THE SQUARE at NOVOTEL is an exquisite ne dining experience that will leave your taste buds singing
Step into THE SQUARE at NOVOTEL for an exquisite fine dining experience that will leave your taste buds singing! Citadel reviews the fusion cuisine on offer in the extensive menu at this corporates’ favourite restaurant.
Inundated with the sharp Saturday-noon sunlight flooding i n from t he glass wall at the far left, the highly polished i vory, amber and pine coloured surfaces at The Square, Novotel, glint tantalizingly and bathe the restaurant in a warm, inviting golden glow. Spacious and airy, the all-day dining restaurant at Novotel, Vimannagar, has a sleek and modern décor preferred by most restaurants at corporatefriendly business hotels. Panels of light fixtures hang from t he high ceiling over rectangular tables of varying sizes, which seat two, four and six covers. These are arranged in geometric symmetry t hroughout the wide L-shaped expanse of t he restaurant, except at the very back, where a couple of round tables with semi-circular sofas are placed. It is to one of these cosy alcoves that my friend and I are led on our arrival at The Square, Novotel. Famed for its sumptuous Sunday brunches with inexhaustible arrays of starters, mains and desserts, including live counters for chaat and Italian, The Square is a popular haunt for late-night connoisseurs of food and wine with a discerning palate. Also, the restaurant has been gaining popularity for its special Midnight Menu, available from 11:00 pm to 6:30 am every day. Invited by Novotel to sample a select handful of specials from their eclectic menu, we are ushered in by the restaurant manager, who guides us to our table. On our way, we pass the lunch buffet on display and my eyes are immediately drawn to the vibrant colours of the many salads, the rich browns of creamy curries and the bitesized delights that are my favourite course of any meal – desserts. Stomachs rumbling in happy anticipation, we settle in and are soon joined by Executive Sous Chef Siddhartha Sankar Sarmah, who has curated the dishes for our lunch. A brief introduction reveals that Chef Siddhartha, an IHM Trivandrum alumnus, has only recently joined Novotel, Pune, a couple of months ago. With his passion for modern cooking and vast repertoire of culinary skills, Chef Siddhartha is keen to introduce new items with his signature fusion touch – like a Pineapple and Gooseberry Rasam, which I am keen to sample – to the menu at The Square.
Shortly, a server arrives with our drinks to start off the meal. Served in long thin flutes, the muddy-pink coloured mocktail named Wild Berry is a concoction of black currant syrup, pineapple juice, orange, basil, mint, lime juice and sugar. A tad sweet, but refreshingly acidic, Wild Berry is a good way to start a rich meal. The tanginess from the pineapple, orange and lime juice, combined with the freshness of the mint and basil, activate your taste buds and enhance their sensitivity towards the flavours to come ahead. Fusion food amalgamates different ingredients and textures from across international cuisines to form a flavour combination one would not expect to work, but is surprisingly well matched and makes you say, “Oh, wow!” However, fusion for the sake of fusion must be discouraged, especially when traditional recipes make so much more sense. I prefer my salsa with crisp, herbed tortilla chips, but that is still not what I would order when delicious options like Makai Kurkure and Maan Farang are available on the menu. The next appetizer proffered is Mushroom & Chilli Cappuccino a blend of assorted mushrooms with chilli and cappuccino cream. The umami-flavoured broth is served in a
coffee mug with a side of sliced French bread and is a must-have dish on a rainy day or chilly evening. The rich mushroom-y goodness spreads warmth and contentment through your body, and the bread is perfect to mop it up nicely. Once dipped in the broth and eaten, it gives the same satisfaction as dipping a biscuit into your chai and having it dissolve in your mouth in a delicious mush. The chilli is subtle, presumably to retain the integrity of the mushroom flavour, but some chilli oil on the side would be a thoughtful accompaniment for heat-loving palates. The aroma emanating from the appetizer that follows takes to us to the gritty by-lanes of Old Delhi, where tiny roadside joints serve the most juicy, delectable kebabs. Indeed, the alleys behind the Jama Masjid is where Chef Siddhartha spent months observing and learning the art of making lamb seekh, and this is evident in the dish placed in front of us. The Rogani Seekh Kebab - twice minced tender lamb wrapped around a skewer and cooked in a tandoor, finished with cream and Rogan jus is succulent and more-ish. A standout dish, I would recommend all meat and seekh lovers to taste this. The secret, reveals the chef, is collecting the flavoursome juices that drip while the meat is cooking and making a jus – like
