The Wild Brunch

With several restaurants across our metros warming up to the concept of brunch, Sunday afternoons are never going to be the same.
Sourish Bhattacharyya        Print Edition: Aug 17, 2014
Olive Bar & Kitchen, Mumbai
Olive Bar & Kitchen, Mumbai

We have become used to a brunch philosophy that deifies excess. Even the central idea of a brunch, which is an extended breakfast, has been re-defined to mean an endless, excessive lunch.

Just about everything a hotel or a restaurant has to offer is laid out on buffet counters for guests to tuck into, with endless accompanying pours of bubbly and martinis, the dishes getting replenished as they get consumed. It's almost like an industrial assembly line, though no one minds, because all of us believe we are getting our money's worth. But are we?

Ask people in the food and beverage business and they'll say brunches are designed keeping in mind the limitations of the human appetite. It is not possible for regular people, unless they have unimaginably stretchable stomachs, to digest more than 250-450 gm of food per meal.

The 'industrial brunch', therefore, lets you delude yourself into thinking that you have endless choices, although you eat only what you would normally do and pay as you would for a regular meal on any other day that you choose to patronise the establishment.

Fortunately for the dining public, restaurants across cities are moving away from the predictable, and pumping new life into a Sunday habit that is getting hugely popular in the metropolitan cities.

OLIVE BAR & KITCHEN, Mumbai

I can't think of a more romantic setting for a laidback Sunday brunch that does justice to the grand vision of Guy Beringer, who recommended it as an antidote to Sunday morning hangovers in his 1895 essay, Brunch: A Plea.

Olive Bar & Kitchen, Mumbai
Located in the serene, leafy expanse of the Amateur Riders Club at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse, the restaurant seems straight out of the Italian countryside. And you get to spend an afternoon next to a stable of purebred horses. Complement the rustic look with the sense of mystery and anticipation that a pop-up restaurant brings to a venue.

For some time, Olive Mahalaxmi has been playing host to the food and charms of Goa's Greek taverna, Thalassa, with owner-chef Mariketty Grana lavishing on Mumbai her brand of "cooking with love". The lure of freshly baked pita bread, moussaka and tender roast lamb made Olive Mahalaxmi the go-to place for every bon vivant who either lives in Mumbai, or passes by.

Come August, the vacuum left by Thalassa will be filled up by Olive founder-partner A D Singh's youngest brainchild, Guppy by Ai, the Japanese restaurant that has wowed Delhi with its California rolls, signature pork belly and wild mushroom gyoza. These temptresses will ensure Olive Mahalaxmi's tables are cleaned up by brunchaholics almost as soon as they are replenished. Dig in!

WHERE: Amateur Riders Club, Mahalaxmi Race Course, Mumbai
WHEN: 12 noon to 4 pm
PER PERSON: Rs 1,850 (with alcohol)
CALL: (022) 33487711

INDIGO, Mumbai

You can't talk about Sunday brunches and not mention Indigo, the original purveyor of the idea about a dozen years ago. Yes, it's a chafing dish brunch, so you may wonder what makes it special. But then, it has atmosphere (who can beat Indigo's ambience and the charm of a live jazz band), it has class (unlimited pours of Billecart-Salmon champagne and not your everyday supermarket brand), and it offers variety (the small plates and bowls keep changing every Sunday and the entrees are cooked a la minute).

Indigo
The dishes are not your usual brunch kind, though you can't miss the eggs benedict or the long-time favourite - Create Your Own Omelette!

My favourites among the entrees: seared mushrooms, spinach and gruyere lasagne with charred tomato sauce; risotto with prawns, squids and mussel with olive tapenade; smoked scarmoza, pinenut and sun-dried tomato ravioli with chive cream and braised greens; and chili and garlic linguini with leeks, fennel and capers.

Sadly, you can only have one, but no such portion control applies to the grills, so go for the cracked cumin rubbed grilled chicken, peppered minute steak with or without fried egg, or cilantro rubbed king prawns with wasabi dressing. It's impossible to have a disappointing Sunday at Indigo.

WHERE: 4, Mandlik Road, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai
WHEN: 12 noon to 4 pm
PER PERSON: Rs 2,100 (with alcohol)
CALL: (022) 66368981/80/99

CHEZ NINI, Delhi

Chez Nini's Sunday brunch goes against the paisa vasool mindset by letting each guest order one dish at a time from the menu of the day. It means you can have an endless a la carte meal delivered at your table, washed down with the abundance of sangrias and smoothies, spiked with dates and honey.

Chez Nini
Feel a little too lazy? Awaken yourself with the aroma of the Blue Tokai coffee blend from Coorg, roasted exclusively for the French and fashionable Chez Nini. As your red wine sangria gives you an early afternoon alcohol rush, ask for the watermelon salad, loaded with creamy feta and grated hazelnuts, before moving on to the French onion soup that comes with a blob of Himalayan gouda sitting on a crispy toast.

Want more? Call for the soft poached eggs served on a bed of sauteed spinach, bay leaf foam and crispy onion. The portions are generous. With your hunger temporarily assuaged but not your curiosity, order the eggs benedict that come on gluten-free brioche, generously lashed with hollandaise and accompanied by seared slices of pork belly (divine!). Or go for the rosemary pumpkin pasta au gratin, which is a tribute to the umami powers of parmesan. Or, better still, settle for my favourite: fish burger served on a multi-grain sourdough bun with okra fries, tartare sauce and salsa verde.

Each dish comes with a twist, on wooden platters in diverse shapes, cooked a la minute and served at carefully calibrated intervals.

WHERE: 79 & 80, Meher Chand Market, Lodi Colony, New Delhi
WHEN: 11.30 am to 4 pm
PER PERSON: Rs 2,500 (with unlimited cocktails)
CALL: (91) 9650257451

DIVA KITSCH, Delhi

Everyone loves eggs benedict, but what if the hollandaise comes spiked with penang curry? That's the Diva Kitsch touch to the Sunday brunch.

Diva Kitsch
It's different because it doesn't complicate life, and comes with an assured supply of endless prosecco. Let the Italian bubbles tease your palate and build up anticipation as you await the steady procession of dim sums being directed towards your table - my favourites are the ones with Chinese greens and water chestnuts, wild mushrooms, chilli pork and the heavenly five-spice beef.

After you've had your fill of dim sums, you are invited to choose one of the many mains listed out on the page-long menu. Eggs benedict apart, you could opt for the breakfast platter with three eggs cooked in three different ways, or look at life beyond eggs - check out the flavourful udon noodles and laksa curry, or the pumpkin water chestnut and litchi curry with unpolished rice (believe me, you'll love it!), or the spice chicken roulade served with sake-drunk noodles, or the Asian-style beef topped with a fried egg, served (here's the twist) on a flaky Malabar parantha.

The dessert platter is a temptress and, like everything else, comes with a twist. Anyone up for some jaggery creme brulee? You can get it only at Diva Kitsch!

WHERE: D-17, First Floor, Defence Colony, New Delhi
WHEN: 12 noon to 4 pm
PER PERSON: Rs 1,850 (with alcohol)
CALL: (011) 40648861

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