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Salt baked fish at its heart

The Drawing Room is so pretty even if you don’t want to eat any food, you could just sit and stare at the giant trees that loom outside, the large, idiosyncratic fresco on the wall, the Bohemian furniture, or just the sea behind. But eat, you must, for the food is prettier.

At one end of the historic Cochin Club, the eatery does not make a big show of itself. But it is not so undramatic at the table. Enter the salt-baked fish, the house special. A little before it arrives, while we are still going at the seafood platter with a clamour of knives, fork and claws, the attendant has quietly set two smaller tables beside the one at which we are seated. Seafood is one of the eatery’s mainstays, as is evident from the menu. But not at all the usual fare one would find in Kerala. Not sure? Try the cured anchovies on toast then. It is a brilliant way to use the slim fish, cured in white wine and vinegar for a day, and laid on crunchy buttered toast. The flavour pops in the mouth.

In between each dish, there is hectic admiration of the china. It’s a mixed set for us, each of us gets a different colour or pattern. The soup has been had, a creamy tomato with basil, that soothes and rejuvenates and kindles instant desire to try at home. Since we don’t care much for order, the salad has been had too somewhere in between--a melange of romaine lettuce, feta, prunes and caramelised walnuts that afford much crunch. If you are a bacon fan, you can opt for bacon bits that come in a small white bowl to go with it.

The Drawing Room draws much of its ingenuity from the people around, says Sharath Pulimood, one of the partners. So, there are a lot of recipes from friends that are tried out, a few friends make cakes and desserts for the eatery as well. Sharath’s mother’s tender coconut pudding is something he wants to try out soon. The Drawing Room is the result of a shared passion for food, music and travel between friends Tharun Thomas, Abraham Thomas and Sharath, who had conceived of a performance-worthy venue, which can host plug and plays and basically, curate music along with top class food.

The show-stopper has finally arrived. The salt-baked spectacle, which has got the tourists at the next table curious. As we all look on in wonderment, the attendant cracks open the thick crust of the fish and it sends out curly wisps of steam. “This dish is all about the fish. This is a brackish water snapper, but we do use the baramundi as well,” says Sharath. It is a relief not to have the usual masala in fish, here you can taste the freshness, with just a faint hint of lime and salt. A Spanish recipe, it has worked well here, adds Sharath. The fish is stuffed with herbs and lime and brushed with a mixture of egg whites and sea salt, which forms a thick crust when baked. The fish cooks in its own moisture and is best had with a butter garlic dip and a wacky accompaniment made of kanthari chilli, parsley, white wine, vinegar, olive oil and capsicum.

If you are not the dramatic type, the platters are always there with a delicious variety of meat and fish (a lot of shrimp), not to mention the pastas. While you are there, try the teas and the coffees and the juices, each section of which offers variety of some kind, the chef’s special tender coconut water and hibiscus, for instance. Dessert is not fanciful, but have the basics in place such as chocolate cake, cheesecake with a few surprises thrown in such as baked date pudding, carrot cake and tender coconut ice cream with sea salt.

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 9:13:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Salt-baked-fish-at-its-heart/article16644662.ece

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