek food before and was quite eager to sample the cuisine despite the exorbitant rates there. The ambience at this place is quite wonderful and definitely among the best in Pune. I always feel Pune does not have enough terrace restaurants and this one situated by the poolside and elaborately decorated is quite a pretty place. The soft Greek music and the very nicely designed seating set the mood for the evening. Thankfully, they have a set menu for the night and priced at Rs.650 a head is relatively better compared to the a-la-carte prices (between Rs.400-600 for a main course dish). The set menu includes one soup, starter, salad, main course and dessert which you have to choose out of 3-4 options. The chicken,egg and lemon soup was really nice and the fried squid starter was quite good. The tiger prawns and pasta course and the apple crunch for the sweet dish were mind-blowing. A word of advice though; avoid the minced chicken in vine leaves and stay clear of the a-la-carte menu.

I might still go ahead and try their Punjabi outdoor restaurant, Cinnamon Spice, and the tempting cake shop, Cakes and More. Galaxy Grill is quite a romantic place, but visit only if you are in a mood to experiment with the food. I would advise my friends to avoid Flavours and Time Out is worth it if you want to combine a cricket match and drinking session with your buddies.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

MoMo Cafe

Courtyard Marriott's MoMo Cafe is another addition to Pune's growing buffet places. Though this all day dining restaurant does have an a la carte option, the very high pricing on the menu leaves the buffet as the more popular choice. And the buffet does not disappoint. Once you are ready to shell out Rs. 400/- plus taxes for the meal, sit back and have a good time.

First of all, the ambience of this restaurant is among the more classier ones in the city. The high ceiling, tall French windows, carpets and the tasteful decor allows you to relax while you enjoy your meal. The buffet spread is quite vast and the style of displaying the dishes is very aesthetically done. There is plenty of space, plenty of light and plenty of good food on offer. The place attracts a lot of IT crowd being located in Hinjewadi and is quite packed throughout the week, so reserve a place well in advance. The buffet has both continental and Indian style non-veg and veg starters, soups, Indian style main courses, a wonderfully stocked salad bar with dozens of condiments and vinaigrettes and an array of desserts.

I visited the place a few days back with my entire family and we all enjoyed the food. The starters included murgh afghan tikkas, crispy chilly babycorn, grilled fish with tartar sauce and fried chicken with pepper sauce. All were really good, especially the fish. The soups of the day were an Oriental non-veg soup and a Zucchini veg soup, but were a little disappointing. Of the various salads on offer, a special mention must be made of the chicken walnut salad which was mind-blowing. In the main course, there were plenty of veg options of which I remember only the bhindi masala, dal tadka and a paneer preparation. I was too caught up enjoying the delectable mutton and chicken preparations. Both were cooked Indian style and left me licking my fingers.

Of the entire experience, the desserts that day were a little disappointing. Not with the number available though. The strawberry mousse, lemon mousse, fruit salad, kala jamuns, jam tarts were all good. But I could have easily skipped the assorted pastries including an unusual basil one and the caramel creme. However what frustrated me the most, was there wasnt any chocolate based dessert or even ice-cream in the dessert spread that day, which is a cardinal sin.

But I had an enjoyable evening here and its for the tastefully done decor and the tastefully done dishes that I will remember the place.