For my trip to Chennai as part of the promotional rounds for The Reluctant Detective, I wanted to meet up with all my blogging pals, some of whom I’d known for years and felt like sisters under the skin and some of whom I’d recently met on twitter and wanted to get to know better.
The Hilton in Chennai very graciously offered to host us at dinner at their fabulous new Indian restaurant, Ayna, given that it was Women’s Day and it was a group of women bloggers I had in mind.
I reached the venue with Itchy and felt like I had wandered into Alladin’s palace or some such wonder of ancient times, not in terms of antiquity of course, but purely in terms of opulence. The restaurant is exquisitely done up, with carved mirrors, rich wood patterns, wall murals resembling the eye of the peacock, lavish use of mirrored surfaces, chandeliers, deep rich tones, tastefully placed artefacts and topped with a splash of modern furniture so as to balance the look.
After we had placed our jaws back into place, we were settled into a lovely sofa, enclosed by two glazed panels which lent the table privacy and intimacy.
We settled down for a bit, and then decided to move to a bigger table given that the party was growing, so we shifted to this beautiful reserved enclosed dining space, which seated twelve.
At the table were me, of course, Riti of Itchingtowriteblogs, Preeti of KennyBunkPortMaine, Aparna of womensweb.in, Lavanya of lavanyad, Rashi urff Mirazcle, Aarti also known as Aaroo4, Lavanya Mohan or lavsmohan and Jayanthi from my publishers, Westland. As with every event, there were some dropouts last minute and I’m sorry I couldn’t meet them.
Executive Sous Chef Neeraj Rawoot came in to meet us and give us some inkling of what they had in store for us with their painstakingly planned special menu for us. We started off with the appetizers. For the non vegetarians, we have a delish skewer of Malwani jhinga, murg tulsi tikka (which was delicately flavoured and cooked to the right level of tenderness) and Erachi thenga Ulurathiyathu which were mutton cubes, with coconut onion and green chillies.
The vegetarians and the non vegetarians got the most delish vegetarian chop which sounded ostensibly simple, just crumb fried patties with beetroot and nut but was the most divine thing ever tasted.
We followed this with a main course of Goan fish curry, the masala ground to the right degree of smoothness and kosha mangsho from Bengal, which was mutton cubes cooked in a traditional gravy. Now the thing about eating restaurant food, and especially five star restaurant food is that there is a kind of taste of homecooked food that doesn’t come through, but with both these dishes, I found that I could be eating this at a Bengali friend’s home or at a shack in Goa. There was Hyderabadi Gosht Biryani on offer but I was so stuffed, I skipped it with much regret and disbelief that I was actually turning down an opportunity to have biryani.
The dessert, which of course, I didn’t turn down was the most sinful plate of malpua, cheena payesh and santare ki kulfi. Which I did full justice to. I was this close to needing to be wheeled out of the premises thanks to the indolence that sets in after a really indulgent meal.
A lovely evening was had. I shall, as the axiom goes, diet another day.