Private practice

It's about private passions in public spaces. As top restaurants entice epicureans with an intimate gourmet experience-the reclusively exclusive private dining room-we pick the hosts with the most.

     Print Edition: August 22, 2010

Privacy settings need not restrict themselves to your Facebook account. They can extend to something a little more intimate and a lot more interesting. Like the comfort of enjoying a meal with friends and family in a popular restaurant, but away from the prying eyes of the world. For a long time, a private dining space in a restaurant meant a small alcove with a curtain separating it from the main floor.

Then came the explosion in high-end restaurants, and suddenly, from a state of no privacy, we moved to personalised butlers. Today, a Private Dining Room (PDR) has come to epitomise the equivalent of a Michelinmeal. If you're the host of an exclusive dinner, a blue chip PDR is your greatest weapon. It gives you complete control over the meal, from the music to the menu. A delectable revolution, we celebrate it with some of the best PDRs in the country's top hotels.


DELHI


MY HUMBLE HOUSE

Anything but humble, this award-winning restaurant franchise feeds the eyes as much as the mouth. Diners enjoy panaromic views of the Ridge as they tuck into contemporary Chinese fare at the Chef's Table. The décor at the two PDRs (that can seat upto 20) is minimal, except for the bold Flos chandelier. The menu has been exclusively created by master chef Sam Leong, who was the former director of kitchens at the Singaporebased Tung Lok restaurant group.

The food here has dollops of international flavours that promises a multisensory dining experience. Try the song of the sea-fried prawns glazed with wasabi mayonnaise. Wash it down with a selection of more than 300 different types of wines and spirits. If that doesn't get you in high spirits, nothing else will. ITC Maurya Sheraton Hotel, S.P. Marg. Tel: 011-26112233.

VARQ
Varq is pure gold. Literally. Technically speaking, it refers to the edible gold and silver foil traditionally used to embellish Indian sweets, biryanis and curries. The 14-seater PDR is crafted to look like a jewellery box. Think gold leaf ceilings dripping with bright red pendants. The stark offwhite palette of the table settings is jolted awake by the deep red glasses. Since innovative Indian food is its forte, try the Varqui Crab (layers of crabmeat, tandoori shrimp in crisp filo sheet or the gucchi aur khumb (a trio of morels, portobello and button mushrooms), or relish the masala tea crème brule. But the best thing about Varq is that it can customise almost anything for you-from special menu folders to creating drinks named after you. Go for gold. Taj Mahal Hotel 1, Mansingh Road. Tel: 011-66513151.

SET'Z
Previously known as Zest, Delhi's current fave dining destination goes by a new name: Set'z. Designed by the Japanese interior designfirm, Super Potatoes, the restaurant is always buzzing with the capital's scenesters. The spartan PDR is a safe bet to enjoy a meal in an intimate setting, away from the prowling eyes of other pretty people. But book well in advance. Enjoy the treats dished out by 20 expat chefs working their magic across seven cuisines-European, Coastal Indian, Thai, Arabic, northern Indian, Chinese and Japanese. Head for dinner, drinks and dolce. Don't leave without visiting the restroom. It'll make you come back for more. Try it. DLF Emporio Mall, Nelson Mandela Marg, Vasant Kunj. Tel: 011-43119900.

CHINA KITCHEN
In a city brimming with Pinese (Punjabi+Chinese), China Kitchen's Szechuan fare is divine intervention. The restaurant is so obsessed with authenticity that even the tiles and wood used in its construction have come from China. The PDR here is intimate and even has an iPod dock for you to play your own tunes. The chef often comes over to the table to describe the process and ingredients that go into the dishes you've ordered. The staff is unobtrusive so you'll be left at peace to let the panfried pork and chives dumpling and Peking duck melt in your mouth. Hyatt Regency, Bhikaiji Cama Place. Tel: 011- 66771334.

THREESIXTY
This is the restaurant where the see-and-be-seen-set head out for sushi and some serious staring down at the table next to you. Long before world cuisine was lost in translation and later entrants like Wasabi turned up in Delhi, threesixty was the one that first got the unimaginative Delhi palate salivating over its Yakitori grill. But for those who prefer easy over the exotic, the tandoor and the wood-fired oven provide comfort food.

A high pivoting etched glass door leads to the PDR, which has a glass perimetre surrounded by high timber louvers that are supremely pleasing on the eye. It's definitely one of the larger PDRs around, seating upto 22 people. But it is private enough to host the capital's real movers and shakers-suave young politicos celebrating an election victory to consummate sommeliers hosting soirées. Oberoi, Dr Zakir Hussain Marg. Tel: 011-24363030.

SENATE
As private dining rooms go, you will be hard put to find something this sumptuous. But then, the Senate Executive Lounge at Claridges is not just another PDR, it's an entire experience. For it includes a bar that serves rare whiskies, a cigar corner, a lounge, a boardroom, and, of course, the private dining area. The wood-panelled, book-lined space is the epitome of elegance.

The sheer size of the space allows you to host small gatherings here, for which the hotel provides fully customisable menus. The secret to this is that the PDR isn't really a part of any one restaurant at the Claridges, and can therefore freely draw upon the menus of the hotel's other restaurants. Claridges, 12 Aurangzeb Road. Tel: 011-39555000.


MUMBAI


WASABI BY MORIMOTO

Recently restored, Wasabi by celebrated chef Morimoto is touted as the best Japanese restaurant in the country. The entrance is via the newly-installed elevator or the folding staircase from the Harbour Bar, which entails a red carpet entry to the restaurant.

