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Am a contradiction of sorts. i love going out and having a good time with friends, and i can also stay home chill out over a book or a movie.. Am very passionate about writing, so give me a topic and watch me float away into wonderland... I Am crazy about music,books,friends and my doggie... :)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Writer's Cafe, Chennai

When I first came upon an ad in the paper, I was instantly curious and excited. It is always such joy to read the word "writer", heck any word related to "books and words" gets me going. And so, the Writer's Cafe was a place I knew I wanted to visit. 

The place

As luck would have it, a friend and I decided to meet up and I picked this place as the venue [ sly me]. I was there ahead of her, took me a second to find the entrance [it is on the side] and as I walked in all i saw were books lining the walls on either side. It so happened that I visited the space twice in two days, the next day a bunch of us decided to meet her. It was a double whammy for me ! :D

There were tables in the middle. On the right side is another smaller room with the pastry shelves and a black board with more food/drink items listed down. The place has a warm feel to it. They have a floor above which is available for anyone who wants to hold a book club meet or any other literary event. 

This is  a venture between Higginbothams and Mr Mahadevan [Chairman of Oriental Cuisines- Hot breads, Copper Chimney and so on]..  

What sets this place apart from other cafes? Well, it is a CSR Initiative meant to help Burn victims learn baking and again a new lease on life. All who work here [about 7 women are employed here as of now] have been trained by Silke Stadler, a Chef from Switzerland. The profits earned by the cafe will be shared with International Foundation for Crime Foundation and Victim care. Mr Mahadevan is a name associated with several other such initiatives. 

The Food:
Well, the menu is offered on an exam pad, but if you want to see the dessert menu or beverages I would recommend you walk to the other side of the space and take a look. The desserts available are quite exotic..  

We tried the crispy fried spinach and corn starter along with a bruschetta platter as well. Both were good, I loved the crunchy spinach with corn in it. For the mains, we chose the Pesto Zucchini and olives Flammkuchen [really thin crust pizza with pesto and thinly sliced zucchini on top], it is simply out of the world and I highly recommend this to anyone who loves to experiment with food. 

A friend ordered the pickled beetroot and lollo rosso salad with roasted walnuts- there were more greens than the beetroot and it wasn't so great... Another opted for a chicken pasta in white sauce which he enjoyed going by how he polished the plate.

Moving to desserts, on the 1st visit, I opted for the Apple crumble [with chunky apple pieces] that was just yummy. Friend ordered the Tiramisu and Milkmaid cake, both of which were alright. The cake was more like a sponge cake, while Tiramisu lacked coffee flavour.  On the 2nd day, I ordered the Pancakes that are served with honey and cream, quite delicious. Friend ordered for waffles with Maple syrup but it was served with cream and honey [when we enquired, they apologised as Maple syrup wasn't available] We had cappuccino and on the 2nd day I ordered for Masala chai [unfortunately it was Dip tea, which was a bit of a let down]

But overall, it is a lovely place to catch up with friends or just to enjoy some sweet treats. The books lining the shelves are all up for sale- most of which were magazines and food related books. 

The Price:
It works out to about Rs200-300 per person [ again depends on what you order]

The Writers Cafe is at 98, Peters Lane, Royapettah, Chennai.. [lane ahead of Saravana Bhavan]
Phone: 044 4861 1604

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Colonel & Co Nachos in a box

When shopping in Nilgiris, I spotted these in the snacks aisle. Was instantly curious and picked up one packet.. Colonel & Co- Chip & Dip- "Peri Peri Nachos". Priced at Rs50, I picked it up thinking what the hell, lets give it a shot.

Got home and had it later in the evening and must say it was good, better than what I expected. The nachos and salsa are in two separate compartments, the salsa is sealed with a foil wrap which makes sure there is no spill or leaks... The nachos were crisp and the salsa was yummilicious...

They also have another option- Olive & Herbs Nachos. Spotted it on Snapdeal as well , but do check your local grocery store and grab one box...

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Revamped menu at Cafe Mercara , ITC Grand Chola

A Hotel with restaurants that have always bowled me over with the dishes
A Chocolate Boutique that gives us an experience I am yet to see elsewhere
A coffee shop where meetings are fun, and music is always something I can hum along with. 
A Hotel that I have visited more times than I can count on my ten fingers
Well, as you can see, I can go on and on... 
Yes, I do have a soft corner for this property.. and it goes way back, when they had just opened doors to the world. 

