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Restaurant Review: Lounge on ECR takes life as plush party space on weekends
On a weekday, The Gatsby at InterContinental Chennai Mahabalipuram on the East Coast Road (ECR) is a quiet lounge space reserved for the resort’s guests.
On the weekends, the tables in the space are pushed aside revealing a dance floor and the music gets a little louder and jazzier. Come Friday evening, the space transforms into a plush party pad, open for everyone. Saving the long drives into the city for hundreds of techies and others living along the ECR and the Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR), the lounge is one-of-its-kind when it comes to multi-utilisation of space.
One walks into the space to cosy and low upholstered seating, dim lighting and perhaps a recognisable indie beat or a pop song. What is sure to take one’s breath away is the outdoor seating space — lit up by dozens of lamps and candles.
An old bathtub, which has been re-purposed, stands artistically as the centre piece of the al fresco space bearing some more lamps. In addition, the mosaic flooring and the stone walls also contribute in lending the space its blissful Mediterranean vibe.
The 4,000-square-foot space (both outdoor and indoor areas put together) makes sure the seating is spaced out to give you an intimate experience while you let your hair down. Due an unexpected visitor, the rain, we settled down indoors to quench our thirst.
Bharath Mohan, a food and beverage executive at the lounge churned us up a quick ‘doggyjito’, a refreshing treatment of fizzy beer, flavoured with muddled basil leaves. He then whipped up a delightfully sweet ‘frisky whiskey’, a take on whiskey sour with added honey, brown sugar and orange.
Khatta meetha was another impressive vodka-based cocktail with guava juice and spices, which reminds one of the taste of a ripe guava eaten with red hot chilli powder. The cocktails were fun, inventive and delivered the flavours promised. Besides cocktails, one can also choose from a range of mocktails and other drinks.
Chef Tenzin Phuntsok, the executive sous chef at the resort, who has been the man behind the popular ‘Tao of Peng’ restaurant housed in the same resort, has taken on the task of curating food for the lounge as well. Known for his contemporary take on Chinese food, Tenzin brings in his expertise to The Gatsby Lounge as well.
He brings his signature lamb dumplings to the club too, but turns them into fun skewers, with a sautéed bow-tie pasta (farfalle) sitting prettily on top of the meat dumpling cooked using south Indian spices. It’s like eating a deconstructed lamb dim sum, with a taste of familiar south Indian spices like cloves and pepper.
There’s also chilli paneer, a hit among Tenzin’s regulars, placed on top of roundels of missi roti. “I wanted to play with the Chinese flavours that I’m familiar with, and also introduce some Chettinad spices into food.
The idea was to keep the food simple and comforting,” said Tenzin. Finger food, with elements of fusion that works, includes baingan bhartha bruschetta, kulcha pizza and kung pao chicken sliders. There’s also a makhni mac and cheese, where the dish is given the flavour of a creamy curry through spices.
As executive chef Lawrence Amalraj noted, the food and drinks are “usual in an unusual way”. There’s familiarity, comfort and yet an excitement in all of them.
The Gatsby Lounge
Address: InterContinental Chennai Mahabalipuram Resort, ECR
Contact: 89398 65158
Timings: 7 pm onwards on weekends
Cuisine: South Indian, fusion, finger food
Must-haves: Lamb dumplings with farfalle, khatta meetha, frisky whiskey
Star rating (on 5): ****