As the first restaurant to make Chettinad a luxe brand, The Raintree marks its 25th year with some updates
It was a night of glittering memories. An autumn moon shone down through the branches of the Raintree that has given the restaurant its name. It stared down at its reflection in the stretch of dark water. At the far end, the two guardian deities stood with garlands against the trunk of a tree. “We have made it into a processional pathway,” explained Samrat Dutta, the GM of the Taj Vivanta’s Connemara hotel as we walked down the path flanked by carved stone pillars and water bodies.
We could be in any of the South Asian countries where the Chettiar bankers and entrepreneurs made their fortunes. While at home, their wives, known as Achis, created the way of life that we now celebrate as the Chettinad style. It’s at the iconic Raintree that Chettinad food was re-invented for a new type of clientele. All things Achi, from their food, utensils, style of serving, glazed ceramic tiles, carved Burma teak doors and pillars became the rage. That was 25 years ago. The new Raintree is a tribute to how a truly classical style can always re-invent itself, both in terms of architecture and of food. The main restaurant would gladden the heart of a Geoffrey Bawa, the Sri Lankan architect who used natural material, natural light and indoor gardens to such good effect.
A trolley filled with every kind of chutney, pickle and condiment is rolled into view. Across the room, a bar man is shaking-up an Achi special, coffee laced with rum, sugar syrup and a swirl of cream. It sounds like an Irish Achi. At lunch they offer you an Achi’s Samayal, a thali with all the favourite items both for vegetarians and non-vegetarians at `800 and `900 respectively. We opt for the tasting menu and go the whole hog. It’s like watching 25 years of Chettinad cuisine whiz past. From the fiery tiger prawns to the country chicken, the meatballs, the vegetables braised in rice-water to the mutton biryani, it is a moveable feast. A quartet of desserts served on elegant stoneware plates, sets the final seal. This Achi is definitely going places.
The Raintree re-opens today. Details: 66000000
— Geeta Doctor