Fifty paces. That’s what came between Hard Rock Cafe in Phoenix MarketCity and a liquor license—they were 50 paces outside the permitted limit between an outlet that serves alcohol and a hotel. Now, the Florida-based chain of themed restaurants is looking for a new address in the city and the mall is pulling out all the stops to ensure patrons have a place to say salut.
A little over a month ago, Annam restaurant at Design Hotel, the mall’s luxury boutique hotel, opened its doors to the public—with a range of cocktails (made with domestic liquor for now, though you can expect international spirits soon) and a menu with a distinctive Indian touch. Since Sunday shopping can get a little tiresome, bumping shoulders with practically half the city, I take a detour to the 36-cover restaurant for a quick pick-me-up.
Art and appetite
Echoing the theme of the hotel—with its leaning towards art and Tamil culture (think corridors that mimic the Madurai Meenakshi temple’s Hall of Thousand Pillars and rooms with 3D murals of Tanjore paintings)—the cosy space is airy and welcoming. My eyes are immediately drawn to the ceiling where a bank of copper light fixtures, crafted in the shape of percussion instruments, including tablas, mridangams and dholaks, light up the space. A wall of shelves, sporting artefacts like stone dumbbells from Kerala and wooden horses from Karaikudi, offer another point of interest, as I peruse the Lounge Bar menu. With a Heat Wave (a customised rum and pineapple cocktail) in hand, I sit back at the black marble table, listening to see if the din outside finds its way in. But there is blessed silence and a wall of green plants obscuring my view of hoardings and the hoi polloi.
While I’m told their thalis are quite popular, I decide to pick from the a la carte menu. The spicy squid is crispy and plays well against the sweetness of my tipple, but the chilli fish is a letdown. Not a great fan of basa, the starter is bland and a tad watery. The mains—a selection of breads, rice, dal palak, bhindi do pyaza and a fiery Chettinad mutton—however, more than make up. A menu update (with a more multi-cuisine spread) is in the offing, I’m told. But for now this little retreat is the perfect break at the mall.
Meal for two at Rs 2,000 approx. Details: 66300888
—Surya Praphulla Kumar