(A monthly column first published in Car N Style magazine).
A bewitching Sunday breakfast!
By Ravi V. Chhabra
Looking for a heavenly Sunday breakfast buffet? Enter Kafe Fontana. As far as my memory takes me, the stylish 24-hour coffee shop next-to-lobby at the Taj Palace Hotel in Chanakyapuri has been popular with Delhi residents and hotel guests for decades. It is known for its grand multicuisine buffet (for breakfast, lunch and dinner) and a service that exudes great comfort and panache.
Overlooking the lush lawns surrounding the open-air swimming pool with the backdrop of hotel’s arched frontage, one gets the serene view that is a perfect treat for those who like to relax in the lounge or in the seating area by the glass windows or eat in the open during breakfast and lunch. One gets the view of landscaped lawns with abounding tall palm trees. The coffee shop offers both a-la-carte and buffet with the latter being more popular.
The breakfast selection is lavish and comprises continental fare packed with the staple American menu (the special coffee crème brulee, omelettes, waffles, pancakes, muffins, quiche, croissant, and doughnuts), alongside the pastas, lasagnas, sandwiches, cereals, porridge et al. There are also the Delhi’s regular stuffed Punjabi paranthas, north Indian chana bhatura and some south Indian and Gujarati dishes like dosa, idli, upma and dhokla, apart from a section of breads and fresh fruits with many kinds of flavoured yoghurts and fresh juices. Noticeably, the south Indian dosas, chutneys and sambar had their authentic flavor despite being a part of the largely continental buffet.
An array of cheeses, flavored freshly-baked breads, sausages, pizzas, hams, jams and porridge are presented in the atrium. The breakfast buffet priced at just Rs. 880 (with taxes) is laid out at 7am and lasts till 10:30am on weekdays and on Sundays it is extended to 11am. As it is mostly packed with in-house guests, bookings are not taken. The Sunday special champagne brunch costs Rs. 2937 per head (includes unlimited premium Indian alcohol).
Kafe Fontana has evolved a personality of its own by serving Lebanese food on their regular menu and for buffet. There is also the green corner - a salad bar for fresh, low-calorie organic leaves and dressings. The open kitchen serves pizzas, but the king of the show is the oval Turkish pizza. The Ddjaj Meshwi or chicken shawarma make for rich and delicious meals in themselves. In good weather, the chairs outside the café make the experience perfect, though food is not served at the poolside in the night. In the Mughlai section, the gravy dish worth trying is the Rogan Josh; I also found the Pesto marinated grilled fish - laced with delectable herbs extremely delicious. The outlandishly rich lunch buffet is priced at Rs. 2026 (includes taxes). If you are lucky, you could get a complimentary soft drink like I did!
The décor is swish akin to an Italian Pizzeria with bright tiles around the wood oven that lends the café its warm ambience. A mishmash of a Tuscan Palazzo and a Californian hothouse with earthy colors compliments the aroma of good food and live cooking. A section of the café comprises the show-kitchen where the chefs create an assortment of pizzas, kebabs, barbeques and other dishes from countries like Turkey, Italy, France, Greece, Lebanon, Morocco and Spain. A dedicated corner awaits the dieters, it comprises salads and low-calorie whips for fitness freaks.
The café specializes in Indian cuisine and does a great job with various gravies and tandoori dishes. For starters during lunch is the digestive drink made of raw mangos, the aam panna as well as many soups. Some other meats and seafood worth trying are: chicken lababdar, murg khada masala, mutton rogan josh, bhuna gosht, steamed basa and a range of kebabs and roasted prawns - which I found wonderfully done with special marination.
I was impressed with the breakfast for its eclectic dishes and for the relaxed atmosphere, feeling pleased that I was not the only one wearing a track suit! I loved the black coffee while savoring my favourite pork sausages that I followed with the freshly baked smoked ham crunchy pizza with a selection of seasonings and olive oil on it. The breakfast cannot get any fuller, I know.