Critiquing sorry ‘discussing’ good food has now become more than just a passion, it is bordering on an obsession. I have gone from ‘maven’ to ‘annoying’ because everywhere I go, no matter who I go with, my eyes and my mind are hovering over the meal for the day. Luckily for me, my friends either serve amazing food or order from amazing places and secretly (well, now not so secretly) I like to believe it’s because I am there for the meal. I know that sounds a tad self absorbed but then again most real foodies are, they consider themselves authorities and at some level their obsession qualifies them as ‘authorities’! So in that capacity, I think I can safely and loudly say, my brunch invite last weekend was incredible. We were at Cafe on 3 at DoubleTree by Hilton in Mayur Vihar, this lovable, motley group we have, sans a few! And what struck me when I first walked out and saw the infinity pool was the old Indian analogy of a ‘lotus growing out of sludge’, bang in the middle of where the Yamuna once flowed, where now only barren and concrete exist, stands the DoubleTree, like a breath of fresh air. Float up to the third floor and you feel like you’re miles away, away from all that is urban and bang in the centre of all that is pretty and delicious!
So I must reiterate that around 30% of the experience (for me at least) is the ambience. It’s true, if I am comfy and the restaurant is pretty with some alfresco thrown in, I will pay less attention to the nuances I carry with me, nuances about food, service, interiors and the like. Cafe on 3 took care of all my requirements when it came to a complete experience. They had a few counters by the pool, the appam and stew which were amazing, I also got a quick masterclass from the Chef on how to get Appam’s to peel off the mini wok with very little oil. The trick is to moisten the wok with a quick and light spray of water, after greasing and then covering it for the Appam/Hopper to cook in steam more than fry in oil (like a dosa would!). The Shawarma or Doner Kebab by the pool was what we in Delhi expect a Shawarma to be, ideally the real thing would have the zing of cumin, the tang of yoghurt and the fragrance of allspice. I loved the idea of grilling alfresco and chose to have squid, prawns and aubergines, all of my favourite grills, all of which were very well made. The brunch buffet was now off to a great start. The April sun was beating down on us and we were happy to be seated indoors, captivated by Caucasian people lathered in oil and roasting themselves by the pool, wondering how long it would take for them to turn red!! But you know when you see people having fun, it kind of makes you have a little extra fun yourself!
Moving on to the buffet spread indoors, I didn’t know how deeply this was going to affect me because as always I veered to the continental section first. Firstly, the salads were amazing, the dressings were from scratch and not one synthetic flavour was found and I am thrilled to report that! The grilled fish with caper butter sauce, the pan seared tenderloin with thyme jus and the braised lamb shanks were all excellent, yes each one! The meats were cooked just right and the accompanying sauces/gravies were delicious. I wish I had space to fit just a little bit more, for now, I have to plan another jaunt to Mayur Vihar! The Oriental was fashioned for the city it was being served in, which I understand but don’t always enjoy, however the chicken in burnt chilli sauce had a lovely burnt chilli flavour. It is when I went to try the Indian food that I felt completely overwhelmed by the day’s meal. I started with the Alleppey Fish and it struck me so hard that I regretted everything I had filled myself with! The dish was perfect, in every sense and that is pretty hard to do in a buffet, sheer volume doesn’t always allow a chef to be this precise and this cued in. It brought back memories, it made me reminiscent, it made me so so happy! The Baigan masala reminded me of my mom, an accomplished cook, the dal lahsuni had the flavour of real, peeled garlic and not the garbage you get in packs. So no matter how much of an authority I think I am, this kind of Indian food always humbles me. This was one kitchen that knew what it was doing!
We were lucky to meet Chef Thapa, I couldn’t stop raving about the appam and the fish, I tried that combination even though the stew was so perfect and so wholesome, with bursts of coconut (real grated coconut) and subtle sweetness that every ‘ishtew’ should have! We spent some time with the kitchen staff and I always feel very lucky when I get to do that, it’s like being in the presence of idols you didn’t know you have. We completed the meal an assortment of desserts, out of the 10 they served (yes 10!!), I personally loved the vanilla pannacotta, the mango mascarpone cream (you can never go wrong with mascarpone) and the chocolate mousse. The day ended hours after it began, with great company, great food, great coffee and banter that touched on subjects we as a group had never discussed before. Very refreshing! So, for a mere Rs. 1100 with taxes, this is one brunch that will make your Sunday seem long and lovely, go ahead and treat yourself because here it will be worth it!