Conrad Pune’s been in the wings for the past year or so, but it has finally made a grand entrance. The lesser known Mangaldas Road will take on a new significance with the awe inspiring, majestic façade of the Conrad and you can’t help but gawk.
You enter a vast lobby with multiple banks of elevators to one side, and a reception and restaurants on the other. The PSB, their bakery, will stop you in your tracks with a tantalizing array of croissants, pastries and cakes. You may never move beyond this point if that sweet tooth of yours wins over.
The Conrad is done up in dark tones interspersed with muted purple and turquoise. Koji, the pan Asian restaurant has red tones and a series of chandeliers that still manage to keep the lighting dim. Masu, the bar, is another vast space that invites you to settle down and enjoy a glass of bubbly. Premium liquors and a Moet Chandon on ice attest that this is a watering hole of the A-listers.
Zeera is their Indian specialty restaurant, and Coriander Kitchen is the multi cuisine space that will appeal to all.
After an extensive tour of the property (stay tuned for a post on it), we trooped into Coriander Kitchen. The place being so new, I didn’t have much prior info which can be good. Executive Chef Mandar Madav welcomed the group and gave us a tour.
The restaurant offered almost every type of food, ensuring that you are bound to find something you like. Now let us talk about the concept of a buffet. A buffet, especially one with dozens of dishes, offers you choice. It’s not a contest to see if you can taste everything!! Well, inspite of knowing that, I haven’t stopped trying, telling myself that being vegetarian automatically cuts down the number of dishes to sample. Ha Ha.
Vegetarians, take note! There is plenty to grab your attention here, and you will be able to try almost every type of food.
One of the unique features of Coriander Kitchen is the Food Library. Small plates of food are arranged attractively in shelves, and just like a library, you can not only browse but also sample. If you like something, you can order it off the menu.
Salads, fresh pizzas, pasta stations, Continental counter, Asian counter, Indian food with more live counters will keep you busy. And then the desserts – you can keep busy just trying the different desserts. I lost count of them, but I think there were at least 10+. This does not include the waffle bar with tons of toppings or the 10+ flavors of ice cream that are available.
I know you guys want to know specifics, so I’ll try naming some dishes – a Biryani and Vindaloo curry for the carnivores, a Bhuna Saag, Paneer Lababdar, Dal Makhani, Matar Makhana Curry and some kind of Dum Aloo graced the Indian mains.
The Continental section offered poached salmon, Hasselback potatoes, baked mac and cheese, grilled mushrooms, baby corn and assorted vegetables.
The Asian section had Soya Cantonese Noodles with Kung Pao Potatoes, some kind of chicken stir fry and a Sichuan spiced edamame rice.
The live station to note was the Amboli, a sour rice/coconut pancake hailing from the Konkan/ Malvan region. This was served with a Kala Chana or Bengal Gram curry for the veggies, and a spicy homestyle Kombdi (chicken) Rassa (curry) for the nonvegetarian folks.
Chef Mandar looks forward to showcasing the local ethnic cuisine of Pune and surrounding regions, along with global cuisine.
The meal started with Burrata. If you read about my recent visit to Prego at Westin, you know this soft cheese is hot on the culinary scene right now. The burrata at Coriander Kitchen had a soft oozing center, and the cherry tomatoes and olive oil on top with the salty Spanish olives made it just right.
A thin crust Margherita Pizza hit the spot with just the right amount of cheese and a tangy tomato sauce. Fresh made pita bread was soft, fluffy and pillowy and I could just stuff the pita with lettuce, olives and hummus and make a meal of it.
We were fortunate to taste a few things from Zeera. The Green Pea Shikampuri was a star. Being vegetarian, I have hardly tasted the Shikampuri Kabab. The green pea shikampuri at Zeera is strong on technique – I felt special just trying something that was sous vide(d). This process helps maintain the vibrant freshness of the peas, said Chef Mandar, and I can wholly attest to that.
Another star creation was the Filter Coffee Ice Cream with Milk Foam. Chef Shahi has put his heart and soul into perfecting the recipe. The first spoonful gives you that intense burst of filter coffee flavor, and then every bite just enhances it. I could have done without the milk foam because I like my coffee strong, but it looks pretty and dulls the coffee flavor a bit for folks who find it bitter.
If you love coffee, especially in an ice cream form, you must absolutely try this.
If your dessert tastes range to the very sweet, pan ice cream should be your choice. Anyone who enjoys a good masala pan is going to go back for more of this.
I still managed to try a few other desserts. The Passion Fruit and Coffee Mousse was particularly good. The sweet mango and passion fruit contrasted very well with the intense coffee mousse, which was more of an Arabic or French roast flavor (unlike the filter coffee ice cream which is pure Indian coffee). The small meringue cookie provided just enough crunch.
The ambience is warm with a lot of wood tones. Fresh herbs planted in pots are placed near the food, giving a nice verdant vibe. The four story high ceilings are something to behold. Inspite of the restaurant being packed, we didn’t jostle elbows with anyone, or hear conversations from other tables. So the noise insulation is pretty good for a space of this size.
The Coriander Kitchen Buffet is currently INR 1200 odd or $19 USD inclusive of taxes for lunch. Certainly a lavish experience to be enjoyed with friends and family.