The 10-seater PDR, Tatami Room, has a bold, sculptural table complemented by an over-scale customhammered metal light fixture. Wasabi offers a variety of Japanese delicacies with an array of sakes and mouthwatering sushi and sashimi. Several new dishes, including enoki tempura and shimaji mushroom have been added to the menu. Executive chef Hemant Oberoi has regaled diners with treats like sea bass carpaccio, and Kobe (a traditional Japanese dish made with beef).

In addition to Tatami Room, the Taj also has Chef's Studio, an exclusive byappointment dining venue in the Heritage wing. The multi-cuisine meal has no fixed menu but the chef's on hand to guide the guests. But if it's a romantic tete-a-tete you seek, check out the hotel's third PDR, Casablanca in Souk, with its table for two overlooking the harbour. Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Apollo Bunder, Colaba. Tel: 022-66653366.

BOTTICINO
This is where you need to come if you want to listen in on the few dozen deals being sealed at the next table. The new Trident is located near a handful of banks as well as the diamond bourse (Bandra Kurla Complex). With an intention of being a luxury business hotel, most of the restaurants at this Trident have PDRs, but the most favoured one is the Volare at Botticino, the authentic Italian restaurant. Ten guests can sit in this PDR, which offers guests personalised menus using classic Italian recipes originating from Piedmont, Lombardy and Tuscany. The quick, fuss-free menu and luncheon options make Volare a very delightful venue for business receptions. Buon appetito. Oberoi Trident, Nariman Point. Tel: 022-66324343.


KOLKATA


TEA PAVILION

If you want to steal a quiet moment, the Tea Pavilion can be your getaway. Each of these three pavilions (accommodating about four couples each) has low Oriental-style seating that lets you loll in luxe. As you sip tea or mull over wine in the evenings, the sound of rippling water and the fragrance of wild flowers wafts in. Tea Pavilion has no speciality menu of its own but guests can make use of the butler-service and order from any of the hotel's restaurants. Enjoy barah kebab from Peshawari, black rock grill from West View or Mongolian delicacies from Pan Asian. As for tea, take your pick of brews from Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgiri and the Dooars. The only hitch? You have to be a guest at the hotel to be able to enjoy this experience. ITC Sonar, JBS Haldane Avenue. Tel 033-23454545.

ZEN
Voted as one of Asia's top 20 restaurants by the Miele Guide in 2009, Zen is among the most popular restaurants at The Park. The all-open kitchen with a white marble bar counter is the centrestage of this cooking theatre. This is where Chinese, Japanese and Thai chefs put up a culinary performance for guests. The PDR is separated by a black and gold Chinese patterned silk partition. Try the Wok toss ginger flavour tofu bell pepper and black fungus or steam whole river bekti with chilli lemon sauce and green tea tiramisu. The Park, 17 Park Street. Tel: 033-22499000.

SOUK
True to its name, a chaotic mélange of Middle Eastern cuisines marks the menu of Souk. Away from the hustle-bustle of the glitzy restaurant, a raw cement floating staircase leads to Casablanca, the private dining space. Lit up with a majestic chandelier and mirrors, the dramatic décor sort of prepares you for the Mediterranean feast ahead. Sample authentic humus, felafel, pastries from Lebanon, pancakes from Tripoli and Qahwa Arabic coffee. Or take the help of the master chef at the Chef's Studio who will not only discuss the preparation process and culinary content of a dish, but also help you decide on your order. Taj Bengal, 34B, Belvedere Road, Alipore. Tel: 033-22233939.


BANGALORE


WEST VIEW

An elegant dining arrangement at West View's eightseater PDR guarantees an impressive, unparalleled service. Personalised meals at this world cuisine restaurant are specifically designed to cater to business receptions. This is an all-woman managed restaurant and so the main draw here is the interaction with the grill master and the Girls at the Grills theme that creates a bespoke experience for the host and the guests. The eatery offers succulent meats and scintillating treasures from the Indian Ocean cooked to perfection. The main attraction is the volcanic rock that comes to your table at 300 degrees Celsius. Sizzling. ITC Royal Gardenia, 1, Residency Road. Tel: 080-22119898.

MEMORIES OF CHINA
Gracious hospitality and delicious food is what sets Memories of China apart from the rest. The PDR here is cosy and intimate as guests get to enjoy a gastronomic odyssey of sorts. Choose from an array of special set menus and relish Szechwan delicacies like Peking duck, clay pot rice, Singapore chilly crab and shitake mushrooms fresh from the woks of master chefs. From wines to single malts, your poison of choice will be served in the PDR by staff trained to cater to your whim list. Taj Residency, M.G. Road. Tel: 080-66604444.

TERRACOTTA
There's hardly anything earthy about this glamouroom, apart of course, from its name, but this contemporary Indian restaurant brings alive traditional Indian flavours with a twist. Slide into the comfortable six-seater PDR beyond as master chefs work up the stations to stir up some of the finest North West Frontier cuisine, tempting the palate with culinary delights from the rich land of the Afghans to the glorious old Indian provinces of Punjab, Sind, Lahore, Peshawar and presentday Kashmir.

Indian breads grilled on an open fire vie with oven-cooked vegetables, stir-fried preparations fight for attention as Indian curries bring to the senses the nostalgia of Indian home-cooked food. And as a final flourish, choose from a selection of delectable desserts to end any meal with the sense of sweet satisfaction. Vivanta by Taj, Whitefield, Bangalore. Tel: 080-66933333.

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