Sunny side up
Breakfasts are the most underrated meal of the day. Fast corporate lifestyle deprives us of a hearty breakfast on weekdays. So, it is actually a ritual in our household that we try to have elaborate breakfasts on the weekends that carry on till lunch or brunches, making our Sundays perfect.
There are many options for a breakfast in Kolkata at various hotels and standalone eateries. But for us, the personal favourite has always been 'South Verandah' of the Tolly Club. However, this time we tried to explore a new place. I find the vibe of 'Al Fresco' at Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata quite similar so wanted to check out the quality of their buffet breakfast.
Al fresco has a beautiful country club vibe with an open to sky roof, with sunlight flooding the area with white cane woven chairs and a water body next to the eating spot.
The buffet at the first glance had good but limited options. Every major cuisine generally found in any breakfast buffet was present.
Fruits and juices, cereals, bakery, continental, south Indian, north Indian and beverages were neatly placed. In addition, one could order some live dishes that they happily whip up on demand.
I started with the fruits, and that is a usual practice at home too. They had freshly cut papaya, watermelon and honeydew melons. They also had fresh and canned juices and curd in the fruits section. I drizzled some honey and gulped the fruits. I personally feel the selection lacked any exotic fruits.
Then I moved to the Cereals section that had three kinds of cereals: oat-based, chocolate-based and regular corn flakes. There was hot and cold milk, flax seeds, roasted cashews and raisins on the side. There were no almonds or prunes that are very common in breakfasts but the basics were fine.
In continental, there were herb sautéed chicken sausages, roasted jacketed potatoes and baked beans. There were breads on the side: white and whole grain to choose from. The sausages were luckily tender and well cooked. The potatoes were properly roasted but had become a little soggy being in the tray. In a buffet, people normally tend to eat more non-vegetarian and the humble potato had little takers. The baked beans were too sweet, not like the typical British taste. There were finely chopped onions, tomatoes, and chillies on the side for those who like their masala baked beans.
No breakfast is complete without eggs and I chose sunny side up, from a wide variety of egg preparations. However, they clearly lacked the egg, Benedict and Florentine, that Oberoi Grand serves in their breakfast buffet. Crisp toasted whole-grain bread was a match made in heaven.
The South Indian fare had dosas and idlis. One could order customised dosas: masala, plain, cheese or egg et al. The dosas were good and the sambhar and chutneys were fresh and authentic. I was impressed that the idlis were served with hot ghee and 'podi masala'.
A lot of friends in the South like their tender idlis soaked in hot ghee and this special traditional masala that has ingredients like urad dal, chana dal, sesame seeds, red chilies, hing and salt. The podi masala is so yummy that I normally keep it on the dining table at home. My husband and I sprinkle it on anything - rice, curry or even pasta. It may be blasphemous but we do it.
The north Indian section was for namesake with only Gobi Paratha but I found it too thick, more spicy and very greasy; shameful indeed.
In beverages, there was lassi, cold coffee, malted milks, coffee, tea and a good variety of bakery to go with it that included croissants, blueberry danish, chocolate muffins etc. The bakery at Lalit properties all over the country is generally very good and this was certainly a sweet high note ending to a rather ordinary breakfast.
WHAT I LOVED
I give 11 out of 10 for the ambience, filled with sunshine and white interiors with plants. However, the food was very average, with only the bakery that was worthwhile.
You may visit the Al Fresco for the ambience but the buffet breakfast is nothing exceptional.
(The columnist is a food connoisseur who loves experimenting with culinary delights and a career bureaucrat in the IRS Income Tax)