And here I was back again to explore the new menu at Cafe Mercara at ITC Grand Chola. What made the afternoon extra special was the fact that the new menu was being launched Pan India at the same time with #TrendingatPavilion being the hashtag for the event. How cool is that?

The one thing that is visible across the menu was the "Caringly Selected, Mindfully Prepared" theme. Each dish has been hand picked, carefully put together and presented. Starting with the detox drinks to the Tulsi seed and Indian summer fruit Muesli to the melt-in-your-mouth quinoa and sweet potato kebabs, every dish has you feeling good- not just about what you are eating but also about the health aspect. Oh and be prepared to be surprised.. All you need to do is close your eyes and let the flavours play with your taste buds.. I assure you a fun ride ahead.  

Brace yourself and come along with me on this journey.... 

 The menu and the theme behind the same. 

 Tulsi seed and Indian summer fruit Muesli - Loved it, esp since this is very my kinda breakfast dish

 The three drinks- [L to R] 
Natural: Jamun and Mint 
Detoxifier: Apple Carrot and Ginger and the
                         Cleanser: Watermelon Beetroot and Mint.. My favourite was the beetroot drink. 

 Crusty Bread with house dip - Oh the dip was out of the world- herbs with cheese, couldn't get enough of it.

Carrot and Coconut Soup with carrot paper and croutons. Oh my, it was light, packed with the coconut milk flavour and clean.

 Burrata and Beet-For the uninitiated, Burrata is cheese..This dish had the cheese with Balsamic balls on top, red & yellow pepper puree drops, beet sauce base and fresh greens along with a crispy slice of bread on the side. Could have just had this dish and been happy.

 Vazhapoo Cutlet/Vadai- a local delicacy made with Banana flower. Love this one! 

Quinoa Shakarkandi Kebab ( from the Kitchens of India)- it was melt in your mouth and am not exaggerating. The quinoa and sweet potato combination Chef told us was something he had achieved after a lot of research. They went so well together. 

Brie En Croute from their world cuisine section. It was a parcel with Cheese that had caramelised onions inside. Oh man, the accompaniments on the plate were equally sinful and went so well with the cheese. 

Chicken Soltado again from their World Cuisine section was Rice served with stir fried chicken along with vegetables .. It had Chinese influences am guessing. 

Unfortunately, I had to leave before the Vegetarian main and desserts arrived, but did hear they were outstanding as well... always a next time :) The menu is interesting, it is divided based on categories and each dish has a simple explanation along with it. Overall, the menu looked very inviting and am already looking forward to the next meeting or tete-a-tete that shall have this cafe as the venue~! Kudos to Chef Nikhil and the entire team for their efforts and dedication to serving up healthy, delicious and interesting/quirky dishes. 

For more images and video, visit @Talesfromaaroo on Instagram 

For reservations, dial 044 30853758. It is a perfect setting for a fun afternoon with friends or a serious business discussion as well. 

The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember that restaurants and eat outs sometimes change with time, so does their food and service. So, kindly consider these factors while visiting the places. Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit  :-)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Abyssinian, Chennai

Being a travel buff, the minute I come upon a country I am not quite familiar with, I instantly start reading up on it. This is exactly what I did when I heard of Abyssinian, the new Ethiopian restaurant that had opened doors in the city. Incidentally, Ethiopia was once called Abyssinia and that is how the restaurant earned its name as well.

Situated in the same building as two other restaurants- Meena Tai [Maharashtrian restaurant] and Batlivala & Khanabhoy[the Parsi restaurant], this is the 3rd restaurant from the brother’s duo Uday Balaji and Vikram Mohan of VM Hospitality.   While chatting with Uday, I came to know they have a test kitchen in Coimbatore where all recipes are tried out. Infact, they set up a farm to grow the Ethiopian grain, Teff but are also exploring other venues to make this happen. When I enquired about how easy or difficult the journey of establishing the restaurant has been, Uday shared the issues they face in bringing in the ingredients, the hassles with customs and other such concerns, which is why it took as long as it did for the restaurant to launch.

