As you enter, get prepared to be welcomed by an art installation of flowers in white cages behind glass walls. The idea of care of mother nature is at the heart of these installations. This is just the waiting area, mind you. Once you take the lift to the first floor and go to the dining area, you are welcomed with beautiful handmade bells in bronze, enhanced with peacocks on both the sides. The whole sitting area has an old-world charm as the subtle rich sheen of wood makes you feel like a royal.
There is so much detailing. Even the legs of the dining table seek inspiration from the pillars that adorned the extravagant mansions built by the nagarathars of Chettinad region. As we comfortably settle into plush sofas for a hearty meal, we notice that there are jaalis from Mughal emperor Jahangir’s period, widely found in monuments at Agra and Delhi surrounding us. There are also replicas of intricate pillars from diwan-i-khas at the Fatehpur Sikri in Agra. Even as we are wondering how much time and effort must have gone into creating this restaurant, the owner Nithin Kalkiraju greets us. “It took about three years to get this place ready. Artisans have worked on each and every component for months together. I am a foodie and a vegetarian. Having travelled around the world, I wanted to give Chennaiites an option of luxurious vegetarian dining. Our menu includes food from Varanasi, Rampur, Lucknow, Mumbai, Udaipur, Old Delhi, Kolkata and from our very own Chennai,” says Nithin, who already has an established jewellery business in the city.
After briefly acquainting us with various aspects of Hamsa, he leaves us to tuck into the delicious fare. On the table, we see a jar filled with sirke wale pyaaz (pickled onions), reminiscent of north Indian dhabas on the highway. We start off with a warm bowl of mutter aur pudina ka shorba. It is rich, flavourful and a perfect start to a lavish spread. After the shorba, we are served small portions of bharwan paneer, aloo tikki, makkai muthia chaat, Punjabi seekh cholliye te khumbwali and cheese kurkuri. Of the lot we absolutely devour the makkai muthia chaat, corn kernel dumplings deep fried and served with a tantalising imlichutney; the cheese kurkuri, deep fried crispy rolls stuffed with gooey cheese and slightly sweet spring onions and aloo tikki, a relatively less oily version of the popular Delhi snack.
The appetisers give way to the main course. Baskets of cheese, olive naan and Amritsari kulcha are laid out. We start nibbling on the kulcha even before the curries arrive. They are delicious on their own as they have a spicy potato filling. Of the huge variety of curries on the menu, we sample Bhagirathi mehar paneer, urlai roast and Dehliwali hari turai. The cottage cheese gravy is sinful and constitutes of reduced milk and dried plums. The richness of milk suitably balances the sour freshness of the plums. The urlai roast is diametrically opposite with the baby potatoes tossed in Chettinad spices and fried onions. The third gravy is the biggest winner, we realise. It has ridge gourd (possibly one of the least preferred veggies!) stuffed with fennel and cumin seeds and cooked in a green coriander gravy. I have never tasted a more flavourful dish made with humble ridge gourd.
We end the meal with a bowl of phirni. Not just a simple phirni, this one is made with guava. Mildly sweet, infused with the characteristic smell of the fruit and served with chopped guava slivers, we can’t help but smile at this amazing twist to the dessert.
Hamsa, Gandhi Nagar, Adyar
Must try: Bharwan paneer, cheese kurkure, Amritsari kulcha, Bhagirathi mehar paneer and guava phirni
Contact: 044 30637519