Food

Saying Bonjour to the bistro

Chef K Kannappa shows the popular Middle Eastern Mezze Platter at Cafe Cake Bee. Photo: M.Moorthy / THE HINDU

Chef K Kannappa shows the popular Middle Eastern Mezze Platter at Cafe Cake Bee. Photo: M.Moorthy / THE HINDU  

High-end, yet informal, cafés and bistros serving Western cuisines are making their mark in Tiruchi

Food has united many a nation, and continues to do so. Whether it is street food like chaat or traditional fare like dosa and idli, food is a great icebreaker.

Tiruchi, with its enviable spread of restaurants, has an equally big community of food lovers. The city has a large population of ‘educated’ foodies, the ones who know their pastas and cheeses, and who can differentiate between a rotisserie and grilled chicken. Television shows and greater exposure to world cuisine through travel have created a new customer base for standalone establishments that cater to this clientele of ‘food explorers.’

As the craze for food photography catches on, it’s no surprise that Tiruchi has at least four online groups that exclusively review local eateries with pictures. “We have noticed that more high-end cafeterias and bistros have been launched in the past few years in Tiruchi. It’s nice to see new places coming up with great food,” says R Sridhar, founder-administrator of the Facebook group ‘Where Trichy Eats’, which has over 4000 members.

“Bringing new menus to the city is definitely a good idea, but the restaurants should take care not to destroy the original recipe with their own tweaks. The shawarma, for instance, has so many interpretations, that the authentic recipe has almost vanished in Tiruchi,” says Sridhar Venkatesan, a food blogger.

Several young entrepreneurs have created their own niche in informal, yet upmarket dining, bringing the best of Continental, American and south Asian food to Tiruchi. MetroPlus visited three of the most happening places in town to sample their wares.

A hive of gourmet options

Café Cake Bee

Cuisine: Gourmet Continental

Prices: ₹400-500 for two (approximate)

Picture-perfect dishes, mostly standards from Continental cuisine like Chicken Stroganoff, Vegetable Au Gratin or Fish and Chips, and the usual crowd-pleasing sandwiches and hamburgers, besides decadently rich desserts are a given at this cafeteria on Williams Road. It’s no wonder then, that most diners here feast their eyes on their orders first, clicking pictures on their phone before they tuck in.

“When we started out in 2017, we were the first standalone restaurant to offer authentic Continental food in Tiruchi,” says proprietor SP Sethu Subbiah. “We have avoided fusion, and instead kept the original recipes as authentic as possible.”

The restaurant has got branches in Chennai and Coimbatore, and plans to open one in Puducherry in November.

Banana Blueberry Smoothie at Cafe Cake Bee. Photo: M.Moorthy / THE HINDU

Banana Blueberry Smoothie at Cafe Cake Bee. Photo: M.Moorthy / THE HINDU  

To stay ahead of the game, the café has consciously moved towards healthier options, like all-in-one meal bowls, and dishes that cater to keto and vegan diets. “We change the menu every year, to stay relevant to our customers. Meal bowls, for example, are very popular in Chennai and Coimbatore, where you can have a balanced diet in one serving, with sides of barley rice, red rice or quinoa. In Tiruchi, there’s a good demand for tabbouleh, the Mediterranean mezze platter, hummous and pita bread,” says Subbiah.

The English breakfast (choice of eggs, baked beans, hash brown, grilled tomato, sautéed spinach and mushroom with a hot beverage) is a hit with families returning from church on Sundays. “Our Power Breakfast (fresh fruit, yoghurt, toast and hot beverage) is very popular with office-goers and students,” says Subbiah.

The breads and buns are supplied by Cake Bee, the hugely successful baked goods section of the enterprise (also operational in Chennai and Coimbatore).

With a growing customer base for their outdoor catering (dessert counter for 4,000 people in Coimbatore, and a pasta station for 200 guests in a Karaikudi wedding), Subbiah is confident that good food will always find its way. “Many people are aware about the food that they want. It is up to us in the catering industry to prepare and serve it in the right manner,” he says.

Action on the food scene

Chef Arpitha Naidu with her husband RB Bhalaji and brother-in-law Raj Krishna at the Clapper's Bistro. Photo: M.Moorthy / THE HINDU

Chef Arpitha Naidu with her husband RB Bhalaji and brother-in-law Raj Krishna at the Clapper's Bistro. Photo: M.Moorthy / THE HINDU  

The Clapper’s Bistro

Cuisine: Italian, Mexican, Continental, Fast Food

Prices: ₹250 for two (approximate)

A shared love for films and yummy grub inspired chef Arpitha Naidu, her husband RB Bhalaji and his brother Raj Krishna, to open The Clapper’s Bistro in the Tiruchi suburb of Kattur.

