Get ready for an experiential meal at Hot Jungle

A ranger’s jeep perched precariously on a cave greets one at Hot Jungle. A rhino grazes next to a fountain where two bears, one on a tree and the other on the ground, seem to be playing catch. A menacing ‘tribal’ armed with a spear is poised to lunge…this is not a scene from a National Geographic show but Hot Jungle, probably, Kerala’s first jungle-themed restaurant.

The ‘cave’ is treated polystyrene, the ‘animals’, which include deer, giraffe and tigers are fabricated and the jeep is just a shell of one bought as junk. A.N. Shahir, one of the directors of the restaurant, which opens today next to Oberon Mall, says the idea was to make eating out experiential, “a different culinary experience.” Seating arrangements have been made inside and outside. There are couple of ‘huts’, climb a few steps and you get a view of the ‘jungle’ inside and the traffic outside. If heights are not your thing then choose a ‘hut’ on the ground.

Since it is a converted house, the seating is divided among various rooms. The walls bear raw-unplastered mud finish which gives the restaurant a rugged ambience. In tiny niches on the wall are replicas of animals usually seen on a safari, “all imported,” says Mohammed Sidhik (Sadiq) the man behind the jungle theme or rather the African safari theme. You can listen to the sounds of the jungle as you eat. Possible sights from a safari are painted on the walls. From a larger niche or ‘cave’, a couple of tigers watch over the guests. A replica of a huge watermelon cut in half serves as the juice counter.

Sadiq, “an artist at heart and an architect by profession”, has designed several theme restaurants and theme parks in countries such as Bahrain, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait. The prefabricated animals were brought from Pune and painted here. Coconut palms, in the compound, which had to be cut down serve as rather heavy stools. Those sitting outside get a view of the live kitchen.

The fare available is rather extensive with North Indian, South Indian (with emphasis on Thalasserry and Hyderabadi cuisines), Chinese, Turkish, Italian and Mexican cuisines. As if all this is not enough, there is even a live-fish counter. “Our biryani will be cooked over wood fire as it done at weddings. It has a distinct flavour. And all the bread we use will be made in-house in our oven.” The facilities include a party area, a play area and valet parking, he adds.