A host of new restaurants across the city give you a taste of diverse cuisines

We take a Mercedes to Zara, arguably the city’s favourite Tapas bar. This promises to be a good year for the party set. Chic new restaurants. And then, there’s Uber, the venture-funded San Francisco-based start-up that uses a mobile application to connect passengers with luxury cars for hire. In other words, you press a button on your phone and there’s a Mercedes (or Jaguar) at your door. It certainly makes clubbing much easier, not to mention the fact that Uber-ing seems so much more Kardashian than rattling into a hotel porch in a beat-up cab, seats lined with towels and interiors buzzing with dizzy mosquitoes.

The music is ridiculously loud as always, so we resort to texting each other in a Whatsapp group over deliciously icy Caipiroskas and crusty spinach-potato croquettes. (Geek alert. Keep this up and we’re just one terrifying step away from throwing ‘LAN-parties’.) Conversation ranges from rumours that the pub is now being renamed the ‘Z Tapas Bar’ since popular Spanish clothing brand Zara is in town, to arguing about where to head for dinner. We consider Koala Joe, recently opened on R.K. Salai by a young Cordon Bleu chef from Australia. There’s the Bistro Story, in Gopalapuram, offering classic English breakfasts, curry burgers and Mediterranean platters. Then, there’s the Hard Rock café at Phoenix Market City in Velachery. Although they’re still waiting for their alcohol license, the iconic restaurant is making the best of the situation with non-alcoholic Bloody Marys and their signature juicy burgers.

Predictably enough, we end up staying put and ordering more croquettes. Party hopping is so over-rated. Even if you have a Jaguar. However, for future reference, we do find our way to the Hard Rock café later in the week and are delighted with the outrageously cheesy nachos, smoky chicken wings and waiters’ enthusiastic choreographed dance routine, set to the Village People’s corny 1978 hit ‘YMCA’.

I have lunch at Avenue 195 mid-week, curious about its ‘something-for-everyone’ menu. At an age when ‘multi-cuisine’ is dismissed as the fate of soulless hotel coffee-shops, the new trend for restaurateurs who like to dabble is global food. It’s a charming idea when done well. The problem is this is a difficult concept to get right because it means chefs need to master very different styles of cooking. Nevertheless, the restaurant is fun, with sleek, restful interiors and friendly waiters. I’m especially charmed when they enthusiastically push me towards the buffet using quick, practical mathematics. “Madam, ordering a la carte means starter plus main, at least Rs. 700. Buffet is less than Rs. 500 and you get everything.” They also skip behind me enthusiastically lifting lids with Darth Vader drama to make announcements like, “Madam. Shanghai Chicken. Hot and spicy.” Or “Madam. Dahi Vada. Must try.”

My friends stay strong and order a la carte. King prawns on a bed of couscous, which are tasty enough, although they are let down by a blob of mushy, overcooked boiled vegetables served on the side. It’s inexplicable why anyone would boil vegetables when they can blanche, grill or sauté. The girl who orders Indian gets soft buttery naans and a well balanced baby corn and ladies’ finger balti vegetable, proving that when in doubt, it’s always smart to stick to Indian food in a format like this.

The buffet’s a mixed bag. Flavoursome soup, sprinkled with lovely crisped garlic, followed by a flurry of hot starters served at the table, the best of which are the aromatic chicken tangdi kebabs and snappy polenta rolls. Then there’s the conventional line up of chafing dishes with average biryani, fragrant spinach dal and juicy Shanghai chicken. Although the marble cake is disappointingly dry, dessert is saved by an appealingly simple sago-coconut pudding. On the whole, a good option for buffet fans and office group lunches. Especially if you stick to their strengths, which seems to be Indian and Indian-Chinese.

Finally, look out for Sandesh Reddy’s ‘Social,’ a Gastro-Pub scheduled to open soon at Somerset Greenways, MRC Nagar. Reddy (who runs Sandy’s Chocolate Laboratory and Gogo Ramen) is focusing on putting together an eclectic menu of comfort food as well as classic cocktails. Its music is being hotly debated when I drop by one afternoon, so I eavesdrop, simultaneously fascinated and amused by the fact that the genre of music, not to mention its volume, plays such a vital role in defining a space. My only contribution is Kylie Minogue. Given the loud silence that follows my suggestion, I’m guessing they’re sticking with Jazz. Or Blues. Or Classic Rock. Your guess is as good as mine. Sigh. Maybe I should have said Justin Timberlake.

Avenue 195 is on Khader Nawaz Khan Road. A meal for two is approximately Rs. 800. Call 4319 5195, 2829 0195 for reservations.