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A romantic meal all the way...

Patio, the coffee shop at The Metropolitan Hotel Nikko in New Delhi provides a flambi buffet with nostalgic French ice cream of 1960s and a lot more. SUMITRA SENAPATY enjoys a meal against a romantic backdrop... .

PATIO AT The Metropolitan Hotel Nikko in New Delhi offers the guest a value for money dining experience when one considers its opulent ambience and chic setting overlooking the hotel's lobby. Friday's Flambi & Carving nite boasts attentive, even pampering service, complemented by intriguing and flavourful food preparations. This intimate coffee shop has long been known for serving the `Kitchens of the World' cuisine, complete with tableside flambi cooking on a trolley. Trademark wrought iron candle stands, lit candles and deep seat chairs position this restaurant as one that knows how to cater to tradition, defining the `fine' in dining. A la carte menu has the stipulated various courses -- appetisers, soups, salads, seafood, and meats. But we find it more beneficial to dine from the Special Carving & Flambi buffet, which has a set menu price of Rs. 550 per taxes per person, including a glass of house wine. One of Patio's better-kept secrets is their delicious garlic bread. Now, this is darned good bread -- the hard crunchy crust is magnificent, and the chewy, garlicky interior absolutely perfect.

A basket full of slices of this marvellous bread is set at each table, before the start of the meal. Trying hard is a commendable trait in restaurants; succeeding is even more admirable. Patio's attempt at "fine dining'' offers subtly cooked carvings of duck, lamb and cottage cheese, served with an assortment of breads, salads and vegetables. But what is irresistible are the flambi preparations - to start with a sophisticated tomato soup singed with a shot of gin, right at your tableside. The chef makes sure that all the alcohol burns off before the dish is served, leaving a delectable aroma and after taste. Some of the other popular must try flambi dishes are Fresh Water Prawns cooked with white wine and herbs and flambied with Pernod, also fresh vegetables flambied with delicate wines. Diced Chicken with Madagascar Pepper Corn flambéed with Red Label Scotch is a high priority for us, as well as nearby tables. Executive Chef Chug says, "Flambi is done for a dramatic effect and to give a rich taste. The brandy or liquor is heated in a saucepan until bubbles begin to form around the edges and then flambied, until the flame disappears. If you want to retain some of the alcohol flavour, cover the flaming dish to extinguish flames or add additional wine.''

For dessert, we give in to the French style Crepe Suzette. This is a light, orange flavoured, type of pancake, but not too sweet. Flambied with Cointreau, this 1960s' dessert is sure more than just nostalgic. Ice cream flambied with `Tia Maria or Baileys' and flambied fruits are other irresistible choices at the dessert counter. Its no wonder Patio has been a popular dining choice for many Delhi residents.

The candlelit flambi diner buffet takes place every Friday - Here, all the essential elements are in place, which sets the stage for romance. Even if you're dining alone!

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