There was once a weary worker who toiled six days a week and decided to take it easy on the seventh day, like the good Lord had once suggested. She decided to head to that one place in Mumbai where she could be sure of some TLC and good food in abundance, at that time of the day when the sun is high in the sky, shadows the shortest and her belly rumbling with hunger.
She was not let down. At the Pondicherry Café in Hotel Sofitel BKC, she found the two things she was looking forward to for her Sunday brunch – good, nay exceptional, service and a delightful view of never-ending food counters as far as her eye could see across the length and breadth of the restaurant. Hallelujah, the Lord had heard her prayers and rewarded her for her labors of the week past and blessed her endeavors for the week ahead!
There were other additional strokes of good luck too – like the well appointed, separate section for children. Here the little ones could gambol on a play mat, test their sporting skills with an X-box or at a foosball table, replicate the moves of a grandmaster on the chessboard or make face masks and cards under the watchful eye of a helpful attendant specially assigned for these activities. So here was a restaurant that had hit upon a great way to ensure parents have leisurely fun at the brunch without feeling guilty about their kids getting bored. The kids section even had a separate food counter with pizza, pasta and French fries for the kids!
But let’s return to the popular Sunday brunch at Pondicherry Café. When you enter the restaurant you encounter a DIY sangria bar. We decided not to test our cocktail mixing skills and let the polite server work his magic. Sadly the sangrias lacked punch – either the wine used wasn’t too robust or not enough wine was poured into the drink. So we decided to stick to beer and white wine. Another good thing about the Sunday brunch is the unlimited beverages included if you choose to go for the brunch option with alcohol (2600++). With a choice of Sula wines, champagne, beers (Indian and foreign), martinis, sangrias, etc – this is not a bad deal at all.
The next thing you see as you progress further into Pondicherry Café is the live counter where the chef will happily grill you some scallops, prawns, fish fillets or meat of your choice and have it sent to your table. And then there are the sausages. Unlike their puny counterparts found in other restaurants, here you can choose from chicken and pork sausages that are really big, juicy and literally bulging at the seams; sausages that will make any German frau worth her Bratwürste clap her hands in glee. Sofitel takes great pride in the fact that all their sausages are made in-house; after biting into the sausage, you can vouch for this pride not being misplaced.
Another fact that the Pondicherry Café is proud about is the spread of 250 dishes on its menu. It almost looks like a mirage and one needs a good half hour to pore over the dishes available and then decide which ones to go for. So even if you opt to go for the non-alcoholic brunch option, you get your money’s worth, given that the brunch covers Indian, Mediterranean, South Asian and Continental cuisine.
We began our brunch with some freshly prepared Sushi and Chirashi made per our preferences. The sushi was a mite dry, but the chirashi was tasty with the tang of vinegar hitting the spot. The bowl in which it was served, though, made scooping it out without making a mess a bit of a challenge. The Stir Fried Buckwheat Noodles with the seafood of our choice was perfectly spiced and so delicious that we went back for another helping. Of course this also meant that our stomach started giving us warning signs of a system overload, but hey, with so many dishes to still go through, who was listening?
While waiting for our systems to suppress the internal mutiny, we sipped on some Mango and Litchi shooters and toyed with some grilled scallops, prawns and a piece of Bharwan Aloo. We then went back for some Smoked salmon, glazed Prime rib and even some Dabeli. We decided to check out the terrine counter and found the seafood terrine dry while the chicken version was prepared well.
That’s when our stomachs violently protested and we decided to pay heed.
We headed to the dessert counter, which had a good mix of Indian sweets like gaajar ka halwa, kaju katli, rasgulla, as well as their international peers like madelines, macaroons, tarts, pralines, cheesecakes, mousse, and what have you. The star of the section was a huge Black Forest Cake made with German Kirschwasser – liquor distilled from tart cherries. It made our eyes pop out and our mouths make gurgling sounds after a bite. Needless to say, this is one dessert on the counter that is strictly off limits for kids!
Some things about the Sunday brunch at Pondicherry Café that however struck us as curious is the layout of the fare. The bread counter is placed at one corner of the dessert section where it’s easy to be missed. Of course the restaurant has come up with a remedy for this by placing a basket of most of the bread from the counter on every table for the guests to choose from. The salad bar too rather than being closer to the entrance where people can chance upon it, is situated at the extreme end of the food counters – again a very easy to miss location, which probably explained why we initially wondered why the brunch did not feature any salad. We even missed the Mohammed Ali inspired counter with keema pav in the main section because it was squashed between the Indian food dishes and the grilling hot station.
Also, while having 250 dishes on your brunch is quite a commendable feat, it can also be confusing for the guest who sees waves of food spread all over the place and leaves him or her a ‘lil spoiled for choice. We personally felt that having fewer dishes would be preferable because just the sight of so much food can sometimes send your appetite packing off for good.
So the next time we visit Pondicherry Café we will ensure that we are hungry enough to do justice to this spread. We will cajole our stomachs into submission even before we step into this mecca of good food where a good time is definitely guaranteed.