The buffet at The Garden Grille restaurant, Hotel Hilton Garden Inn, has some unusual choices for gastronomes

That’s funky… you think, as you spot the bright red chandeliers in the lobby of the newly-opened Hilton Garden Inn at Punnen Road. Maybe the hotel’s signature restaurant The Garden Grille will have the same snazzy new-age decor. Instead, the restaurant, which is adjacent to the lobby, is one of quiet, old world elegance – a drama of polished wood offset with sparkling pops of olive, orange and mulberry. We’re instantly charmed.

It’s the Garden Grille’s buffet we’ve come for; having heard it has a few surprises in store for gastronomes. Sure enough, the choice of food available at the buffet is quite unusual.

Take the live pasta/pizza station, for instance. It makes for a refreshing change from the live appam counters that have almost become the norm in such restaurants. Here you can get the pizza or pasta of your choice made to order. Not ones to say no to a good thin crust pizza, straight away we order a pepperoni-cheese, medium size. Reluctantly we decline the options from the live tandoor station, though the kebabs roasting on the grill looked delectable. After all, we’ve still got the length of the buffet to go through.

Meanwhile, it’s off to the salad bar set up in an alcove behind the live counters. Just as we sit down to feast on small servings of cold salads – glass noodle with mixed greens, fusili pasta and calamari rings, Haryali chicken with red pepper and onion, grilled fish with cilantro salad, and crunchy watermelon topped with feta, we’re served the pizza. That was quick... The pizza is melt-in-the-mouth scrumptious, a delicate base of tomato covered with gooey cheese and crispy pepperoni. There’s a cheese counter too, piled high with blue cheese, cheddar, gouda, crackers, ham, the works.

It’s then that we realise we’ve forgotten the soup, of which there are two options – White Chickpea and mutton shorba. We give them a go, preferring to wait a while, until our tummies settle, before tacking the main courses.

To aid the process we’re on our feet browsing through the buffet menu. First off, we notice that there is quite a large selection in the vegetarian options, a mix of North and South Indian dishes, with a couple of continental and Chinese treats thrown in, each equally tempting. Dishes such as Chembu kootu (yam cooked Kerala style), Kale mirchi subzi (vegetable curry flavoured with black pepper), dal, paneer with raisins, pok choy (Chinese cabbage) sautéed with shitake mushrooms, Mediterranean potatoes, and so on. Although each of these dishes would go well with rice (white and matta), vegetable fried rice, or any of the Indian breads hot off the stove, we zero in on baskets of fresh focaccia bread from the bread counter to polish of the servings. Pok choy, chembu kootu and the dal are so tasty that we have to have seconds. The non-vegetarian section too is fairly interesting, with a choice of chicken, red meat and seafood dishes. The best of the lot was perhaps thin slices of tenderloin steak in red wine jus and the creamy Patiala ghosht.

Across the aisle from the restaurant, the dessert counter laden with bite-size sweet treats beckons with all thrill of a table full of presents on Christmas day. Time to indulge on brownie mascarporne, baked blueberry cheese cake, raspberry delice, tiramisu, berry soufflé, chocolate fudge, gulab jamun, and the likes. We now feel like the proverbial cat who got the lip-smacking cream.

The buffet is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner and the menu changes every day. Waffles on breakfast menu, especially, are simply scrumptious. “From February 2, we are planning to start Sunday Brunch buffet, 12 noon to 3 p.m.,” says Vijay Kumar, the restaurant manager. The dinner buffet costs Rs. 900 plus taxes. Contact: 6600000