Biso at Citrus with its multi-cuisine platter is just right for a noisy get-together with friends

It’s past 7:30 p.m. and we are hungry, as we head out to a place called Biso out on the East Coast Road. We don’t know anything about it except its name, so we are surprised to find that it’s part of the same hotel that was once Le Waterina and is now Citrus. Apparently, the Mumbai-based Citrus group has taken over the management of the hotel and is busy turning it around. In its new avatar, the 24-hour coffee shop has been reborn as Biso, a multi-cuisine (ah dreaded word) restaurant.

This stretch of Kottivakkam can so easily be transformed into something like Miami’s South Beach, with nightclubs, restaurants, boutiques and hotels — a glittering entertainment and tourism area — but of course nothing of the kind is about to happen. What we have right now is a sleepy road with ice-cream vans and sundal vendors, police booth and large bungalows. And, of course, Citrus.

We are greeted by the affable manager and a wonderful chilled watermelon juice served in the scooped out shell of the fruit. With a touch of mint and lemon, it’s a very auspicious start to the evening. The rest of the meal that follows slowly does not quite live up to the promise of that sherbet, but it was also a kitchen still practising its paces when we visited. The chef’s potential is clear from the cream of broccoli soup, which has just the right consistency and flavours. Among the starters, the Tararey Jhinga, crisp-fried prawns, are a hit. For vegetarians, the paneer tikkas are rather sad and floppy but the Greek salad puts up a braver fight. The mains arrive next, but are a mixed affair — the kadhai paneer is less than inspiring but the dum aloo gobi is positively bad, a mish-mash of overcooked vegetables drowned in a nondescript gravy. The dhingri mutter tries to show some character, with the gravy’s flavour rather strange but nonetheless interesting. The fried fish or tawa machchi is a better bet altogether, fried to a crisp. We opt for tandoori rotis but the gosht dum biryani that we taste is cooked very well indeed. We end with a too-dry-and-crumbly brownie with ice-cream, and I eye the gulab jamun on the next table wistfully.

But the kitchen is ambitious and includes a buffet spread that has everything from pastas and grills to lobster thermidor and Thai green curry. Most important, the bar next door means you’re never short of a beer. And if that can’t improve a meal, I don’t know what can. Biso might not be a gourmet’s halt but with its laidback ambience and its giant TV screens, it’s just the sort of watering hole you can go to with a noisy bunch of friends to catch the World Cup. Meal for two: Rs 1,800. Find it at No. 35, Kaveri Nagar, Kottivakkam Beach. Tel: 044-24515435