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Place of plenty

Travel the world equipped with a fork at Cornucopia, which is all about good food in great quantities

WANDER DOWN Cenotaph Road and you'll spot a blushing sign whispering `Cornucopia' suspended outside what used to be Manasthala. For a restaurant that aspires to be a cornucopia, or horn of plenty, overflowing with nectar, ambrosia and everything else the flamboyant Greek Gods considered vital to their grocery list, Chennai's Cornucopia seems rather quiet from the outside without even so much as a toga-clad doorman on the porch. But then, Cornucopia's horn of plenty is not about gimmickry; it's about good food, in large quantities. Just to ensure that your cup runneth over - quite literally.

Dig into the Bruschetta, which is `homemade' garlic and herb bread toasted and served with succulent chunks of fresh tomato, flavoured with basil, garlic, olive oil and generous slivers of warm cheese. While the tomato is good enough to tempt even the most stubborn of vegetable haters, the bread - like all good homemade bread - is crusty enough on the outside to lose a set of dentures and irresistibly spongy inside. Once you're done with breaking bread, you can dip into the Chicken in Sticks, an inspired variation of the popular Chicken Satay in which well-browned chicken is served with a pot of semi-sweet peanut butter. Cornucopia's warm chicken salad — slices of spicy chicken set on a bed of rather washed out lettuce — is less brilliant but works anyway since the lettuce weakly co-operates with the chicken, which clearly has a mind of its own. The Fried Spinach and Potato Salad looks like the potatoes have been saying mean things to the spinach, which unhappily wilts off the side of the plate. The potato takes some getting used to since it's generously covered in garlicky yoghurt, but the play of textures between the warm baby potatoes in their jackets and the creamy yoghurt they're covered in, make for interesting forkfuls.

For the main course try the Fried Fillets of King Fish Maletaise, featuring fish topped with garlic, green chilli, fresh coriander and oyster sauce. The fish, which is fried in a beer batter won't make you go `hic', but is delicious since the steaming flaky fillets are set off perfectly by their sauce, which is enrobed in bright green chillies. Cornucopia also does great Blackened Cottage Cheese Steaks New Orleans, a fashionable avatar of grilled paneer, stuffed with spinach and mushroom. The potato served with it is baked with just milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper, and is good enough to tempt you to shove your fork into an unsuspecting neighbour's plate and steal a bite.

But the real show stoppers here are the desserts. Chef Anand, who's clearly a chocoholic, recommends the Mississippi Mud Pie, a chocolate cookie shell that alternates between being chewy and fudgy and is filled with a creamy burst of vanilla ice cream and walnuts, and Chocolate Fudge Cheesecake, which comes marooned in a sea of cappuccino flavoured sauce. Don't even try talking through this course - nobody will be listening.

The portions are huge here - you could almost drown yourself in the soup bowl - and a meal should cost roughly Rs. 200 per head. Specialising in fusion food, it's a great place to experience Caribbean, Moroccan, Oriental and half a dozen other inspired cuisines. After all, how often do you get to travel the world equipped with nothing more than a fork?

Cornucopia is at 30, Cenotaph Road, open for lunch from noon to 3 p.m. and for dinner from 7.30 p.m. to 10.45 p.m., ph: 52059495.


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