a sauce – from it, which is poured over the kebab before serving. Heavenly! Revelling in the tender, smoky, party-on-the-palate that was the Rogani Seekh, the obligatory vegetarian tandoori preparation that is brought out next serves as a bit of a dampener. The Paneer Tikka Multani, true to its name, is stuffed cottage cheese with Indian spices marinated with mustard oil and cooked in a tandoor. It has extremely subtle flavours, bordering on bland, and is a miss for me. With the starters having done their job of whetting our appetite for the mains to follow, we move on to the first dish of the second course, Peri Peri Paneer Bunny Chow, which is paneer spiced with chilli paste and malt vinegar, served in a crusty hollow bun loaf. Bunny Chow is a South African preparation, which consists of a curry poured into a bun that has been scooped hollow. True to its name, the Peri Peri gravy was tangy, spicy and sour, but balanced by a cream of blended coriander and fried cashews (a useful tip from the chef!). In the presentation aspect of the dish, I would have preferred the bunny chow to arrive with its lid closed. The drama of lifting the cover and seeing the vibrantly coloured gravy inside and cutting through the bread to see the curry ooze out would add to the eating experience. Next, we are served with Bhuna Gosht Shahjahani. This is a dish of braised lamb cooked with browned onions, tomatoes and whole Indian spices. Why the chef chose to serve two lamb dishes in the same meal is a mystery to me, but the curry was wholesome and tasty and the meat quite tender. My excitement rises on seeing the next dish in the main course being brought to our table. Subz Potli - assorted garden vegetables in kadhai masala wrapped in a filo pastry and baked in the oven – is a sensory delight! It is visually stunning with the large potli made of paper-thin pastry sitting on a bed of herbed rice, which is surrounded by creamy makhani gravy. It smells divine, and it is fun to cut into the potli to see the assorted veggies hidden inside. It tastes fantastic too, with the filo pastry melting in your mouth, and the gravy has a nice kick of pepper that lifts the flavour of the entire dish. On hearing about my fondness for Maharastrian cuisine, the chef sends out for a portion of Bharleli Vaangi, or brinjal stuffed with a gravy of crushed roasted peanuts, coconut and coriander, which is as authentic and tasty as the vaangi I’ve eaten at my Maharastrian friends’ homes. It is a nice way to finish
up the mains with a taste other than the typical north Indian tomato basedpreparations. It is a wonder, after devouring all the rich mains, that we still have place for desserts. But, as my jiju says, “Everyone has a separate compartment in their tums for dessert.” The first sweet preparation that is served to us is a decadent Chocolate Fondant with Ice Cream. The rich, dark, molten chocolate gushes out as I cut into the cake, and I am in chocolate heaven. It is a safe and scrumptious choice for chocolate lovers and those who don’t like to experiment with their dessert. To cleanse our palate after the heavy chocolate dessert, the last dish that we are served is Khaike Paan, a deconstructed plate of beetle leaves, gulkand chutney, aniseed mousse, paan masala ice cream and sweet cherries. It is fresh and cool, much needed to provide relief after a rich meal. The aniseed mousse is a special touch, which distinguishes the paan ice-cream dessert here from those served at so many establishments these days. Overall, a satisfyingly toothsome meal with some outstanding dishes, The Square is definitely on my visitagain list. The service is prompt and polite and the prices are consistent with those at other fine dining restaurants in Pune. Vegetarian starters are priced between Rs 300 – 400, non-vegetarian between Rs 400 – 600. Vegetarian mains are priced between Rs 400 – 600, non-vegetarian mains between Rs 500 – 700. Desserts range from Rs 350 – 500. Prices are, naturally, exclusive of government taxes. A big plus point is that the portion sizes are generous and the ambience is peaceful and attractive. The Square is a great place for a business lunch or an indulgent family dinner. Go experiment.
Wild Berry Mocktail & Kulcha-Salsa
Maharashtrian Bharleli Vaangi
Paneer Tikka Multani
Live counters for Chaat and Italian
The ambience at The Square is bright and modern
Peri Peri Paneer Bunny Chow
Executive Sous Chef Siddhartha Sarmah
The Buffet Spread at The Sqaure
Chocolate Fondant with Ice Cream
Bhuna Gosht Shahjahani
Rogani Seekh Kebab
Mushroom & Chilli Cappuccino