The refurbished restaurant has variety on its menu
Let's hope it wasn't prophetic. A new year. New beginnings. Fresh hopes and dreams. Yet there I was, complete with high heels, mascara and a reservation, staring flummoxed at a pile of particularly unaesthetic rubble. It was all a bit too Harry Potter for my liking. Restaurants just don't disappear, right? Especially when you've made reservations with a very efficient sounding manager just an hour earlier. Or perhaps this was what he meant by a garden view. All I needed to do now was sit stylishly on a rock to admire the weeds pushing through the blocks of broken concrete. Fortunately, before I optimistically charged into the crumbling building to demand soup, a nervous passerby informed me that the Cornucopia on Cenotaph Road closed a while back. A quick phone call to a well-informed friend revealed that Chef Anand and his team were now functioning from ‘Cornucopia @ 13 First Crescent,' also the venue of Crimson Chakra.
The home of producer Suresh Menon, Crimson Chakra is set on a quiet road opposite the Gandhi Nagar club. Since it's an old bungalow, it's rife with interesting corners and quirks making it an ideal venue for a restaurant with character. It's been growing organically since its launch barely six months ago, with menu changes, constant décor tweaking and now the addition of a new Continental menu, courtesy Cornucopia.
The restaurant still functions under the banner of Crimson Chakra, owned by Suresh Menon. However, thanks to the fact that it now houses the kitchens of two established Chefs, Jacob Aruni on the Indian menu and Anand on the continental, it works more like two restaurants hosted by one venue rather than the conventional — read boring — multi-cuisine format.
The interiors of the restaurant, soaked lovingly in the aroma of curry, seemed depressingly dark, so we chose to sit in their newly air-conditioned verandah. Flanked by an artificial waterfall and dappled by sunlight it's the second best place to sit. The best? A table set right in the pool. Since the water is only about one foot high, you can blissfully cool your ankles as you dig into spicy Buffalo wings. (Not such a good idea if you're in trousers and have to get back to work post-lunch though.)
Chef Anand's new menu stays true to his characteristic style of blending unexpected flavours and adding subtle twists to old favourites. When Cornucopia opened in 2003 it introduced the city to a chic avatar of continental food, till then the stodgy bastion of too much cheese, potato and corn flour.
We try his classic fillets of Kingfish Maltaise, covered in a crisp beer batter and lolling in a dark spicy concoction of oyster sauce laced with chilly, garlic and fresh coriander. There's also Kingfish marinated in a sweet mango, mustard and green chilly sauce. However, the mango's so lush it's a little too reminiscent of mango ice cream, making the dish rather startling.
The blackened cottage steak's much nicer, thanks to its interesting blend of textures and flavours: firm paneer topped with a crust of tomato, red chilly and cheese and stuffed with moist spinach. For potato fans there's the tasty grilled cheese, potato and herb steak, although it must be admitted that it tastes no more exotic than an alu tikki. And then comes sliced duck doused in an unfamiliar but addictive blend of orange juice, chilly, mint and — hold your breath — tequila.
We end with a classic: dense cheesecake puddled generously with a bright, tangy, vibrant blueberry sauce. Chef Anand also sends us a prune and caramel upside down cake, which is a fun medley of flavours with its warm caramel, fudgy baked apples and juicy prunes, all teamed with comfortingly cold vanilla ice-cream.
Cornucopia @ 13 First Crescent is in Gandhinagar, Adyar. Call 96772 77900 or 42115664 for reservations. By the way, they have a pet zone and doggie bowls, so if you call in advance, you can take your furry buddies out for dinner too.