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A garden, some magic and food memories

Pizza at Soul Garden Bistro PHOTO: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT  

The fragrance of petrichor welcomes you to Soul Garden Bistro, the newly-opened all-day vegetarian diner in Alwarpet. There’s a carpet of leaves at the entrance and remnants of last night’s party linger on in the festive balloons strung up.

Long before the food arrives, you will fall in love with the setting — it’s warm, inviting and holds the promise of a good time. The bistro can seat 30 people outside in what used to be the corridor of a bungalow, and 20 inside, a well-appointed space that belies its motor room origins. And, if you wish to have a private party, there’s another seating area for 20 beneath a mango tree that has seen many summers and mango flower showers.

The eatery, the brainchild of Jignesh Pujara, who used to run Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt, also has an ice-cream/dessert lab 196*Below, where the star is liquid nitrogen. That’s the place where all kids and adults queue up to watch the resident magician whip up decadent desserts in a maze of smoke.

I begin my late lunch with a hearty pumpkin soup, redolent of fresh herbs. Next up is a platter of zucchini fritters, served with garlic aioli and mayonnaise infused with peri peri, both eggless and prepared in-house. A sandwich bursting with an onion-mushroom filling comes up next, followed by falafel wrapped in toasted pita and served with fries and hummus. I sample the Indian sizzler next, a delicious mix of paneer and capsicum on a skewer, jeera rice and roasted vegetables.

The portion sizes of the main course are huge, enough to comfortably serve two.

There’s also pasta, pizza and Indian staples such as bisibela bhath, and biryani. And yes, the eatery has a Maggi menu too, featuring the noodles with various toppings, including aloo bhujia and white sauce. As I eat, I’m served a striking orange drink in a beaker, the likes of which I last saw in the high school chemistry lab — a mix of saffron, juice and soda, topped with mint, the saffron breezer is just perfect to sip on as you unwind with a friend.

Now that the food spread has been explored, Jignesh unleashes the liquid nitrogen genie. A staff pops corn on the counter and tops it with peri peri, and another brings in a flask bearing a liquid with a boiling point close to -196 degrees C. The two are quickly stirred together and the result is pure magic. You eat popcorn that’s savoury but icy-cold, and as you bite into it, a whiff of smoke bursts out. Great entertainment when you’re out as a group.

It’s time to experiment with the dessert counter. A staffer heads out in his coat and goggles and asks if he can make me a salted caramel gelato. In goes the gelato mix (you can also add your favourite cake to this) and liquid nitrogen. In less than a minute, I’m handed a beaker with two scoops of creamy gelato, with a flavour syringe that slowly injects molten caramel into the scoops.

On Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturday, along with the food, there’s room for music too. A local band belts out fusion numbers and much-loved melodies. It all adds to the magic that’s Soul Garden.

Food for thought

Great ambience and generous portions of delicious food

Cost for two: Rs. 800

Address: 14 Ananda Road. Alwarpet

Telephone: 4514 5433

The magic of Chennai's rains, through photographs 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2020 9:59:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/A-garden-some-magic-and-food-memories/article16091747.ece

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