Since India and Ethiopia have strong connections from the past, especially with reference to Spices, it comes as no surprise that the cuisines are quite similar as well. The first thing you notice when you step into Abyssinian is the space, there are just four tables, but it adds to the charm. The walls are adorned with traditional Ethiopian musical instruments and scripts, not to forget the quirky the light fittings. The seating is low- chairs and stools and the center table is meant for the platter.  Their menu is quite extensive; all dishes are given their original name with a description to help us understand. They also have a glossary, which helps make sense of what we are served. J

We were there for lunch and it so happened all 4 of us were vegetarians. The eating style in Ethiopia is community style and so you eat from a single plate. This was taking the phrase “a family that eats together stays together” to a whole another level.

Our meal began with Thej, the official drink of this land. Made with nothing but honey, sugar and water, it is allowed to ferment a bit before being served. It was tad pungent but quite nice, and not too sweet.  Next up was a plate with Mandasi [resembles our bonda] but with strong ajwain & garlic flavours and it was served with Abe [coriander green chilli dip].

While we were busy polishing these off, we were served the sou - 'Adengare Shorba' - kidney beans that had been cooked with onion and tomato. It was light and simple. 

The staple from this region is Injera- the traditional bread of sorts that is eaten by all. There is no rice in this region [hallelujah, my kinda place].. Injera is made with a grain called Teffa [ which the restaurant is trying to source, but until then Injera is made using Ragi and rice- two variations] . if I were to explain it to you, it is similar to our dosa except it feels steamed.

The plate arrived at our table and there were two big pieces of Injera at the bottom and small rolls of Injera for each of us. And then came the side dishes, I lost count after 4.. Was happy to note they had quite a range of vegetarian options.

We were served
Dinch Wot- curried potato simmered with berbere, garlic and spices – this was a big hit, loved the flavours.
Yedinich Alicha - a stew of potatoes and carrots with onions,fresh garlic, ginger and turmeric. It was semi dry and simple in terms of flavours.
Yatakilt Wot- curried vegetable stew of cauliflower, potatoes, carrot, cabbage, beans with onions and berebere- loved this one as well. 
Yeduba Wot - curried pumpkin simmered with red onions, berebere, garlic and spices – Since I love yellow pumpkin, I enjoyed this one as well.
Indubay Tibs - mushroom sauteed with onions, chilli peppers, tomato and rosemary. Reminded me of the sauté I do at home. 
 Fir Fir - pieces of injera tossed with onions, garlic, berebere paste and Ethiopian Spiced butter- wasn’t a big fan of this, but it kinda resembles the kothu parotta.- this is typically served at Breakfast.
Shiro - powdered chickpeas stew flavored with onions, garlic and peppers- it was mushy and runny like our daal
Azifa – guessing I got the name right- It was a daal of sorts that had brown lentils that had been cooked down with spices and was quite delicious.

Apart from the main dishes, we had three sides that added a nice touch to the side dishes.
Ayib - plain crumbled cottage cheese that added creaminess to dishes. 
Mitmita  - cottage cheese with quit a hit of heat [with a local birds eye chilli, cardomon seeds and salt]
Awaze- This was a sauce made with Berebere and olive oil. It was a hot sauce that you add to increase the heat factor in any of the dishes

Phew, now those names are quite the challenge to remember, right?! That is the joy of trying something new and out of your comfort zone.

We weren’t done yet, now came the trio of desserts - 
Kita- Fried Ethiopian Flat bread with honey- this was a big dry for my liking.
Nech Azmud cake- Soft olive oil cakes made with ajwain and served with liberal amounts of honey. It contains egg [quite strong flavour as well] – one of those desserts that you eat a few bites and are done.
Sweet Sambussa- the winner among the desserts- Friend flat bread parcels of sweetened carrots, dates and nuts served with honey – Loved this one…

And to bring the meal to the close came the infamous Ethiopian Coffee that was served with a bowl of salted popcorn. Yep, you read it right. That is how Ethiopians wind up their meal. The coffee is served black into small cups, and you can either have it as it is or add some spiced butter and salt to enhance the taste. I tried both and loved them equally. The butter and salt adds a bit of warmth and cuts the bitterness. 

