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As this Yuletide spirit sweeps the city, providing temporary warmth as the mercury plunges, restaurants are pulling out all the stops to make new gourmet statements, with some entertainment thrown in, this Christmas. Here is my selection of the 12 (a dozen, no less!) Christmas Eve/Christmas Day offerings that stand out by being different.
Latest Recipe Vs Olive Qutub – My vote for the most substantive Christmas buffet is divided between the 200-item spread at Latest Recipe, Le Meridien Gurgaon, and the equally wholesome one at Olive Qutub, Mehrauli. The brunch line-up at Latest Recipe travels the world, with the chicken 65 burger competing for attention with the Japanese street food sensation, okonomiyaki, or with duck tortellini and cauliflower thermidor, or with sushi, dim sum and even Alleppey prawn curry, or prawns, oysters and crabs on the ice, plus an array of desserts.
Olive Qutub’s ‘drunch menu’ – the spread keeps getting replenished all the way from the Christmas Eve dinner to the Christmas Day brunch – goes all the way from sage- and honey-glazed gammon (hind legs of a pig cured in the same way as bacon) served, among other goodies, with the yummy sweet potato in honey and bourbon, to a cheese platter spilling over with burrata, gourmet burgers, a pasta station, ‘pizza juggler’ and live grills, plus gourmet breads, condiments, soups, antipasti, and a Willy Wonka dessert buffet laden with temptations!
French Finesse and Japanese Ingenuity – On the other side of the spectrum are the offerings of Le Bistro du Parc, below the Defence Colony flyover, and Guppy by ai. If Latest Recipe and Olive Qutub celebrate quantity, Le Bistro du Parc and Guppy by ai are banking on quality with limited but mouth-watering offerings. Le Bistro du Parc, whose sun-dappled terrace is much sought-after at this time of the year, has offered a four-course Christmas Eve dinner, including a cheese platter, paired with sparkling wine.
Guppy by ai also has lined up a four-course, wine-paired menu, including a trio of appetisers, a sushi platter, a choice between duck breast teriyaki and the restaurant’s signature pork belly, and desserts served with an original martini named Mao Ninja (apple vodka, spiced apple juice and cream). What will you settle for: a well-laden buffet table, or a soul-satisfying menu that does not require you to move out of your table?
Do It the Parsi Way – At SodaBottleOpenerWala, the Christmas-New Year celebrations continue till January 15 with a sumptuous bhonu (thali) that is light on the pocket and big on exotic flavours, with a lucky draw thrown in. The bhonu features 10 dishes, starting with vegetable or chicken pulao, rotlis and masala dal, with brinjal pickle, tomato chutney, the sweet and sour Navsari potato salad tossed in Kolah vinegar, saria (rice papad) and kachumbar on the side to tickle your palate while you are waiting for the big attractions, which include chicken rajpipla (a royal dish from the old principality of Rajpipla in Gujarat), fish cutlets and bambaiyya potato fries. The dessert choices at the end consist of flavoured falooda and strawberries, or the Old Monk-soaked Daruwala trifle, or the Matunga coffee cake. And the good news is that you can ask for seconds and even thirds. It is a Parsi bhonu after all!
Artful Dessert – The Artful Baker at Khan Market is the place to go this festive season to stock up on sweet temptations. The novelties on the menu include Monte Cristo yule logs (a creamy, crunchy twist to the traditional recipe), galete des rois (also known as the cinnamony King Cake traditionally associated with the festival of Epiphany at the end of the Christmas season), and the teatime treat, single malt chocolate dry cake.
A New Voice and Old Favorites – Want to do something different this Christmas? Then Rick’s Bar is where you should be, listening to Singapore-based banker-turned-singing sensation Druv Kent (formerly Dhruv Shrikent of Deutsche Bank), who is on a ‘Maiden India’ tour. Listen to his debut single, ‘Little Bit of God’, and read his amazing story, and you will want to be at Rick’s Bar. Or you could head to Raasta at Hauz Khas Village to see the Reggae Rajahs in action. I wonder why more restaurants cannot have live music on the menu.
Jazz in the Sun and DIY Barbecue Party – At The All American Diner, India Habitat Centre, you can savour traditional Christmas treats (cranberry and mustard glazed turkey or roast pork leg with honey mustard glaze) with live jazz in the sun at the garden outside the restaurant, which is being converted into an open-air party venue. And at its sister restaurant in Gurgaon, Drift at Epicentre (Apparel House), if you are a group of six or more, you could have a BBQ party on December 24 and 25 with your own grill to try your barbecuing skills on. Of course, there will be a chef to assist you, and the meats, fish and other ingredients will come to you carefully selected and marinated.
Spare a Thought for Children – Of all the five-star hotel packages that have filled up my inbox, I was impressed by the Taj Palace offer to take care of pre-teen children, at a nominal all-inclusive rate of Rs 500 per child, when their parents celebrate Christmas at one of the hotel’s many restaurants. The hotel has even laid out a special menu for children.
Finallly, Two Originals – How does a restaurant make its Christmas festivities stand out in the clutter? The newly minted TabulaBeach Cafe at The Village Complex, Asiad Village, will have Arun Vajpayee, who has scaled Mount Everest, talking about his exploits in those icy heights. Well, that is a first for any Christmas brunch. Likewise, The Hungry Monkey, which overlooks Deer Park from its perch at the B-6 Commercial Centre, Safdarjung Enclave, is going to town about roping in The Nomads, a group of “young, excited and experimental Chefs” who have trained under Chef Manish Mehrotra of Indian Accent and completed The Oberoi’s STEP programme or graduated from IHM Aurangabad, which is operated by the Taj Hotels.
Follow Sourish on twitter@ sourishb1963
Sourish Bhattacharyya, co-founder of the Delhi Gourmet Club, is a freelance writer, editorial consultant, food columnist, restaurant critic and blogger. He has contributed regularly to the Mumbai Mirror, Times Life, BBC Good Food, Travel & many more publications. Nothing is dearer to him than the joy of writing, which he blends with his passion for food.