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.

Citadel - - CONTENTS - BY NIDHI ME­HTA nidhi.ci­tadel@gmail.com

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.

The Buf­fet Spread at The Sqaure

Ex­ec­u­tive Sous Chef Sid­dhartha Sarmah

The am­bi­ence at The Square is bright and modern

Peri Peri Pa­neer Bunny Chow

Pa­neer Tikka Mul­tani

Live counters for Chaat and Ital­ian

Wild Berry Mock­tail & Kulcha-Salsa

Ma­ha­rash­trian Bharleli Vaangi

Subz Potli

Cho­co­late Fon­dant with Ice Cream

Bhuna Gosht Shah­ja­hani

Ro­gani Seekh Ke­bab

Khaike Paan

Mush­room & Chilli Cap­puc­cino

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