Dewberry's offers classic Continental fare, interspersed with some European chic, with nods to fusion and individual tinkering
The challenge is to outshout Lady Gaga. Sure, cappuccinos go great with conversation, provided you can actually hear yourself think. And, admittedly, it's difficult to think with lyrics as profound as “p-p-p-poker face, p-p-p-poker face… mum mum mum mah…” pounding in the background.
Languid Dewberry's a welcome addition to the city's dining scene. Situated on a quiet road off R.K. Salai, it's in a space that seems undecided about what it wants be when it grows up. It's rather unprepossessing at first, till you begin to notice the little details that make it less ‘random compound with chairs' and more ‘quirky resto café'. There's the juice stand built on the lines of a bar at the entrance, complete with high swivelling stools. Heavy wood and iron garden chairs. A misting line spraying water at intervals and thoughtfully-placed fans to combat the heat.
Fortunately, this is a good season for an outdoor cafe. It's getting slightly cooler, and it won't be long before we start seeing over-dramatic Chennaiites flaunting gaudy ear muffs and bank-robber style monkey caps. By the time we settle down for brunch, over tall glasses of lemon juice spiked with fresh green chillies, there's a gentle sea breeze going, and it's shockingly pleasant outside.
Kavitha Subramanian, the COO of Dewberry's, and her partners are newbie restaurateurs. So they have the advantages of over-riding optimism, unbridled enthusiasm and freshness to make up for the absence of slick professionalism. They've been rather ambitious with the menu, which brightly offers page after page of classic Continental fare, interspersed with some European chic, nods to fusion and individual tinkering. Which means there's plenty of choice, but it's also going to take longer for their kitchen to master every item, especially given the number of innovative twists incorporated.
We try the fruit bruschetta, grilled fruits on herbed bread covered with melted cheese. Kavitha says they try and add fruit to as many items as possible in keeping with their ‘dewberry' theme, encapsulating freshness and energy.
The result's a genre of food that's populist, but laced with imagination. Lots of cheese, creamy sauces and butter, the staple ingredients of any desi Pop Tates cafe. Add determined reinvention. Mushroom and prawn fries. Crème brulee made with candied pineapple. Ice blended smoothies tweaked to taste like bubble gum.
It's fun when it works. Take the paneer and grilled pineapple stir fry, spicy and sweet in turns, tossed in garlicky butter studded with pounded dry chillies. Chicken tortellini in the shape of mini pies swimming in a rich tomato-garlic sauce. Crusty on top and juicy inside, they're stuffed with minced chicken speckled with bright carrot shreds. The prawn sizzler served with herbed rice and fries, is a flourish of Chettinad Schezwan.
Then, there are the peppery mushroom lasagne crepes, unabashedly smothered in a velvety sauce. Cheese fiends with the metabolism of Ian Thorpe will probably like it. But after about five spoons, it got a too heavy and homogeneous for me.
They specialise in ‘Fruitlettes' here, which are either crepes or omelettes served in a plate covered with beautifully carved seasonal fruit. Useful in these days of carb-phobia. (Finally, something for the Atkins and South Beach enthusiasts.) We try a ‘crepelette' instead. Unfortunately, it turns up looking so anaemic I feel like patting its head and sending it on a holiday to Goa to get some R&R in the sun. The caramelised pineapple inside is a nice touch, though its flavour is shouted down by a pushy essence.
Of course, these are early days. Dewberry's just opened, and it'll take a few months for them to perfect all the recipes. In the meantime there's plenty they're getting right. Portions are generous, prices are reasonable and the waiters (Kavitha calls them ‘Berrystas') are friendly. Best of all? I had an actual conversation over brunch set to an appropriately relaxed Eagles soundtrack. Take it easy/ Take it easy/ don't let the sound of your own wheels/ Drive you crazy.”
Dewberry's is on Rajasekaran Street, off R.K. Salai. For details log onto www.dewberrys.com or call 28473439. A meal for two should cost approximately Rs. 500.
Keywords: Dewberry restaurant