Look at it from our point of view. It's the thought that counts, right? A colleague's birthday was coming up, and we decided to surprise him with a home-made cake. Unfortunately my friend, the ‘co-chef', suggests manicures before getting started on the sifting and stirring. After that it just seems wrong to put our gleaming fire engine red nails to work. Hence the master plan. Head to French Loaf, pick up a sponge cake and ice it ourselves. No one will be the wiser, we figure.
Just our luck: French Loaf is fresh out of cake. We trawl around Nungambakkam, getting increasingly desperate. Buying a fully frosted cake is not an option. Not after our pompous claims about being earnest home bakers. After trying every bakery in the vicinity, we end up with a wonky rock of a tea cake. Back at home, we shamelessly decide to frost it with Pillsbury chocolate icing. However, I leave the kitchen to take a phone call and when I come back, I find co-chef with the icing spoon in her mouth and a half-empty Pillsbury can. We shower the cake with Cadbury's gems in a futile bid to brighten it up. It's still admittedly hideous. When we unveil it at the office, people shriek in horror. One colleague says she still has nightmares about being chased down a dark alley by that cake.
All this to explain why you should check out the Baker Showcase at Crimson Chakra on June 30. Store-bought cakes are admittedly naff these days. But baking from scratch is not always an option. Fortunately, the city's burgeoning with home bakers who are quite happy to make luxurious, personalised cakes for you. While standards vary wildly, there is plenty to choose from. The Baker's Showcase features 14 people, and a wide range of cakes, muffins, pies and quiches. Promised highlights include Baileys Cheesecake, Tequila cupcakes and Kahlua Brownies. (I'm noticing a theme here, and wondering if Chennai's home bakers are necessarily stationed next to their home-bars.)
K.P. Balakumar, one of the founders of the Home Bakers Guild, which is organising the event, explains how the guild was conceived as a forum to bring together bakers and baking enthusiasts on a single platform. With more than 700 members (of which about 500 are from Chennai) they use social media, primarily Facebook, very effectively to connect with the city, as well as each other. The showcase he says, is unique because it brings together the city's top home bakers as well as “testing the waters/aspiring home bakers” under a single roof. The event is from 3.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. Its Facebook page is buzzing with activity, so Balakumar suggests you get there quickly before the goodies are all gone.
The restaurant this week is ‘Aahar Multicuisine Veg Restaurant' which opened recently in Mylapore. We charge in at 3 p.m. desperate for lunch. The waiters are languid, like they're extras in a Peter Andre music video. (That's a deliberately dated reference by the way. Today's Pitbull style videos are too charged with energy to make good metaphors.) We ask for podi idlis and are told it's too late. Apparently they're available only till 3 p.m. It's currently 3.03 p.m. Somewhere in the kitchen there's a timer that should be working for the Olympic committee.
Aahar is set in a nice large space. The décor's irreproachable except for a proliferation of strange blue lights. Best described as Christmas tree meets ‘Law And Order' crime scene. (Oh dear. We're all about dated metaphors today, aren't we?) The menu offers an astonishing variety. Beside the usual ghee roast-rava dosa-onion oothapam there are innovative twists: think pudina dosas and dry fruit rava dosas.
We try deliciously spongy kasuri paneer tikkas, served with capsicum, toasty from the tandoor. It's served on a cloud of finely sliced onions.
The main course consists of Peshawari naan, flat and subtly spiced. An ideal foil to the kofta curry. The koftas are tasty but tiny, and there are just two in the bowl. Perhaps it's a ‘one per head' kind of lunch. We also order pachrangi dal, which looks identical to the kofta curry. It tastes disconcertingly similar too.
Dessert is a standard gulab jamun. Aahar has potential, but is trying to do too much too fast. We've been hearing good things about their podi idlis by the way. Just get there before 3.01 p.m.
Aahar is at Old No: 184, New No: 253 (Diagonally opposite Sanskrit College, Mylapore) Royapettah High Road, Mylapore. Call 4355 4747 for details. A meal for two costs Rs. 400.