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    Design Hotel, at Phoenix MarketCity, gets a liquor license and a menu with spicy Indian fare.

    Fifty paces. Thata��s what came between Hard Rock Cafe in Phoenix MarketCity and a liquor licensea��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 malla��s luxury boutique hotel, opened its doors to the publica��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 hotela��with its leaning towards art and Tamil culture (think corridors that mimic the Madurai Meenakshi templea��s Hall of Thousand Pillars and rooms with 3D murals of Tanjore paintings)a��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.

    Piquant serve
    While Ia��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 mainsa��a selection of breads, rice, dal palak, bhindi do pyaza and a fiery Chettinad muttona��however, more than make up. A menu update (with a more multi-cuisine spread) is in the offing, Ia��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

    a��Surya Praphulla Kumar

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