Remember my review of Ottimo Cucina? Well, after the initial couple of restaurants, several more were opened specializing in a variety of different cuisines like Peshawari (Rajasthani), Royal Vega (Vegetarian), Madras Pavilion (Tamil) etc. One of it is Café Mercara Express and I got to try out their new menu and here’s, as usual, a vegetarian’s view of the food!
To begin with, I was impressed that almost half the menu was vegetarian. Their tagline is ‘Carefully Selected and Mindfully Prepared’ which is common for all restaurants across all ITCs. Going by that, the first drinks placed in front of me were called the ‘Morning Energizers’ from the Pavilion Pure Juicery – Detoxifier, Refresher and Cleanser. The yummiest of them was the Detoxifier with a fruit, vegetable and spice mix of Apple, Carrot and Ginger. A unique effort they’re working on is to use ‘locally sourced ingredients’ and ‘forgotten seeds’ like Amaranth, Jowar, Ragi etc. These drinks (and many more dishes) have their own share of forgotten seeds!
Next thing in the plate was just too divine, my most favorite from the whole menu - Tulsi Seed and Indian Summer Fruit Muesli. It was so yummy and so filling, that I’d have this for breakfast any day or even everyday! If you’re an Indian, esp a South Indian, you’d know the importance of Tulsi in our tradition. I love to eat tulsi leaves and almost everyday when walking across the tulsi plant in my garden I eat a couple leaves. I do add some Tulsi leaves along with Mint and Coriander when I make pasta and I love that taste.
That said, I’ve never seen Tulsi used in mainstream restaurant dishes and I was pleasantly surprised to see that this is not the only dish that uses Tulsi in this menu! Also available are a range of yoghurt smoothies as well as cereals served even with soy milk if you’re not into diary. Breakfast menu ofcourse include the typical North Indian & South Indian dishes incl. poori bhaji, aloo paratha, idli, vada, dosa, idiappam etc.
Next was the starter round with crusty bread and a green colored dip, they called Green Goddess - you should have guessed it by now - yeah, Tulsi! A creamy pesto with Tulsi??!!! You got me there!!! Next was something I totally loved - Carrot and Coconut Puree with basil croutons and paper-thin sliced carrots!!! People who know me personally know that I’m a coffee addict and that’s effectively stopping me from becoming a vegan, though I try my best to control my diary intake as much as possible. So, when a soup came in, diary-free, I was very much impressed. With so many people being more and more conscious about the ingredients in their food and having an option for lactose-intolerant people, this is a good concept. Not just the concept, the actual dish you just too yummy!!!
This was followed by the salad round with Burrata and Beet! More than anything else, the presentation in this was impeccable. I was rather questioning about the dish in the centre. It looked so much like egg. After trying to analyze it, I asked and I was told it’s a Burrata which is a combination of Goats Cheese and Cream!!! Hmmm… Interesting… But guess what, it did not feel cheesy at all when eating it… Pickled beetroots, citrus-y peeled oranges and pepper coulis were perfect accompaniments! Another interesting starter was the diary-free Silken Tofu and Miso. I haven’t tried it though.
Next was the round of Appetizer with Vazhaipoo Cutlet and Quinoa Shakarkandi Kebab. The Vazhaipoo Cutlet is from the range called ‘Local Love’ which celebrates the ingredients and tastes of the location where the particular ITC is located. Banana and Tamilnadu is extremely intertwined, right from eating on banana leaf to gifting ripe bananas on any celebration to using every part of the tree in the cuisine!!! A cutlet made of banana flower??!!! That pays its tribute to Tamil cuisine! Quinoa and Sweet Potato combo from its range called ‘Kitchens of India’, was definitely a win. I liked! Ofcourse, the menu has a range of burgers and wraps.
Next was the mains from ‘World Kitchen’ range called the Brie en Croute. The chef called it a ‘Soul Food’ and I’m not denying at all!!! It was a cheesy goodness!!! It was very cheesy and I could feel the cheese all over my palate unlike Burata! The way it was packed inside a twisted & knotted pastry puff layer, was a visual delight!
The maincourse is in 4 sections - the ‘Local Love’ range is a proper traditional range with Urulaichery (potatoes in coconut cream), Tomato Pappu (lentils), etc with Kerala Red Rice, Bisi bele bath, Malabar Paratha, Idiyappam etc; the ‘Kitchens of India’ range with the authentic Mughalai and Punjabi dishes incl Subz Dum Biriyani, Paneer Tikka, Naan etc; the ‘Express Wok’ range with a few Chinese inspired dishes; the ‘World Kitchen’ range that has dishes inspired from English, French, Italian and Mediterranean Cuisine.
The dessert was mostly Indian mithai like Palkova, Falooda, Halwa etc in the vegetarian side. Being a veggie, I’m also a foodie who loves desserts a lot. I’d love to see some interesting baked goodness in the menu which are eggless! Sad, that’s its already not there in the menu…
Located in the ground floor, very close to the Madras Pavilion, it was a small restaurant. I felt the place was a wee bit cramped for the number of chairs. The service was impeccable. Esp when the servers, keep replacing the spoons & forks after every course, that tells about how quick and efficient the service is. As a vegetarian, except for the dessert part, I was completely satisfied with the range! Located inside ITC Grand Chola, a luxury hotel, ofcourse, the prices are in the higher side. A 3-course meal for 2 persons works out approximately at Rs.5000/-.
To Get There:
Refer to my post on the launch of ITC Grand Chola
Table Reservation: Ph:- +91 44 2220 0000
P.S: I was invited by ITC Grand Chola to try out the new menu at Cafe Mercara Express for review purpose, however the opinions are my own and this post does not to advertise the product/service.