And going by the crowds that throng the Hollywood-themed eatery’s tables for a quick bite or a leisurely trawl through the menu, The Clapper’s Bistro, which will celebrate its first anniversary later this month, has literally got a hit on its hands.

“When we were researching the idea, we realised that Tiruchi didn’t have many Italian menus on offer. We thought we’d be catering mainly to the college students along this stretch of the Thanjavur highway, but now we are steadily getting diners from Tiruchi as well,” says Arpitha, who studied culinary arts in Paris and Delhi.

Besides a décor that reflects the trio’s passion for Hollywood movies, the bistro also has a menu that offers authentic Italian with fusion forays into Mexican and Continental. Its newest offering, (“for the kids,” says Arpitha) is a five-option Maggi noodles menu, along with exotic desserts like Thai Banana Pancake and Baklava (filo pastry layers filled with nuts and drenched with sugar syrup).

Peri-Peri Cottage Cheese Steak at The Clapper’s Bistro. Photo: M. Moorthy/THE HINDU

Peri-Peri Cottage Cheese Steak at The Clapper’s Bistro. Photo: M. Moorthy/THE HINDU  

Among the choice of pastas (penne, spaghetti and fusilli), the Spaghetti Bolognese and the Lasagne Chicken are very popular. The hand-tossed pizzas range from the traditional Margherita featuring a topping of tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil, to the fusion with Tandoori chicken.

The bistro maintains separate storage and cooking utensils (including fryers) for vegetarian and non-vegetarian food, and sources its greens and key ingredients like cheese from suppliers in Ooty and Chennai.

“A good quality menu requires a lot of hard work, and the right ingredients are essential to get the same results every time,” says Arpitha. “We have some very well-informed customers, who have taught us how to adjust the menu according to local tastes.”

Social media has helped to spread the word about The Clapper’s Bistro, with the movie association aiding in marketing. “We have been overwhelmed by the response so far, and we hope to keep cooking up something delicious for our customers,” says Bhalaji.

On the road to tasty fare

Alifiya Husein, proprietor of TN 45 Bistro. Photo: M. Moorthy / THE HINDU

Alifiya Husein, proprietor of TN 45 Bistro. Photo: M. Moorthy / THE HINDU  

TN45 Bistro

Cuisine: Indian, Chinese, Continental, Barbecue and snacks

Price: ₹200 for two (approximate)

From its name to its interiors, road transport figures significantly in TN45 Bistro, on Bharathidasan Salai. “I wanted people to get a taste of delicious fare from the dhaba and the home kitchen, with some popular fast food,” says proprietor Alifiya Husein, who has created the wide-ranging menu from her own experience as a hotel management graduate and catering industry professional.

The recently launched bistro’s meal combos start at ₹99 and go up to ₹699, offering customers a good deal for single or group dining.

Roast leg of lamb at TN 45 Bistro. Photo: M.Moorthy / THE HINDU

Roast leg of lamb at TN 45 Bistro. Photo: M.Moorthy / THE HINDU  

The tandoor stays active for much of the day here, dishing out succulent chicken, mutton, fish and vegetarian grilled kababs, besides a variety of flatbreads and naans as accompaniments. Among the specials, is a made-to-order roasted leg of lamb that requires an advance notice of 3 hours.

And for a dish that definitely knows how to make an entry, there’s little to beat the bistro’s sizzlers (cottage cheese, chicken and fish).

“It’s important for customers to enjoy their food in a relaxed atmosphere, which is why we advise them to be prepared to wait for their orders. Each dish has to be made from scratch, so it will take at least 25 minutes to be served,” says Alifiya.

The bistro also undertakes orders for fresh cakes and desserts.

Alifiya plans to bring some of her own heritage into the menu by debuting a Bohra Muslim thali soon. “This meal, usually lunch, is meant to be shared by at least 6-10 people, and is served on a big platter. I hope to feature dishes that I have learned from my mother in this wholesome offering,” she says.

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Printable version | Jun 5, 2020 9:47:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/tiruchi-opens-up-to-world-cuisine-brought-in-by-enterprising-chefs/article29689288.ece

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