The newly launched Burgundy offers a menu that’s languidly international, with the accepted basics tweaked and amped up
As all local restaurateurs know: man proposes, Chennai disposes. Plans can never be iron-clad here — they rest on too many ‘what ifs' and ‘maybes.' After about three years of planning Burgundy has finally opened in MRC Nagar.
Chef R.C. Willi Willson, who left The Park for this venture, and Vipin Sachdev, best known for bringing the city Subway, made good use of their timeout. They opened Tuscana, then ‘Kryptos by Willi', and finally ‘Tuscana On Chamiers by Willi'. When you're opening so many restaurants it's tempting to stick to the tried and tested. The ‘if it ain't broke, don't fix it' philosophy. So it's interesting that they insisted on giving each of their restaurants a unique character. Which is why I was especially curious about Burgundy, since this is — essentially — the mother ship.
The restaurant is set in Somerset Greenways, an unexpectedly swanky service apartment with Five Star airs. I'm directed to the restaurant, which is spacious, airy and flooded with sunshine. It has a standard “slick hotel coffee shop” feel about it, a look that might have been fresh a few years ago, but is now fairly conventional. They do, however, have the advantage of outdoor seating and a lounge area, complete with those inescapable flat screen TVs showing those inescapable cricket matches.
I'm having lunch with Chef Willi, who shows me around the kitchen, commandeered by Chef Jaideep Kanungoe who used to head the European section at The Park. There's a focus on interactivity here, a trend that's getting popular all over the world. Today — finally — people want to know who is cooking their meals. So kitchens are more open and chefs are more accessible. A good meal at a nice restaurant should be an artisanal product, not something that slides out of a factory-like ambience, even if it is made with mechanical efficiency. And you should be able to talk to the chef about concerns, diet requests or allergies.
In an attempt to move away from the familiar old-fashioned buffet, featuring huge chafing dishes that simmer quietly for hours, Burgundy puts out small portions that get frequently replenished. Indian food doesn't really suffer at buffets — after all some of our most delicious dals, currys and biryanis owe their flavour to hours of slow cooking. Indian-Continental pies and bakes tend to hold up alright too. But a lot of European food needs to be served straight out of the kitchen, and this style of buffet makes moist risottos and crisp salads possible.
However our lunch is a la carte, as I'm determined to try the pizzas. Since wood-fired ovens are illegal inside, Burgundy uses a rotating pizza oven, equipped with an internal flame to give your pizza that essential golden glow. Willi chuckles that the main difference between his huge wood-burning ovens in Tuscana and this rotating oven is that Burgundy specialises in ‘dizzy pizzas.' On closer investigation the spinning pizzas, which may or may not be able to compete in ‘Dancing With The Stars', are more evenly baked. It's debatable whether that's an advantage if you like the unexpected dips and crunch of a wood-fired pizza, and of course they don't have that smoky aroma. My vegetable pizza has a light and airy base, perfect for its intricate topping of tart olives, charred tomato and surprising chunks of roasted sweet potato, all topped with sweet-smelling cheese.
I try the fish, paneer and chicken kebabs from their Indian section, all of which are competently made. Dessert is an Orange and Almond Flourless Cake, with goat cheese cream and candied orange: heavy, moist and rich, though it gets stodgy after a few bites.
The menu's languidly international, offering the accepted basics, all tweaked and amped up. Hence the Burgundy Club is made with Gruyere, Pancetta and rosemary grilled chicken on garlic toast with pesto potato fries. Think high street fashion styled for the catwalk. With buttons and bows so you can customise your meal according to your preferences.
Will Burgundy make an impact on the city's foodscape? It's too early to tell. Right now it's a welcome addition.
The restaurant is at 94, Sathyadev Avenue, MRC Nagar. Call 4900 1000 for details. A meal for two is approximately Rs. 1,500. The dinner buffet is Rs. 975 and lunch is Rs. 750.