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The fashionable Sunday brunch

Anoothi Vishal | February 02, 2006

The Claridges, that charming Lutyens bungalow-turned-hotel, has repositioned itself. No more is it to be known as a shaadi hotel.

Instead, the property is ready to attract a smarter, 'high-end' clientele. As we sit sunning ourselves in the pretty front lawns, ready to partake of a leisurely Sunday brunch, the new guests are already very much in evidence. 

Groups of expats, embassy staff from the neighbourhood, we're told, have turned up in good numbers, children and families in tow, all fascinated as the rewari man displays his craft and the gurwallah stirs some nuts into his gooey mix.

Then, of course, there are the well-heeled Dilliwallahs, corporate types, old-money types, and those in-between, sipping their wines, conversing over grills and cold cuts, amused at the sundry 'ethnic' distractions on offer.

In the dining capitals of the world, the Sunday brunch is often regarded as an awfully fashionable and decadent activity. Party hard on a Saturday night, wake up the following noon and head straight for the beer and buffet, er, Bloody Mary and buffet, no, champagne and buffet, you get the drift, and lounge in the company of friends and family till sundown. 

Five-star hotels across the country have been promoting this culture for several years now, with the result that Sunday brunches at some places have been raised to the level of institutions -- at the posh La Piazza, Hyatt Delhi, for instance, or at the Leela's Citrus in Bangalore, or then again at Indigo in Mumbai, where you get a chance to rub shoulders with some of the hottest Bollywood stars. 

But what this winter has marked in particular is the fact the brunch has become bigger than ever before. It is no longer some exclusive five-star that is dishing it out. Instead, so popular has the brunch become that almost any restaurant wanting to be 'with it' has put it on the agenda.

For the restaurants, obviously, it is a big money-spinner. Friday and Saturday nights were traditionally regarded as the busiest nights for F&B people. No longer so. With consumption patterns changing and urban metro-ites willing to lap up entertainment packaged in innovative ways, the race is always to come up with ideas that will sell traditionally lean slots in newer ways. The Sunday brunch fits in perfectly, involving the entire family on a day most people like to reserve for the home.

Besides, as Shilpa Gupta, partner, Thai Wok, one of the first stand-alone restaurants in Delhi to flag off the concept two years ago, says, "It is a good idea because the buffet allows restaurants to showcase their menu and people may later order a particular dish a la carte because they liked it then."

Ironically, Thai Wok has stopped doing brunches, reserving its glorious Qutab Minar-overlooking terrace for private parties. But other people have latched on to the idea.

At The Claridges, for instance, the brunch is priced at Rs 1,200 per person and includes a lavish spread plus unlimited drinks (alcoholic and otherwise).

The highlight is the live grills section with a huge variety of seafood as well as a desserts section where the chef will prepare your soufflé in front of you. Pasta, organic salads, an Indian section, and, yes, the newly-introduced gurwalla and rewari/ gazak-makers brought in from the Meerut-belt complete the show. 

One of the best bets, if you are in Delhi, is to go to the Italian restaurant Tonino in Gurgaon, frequented, once again, by a smart embassy/ MNCs set. The buffet is spread out on the lovely terrace and a live two-piece band plays along.

There's a huge and excellent spread -- cold cuts, salads, soups, live pasta and pizza counters -- the last comprising a wood-fired oven. Depending on what you are drinking, juice or sparkling wine, the price ranges from Rs 875 to Rs 1,050 per person.

The other place, and considerably cheaper, to go to for a brunch is Q'ba in Connaught Place. Once again, organised on the terrace, the spread comprises barbecue, salads, breads, a main course and dessert as well a beverage for Rs 395 per head. A small 'bazaar' is also put up if you fancy buying anything from candles to massage oils, while you are eating.

In Mumbai, apart from Indigo (jazz and rock-n-roll are also on the menu as well as some dancing) that holds its brunches in its verandah for Rs 950 plus tax per person, the other new standalone to introduce this is Zenzi. A dim sums and tea specials this, quite like the high-powered Taipan at the Delhi Oberoi whose dim sum trolleys are legendary.

In fact, even conservative Chennai is experimenting with getting up -- and breakfasting -- late. Hotels like the Park and the Taj have their own versions of the brunch, albeit more for the tourists.

In Delhi, hotels like the Jaypee Vasant Continental and MBD Radisson in Noida have also joined the bandwagon, the brunches enjoying considerable popularity for a while now.

At the Radisson, the 120-dish menu includes everything from cheese to chaat and polenta to biryani handis priced at Rs 750. There's also a special toddlers' menu.

At Eggspectations, Vasant Continental, a four-course meal from the a la carte menu and a glass of wine is priced at Rs 699. Take your pick.
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