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    British chef Mark Poynton comes to Chennai for curry lessons. In return, we get signatures from his Michelin starred restaurant, Alimentum

    urry Life Magazine in UK, can well be described as one of the most dedicated voices of the curry industry in Great Britain. Present in the Middle East, Europe and South Asia, this bi-monthly magazine started The Taste of Britain Curry Festival over a decade ago and has taken it to several countries across the globe, including India, where it was held at Park Hyatt, Hyderabad, last year. The annual festival now dares to serve its British curries to the spice loving palate of Chennai, and has brought down a team of chefs from the UK to showcase top British curries in a nine-day festival at Hyatt Regency, starting today. We catch up with Mark Poynton, the chef patron at Michelin starred Alimentum in Cambridge, England, and resident chef for this year’s festival, ahead of his first trip to Chennai.
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    “Our team has put together an extensive menu and I’m sure there will be last minute twists to  surprise Chennai diners,” begins Poynton, adding that many chefs on the team have travelled to India previously and are huge fans of the food. While he will be leaving the curries to his expert team, Poynton has his own signature dishes that we can look forward to. He lists the cod rolled in onion ash with onion salad and the roast sea bass with cauliflower textures and Pedro Ximenez sauce, as highlights from Alimentum.
    Given that British curries are much milder than what Indians are used to, Poynton agrees that it might be a challenge to please palates here, but also points out that the city is known to enjoy experimenting. “Although curry originated from this region, some of our dishes were invented in the UK and not on menus in the city,” he says, sharing that one of the famous British curries they will be showcasing is called ‘Madras’.
    Picking favourites
    An advocate of working with local produce, Poynton says that he is keen to try the local fish and use fresh spices. “In the UK, we still tend to use dried spices quite a lot,” admits the chef who also hopes to pick up new ideas from here and try dosas and Chettinad dishes as well. And while he refuses to name favourites, Poynton shares that he likes his curries well spiced than hot. “I like to taste individual spices and what they bring to the dish. My favourite spices are cumin and cardamom. They are very versatile and can be used in sweet and savoury dishes,” he signs off.
    Till March 14, a la carte at Focaccia and buffet at Spice Haat. Meal for two at approximately `1,299 for lunch and `1,499 for dinner. Details: 61001234
    Ryan Peppin

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