Oh what a fabulous afternoon it had been. An experience like no other I can say with confidence. I had shared a few pictures during the lunch and was amazed to see that a few friends have tried Ethiopian food across the world and were quite excited we had one option in Chennai and then there were those who wanted to be taken here for a treat… J

One other thing I must tell you is they are planning on introducing an afternoon coffee session where you could be privy to tales about their coffee brewing tradition or just some history about the place and people. Keep a look out for these events.

We were very impressed with the level of knowledge possessed by Eswar, the staff who took care of us through the meal. it apparently took him 3 months to master the names of dishes but he was phenomenal when it came to answering our questions and explaining the dishes. 

If you were to go for the Messob, which is this community style eating and are a group of 4 vegetarians, it would cost you Rs3399 . The restaurant also has tasting plates, curated with a combination of dishes. 

40, Maharaja Surya Road, Venus Colony, Alwarpet, Chennai- 18
[Take right at the end of Kasturi Rangan Road, drive past Tangerine and you will spot this on the right]

Dial 044 42082809 for reservations. 

Facebook -

The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember that restaurants and eat outs sometimes change with time, so does their food and service. So, kindly consider these factors while visiting the places. Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit  :-)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Biryani fest at Spice Haat in Hyatt Regency, Chennai till 10th Dec

Biryani, a dish that is much sought after by many and one that most of us vegetarians only dream about [ cos there is no such thing as Vegetarian Biryani if you were to dig into the history] Here is what I found when I went snooping on the history of Biryani.. Biryani is derived from the Persian word 'Birian'.  In Farsi, Birian means 'Fried before Cooking'. 

In the olden days, rice was fried (without washing) in Ghee (Clarified butter) which in turn gave the rice a nutty flavor and burnt the outside starch layer gelatinizing it. Once this process is complete, it is boiled in water with spices till half cooked.

Typically Biryani is made with Goat meat, which is marinated in a whole bunch of spices with yoghurt as well. And then the meat is cooked till it falls off the bone. And finally, in an earthen pot [Handi], the rice and meat are layered, few layers of condiments are added- spices, rose water, ghee and so on. It is then sealed and sat on Coal fire to cook. The process has evolved with time, with influences from various regions adding a twist to the flavours and each region today seems to have their own special kind of Biryani as well. One other point I was told was that back in the days long-grain brown rice was used in North India; while the short grain Zeeraga Samba rice was used in South India. [Another article I read on the net about Biryani]

Coming back to this evening, we were at Spice Haat [Hyatt Regency Chennai] who have come up with a Biryani Carnival of sorts. One that features 5 different kinds of non veg biryani, one veg biryani/pulao and then there is the plain Rice cooked with spices and with fried onions on it as well.  There are quite a few side dishes for the Biryani- both in veg and non veg section, ranging from the Mirchi Ka salan to Egg curry to Kaju mutter paneer, not to forget the array of raitas. 

Being a vegetarian, I made a beeline for the veg dishes and enjoyed them all, including the Rice, it had mild spices and was well cooked, while the rice had a bite to it [I hate mushy rice]. It was fascinating watching the non veg part of the group taste the rice, the meat and share their opinions, As with any dish, biryani too comes with a range of flavours, and how cooking process, the spices used makes a world of difference in the non veg arena.

To wind up the meal, you should check out their dessert counter, they have Kala jamun, tiramisu, other pastries and elaneer payasam as well [which I felt was way too watery and bland, missing the beautiful elaneer flavours]. I did have a south indian filter kaapi before calling it a night. J

The Biryani Carnival is on till 10th December at Spice Haat and is open only for dinner [6.30pm-10.30pm]. Every day the biryanis on the buffet change with one special biryani as well.

Two options are available during this period-
     a)    Buffet priced at Rs1550/- [excl tax] where you get to dig into the various kinds of biryanis apart from other dishes available on the buffet or
     b)    A la carte where you pay for Rs999/- [excl tax] to try one biryani but this comes with two Beers. 

Do call +91 44 61001234 for more information or reservations.

Spice Haat
Hyatt Regency Chennai
365, Anna Salai,

Teynampet, Chennai.