The Sofitel is not just a latest entrant in the growing list of premier luxury hotels in Mumbai – it also claims to have carefully crafted four gourmet havens focusing on different themes. Their flagship restaurant, Pondichery Café is a 24 hour all day dining restaurant offering a piquant mix of International and Indian cuisine. However, the best time to visit, as we discovered following an invite, is on a Sunday for the Brunch (12 PM to 4 PM). Targeting their check-in guests from across the globe and families of the discerning local patrons, the Sunday Brunch is a global food tsunami of sorts, executed well.
As I walk into the restaurant the staff greet us with a curious ‘bonjour namaskar’ and show us our table. This 178-cover restaurant’s interiors is done up with a relaxed format of seating and offers two private dining areas, one a glass enclosed unit, shaped as an uncut diamond. Situated at the centre of the hall is a wine tower about 20 feet in height displaying over 2000 bottles of select wines from varied origin.
The Sunday Brunch offers unlimited (yes you read it right) – made to order Martinis, Sula Sparkling wine, imported and Indian beer, mocktails and a glass of Piper Hiedsieck champagne, this whilst another section of the restaurant converts into a children’s play area, where over half a dozen trained child minders keep the little ones engaged in play activities. We step-in to take a peek and discover at least 20 children of diverse nationality and age groups enjoying themselves, whilst their elders enjoy their Martinis – shaken not stirred!
I choose a watermelon ginger mocktail on the bar-tender’s suggestion; it is refreshing, perfectly mixed and just what you need to beat the scorching Mumbai summer. The buffet menu is an elaborate affair of over 200 dishes. Staff and Chef de Partie managing these open format walk-in kitchens encourage patrons to walk into the kitchen to specify preferences or see your order being prepared, or even engage in conversation to learn more about newer variety of cuisine. The spread is truly international and brings the best in Continental, French, Italian, Mediterranean, Lebanese, Japanese, Chinese, Pan Asian, Salads, South and North Indian, Tandoori and Awadhi cuisine, Jain cuisine and an Indian chaat stall. The desert section of the buffet is large enough to put the best patisserie in Mumbai take cover, more on that later.
I began with appetizers albeit in small quantities of freshly made papdi chaat, tandoori aloo, chicken tikka, continental vegetarian grill, chicken shawarma, grilled prawns and chicken dim sums. I order a repeat of my mock-tail and head to the salad bar at the far end which offers choice of 8 different Italian, French and Continental salads with choice of classic dressings. The Apple Kiwi fruit salad is a winner.
Next I headed for a margarita (pizza) slice, made to order on a thin crust base. I must confess I have only had a better Margarita in Italy. Not to be missed.
Classic French cuisine at The Pondichery Café is a revelation, a brand new French Rotisol kept simmering the pork roast, which we traded for some vegetarian terrine, cfhicken roulade and some French cheese. Whilst helping myself I was reminded of ex- French President Charles de Gaulle who was famously quoted as saying “How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?” Thankfully the buffet offers some ten variants which include all time favorites brie and boursin! If France takes credit for the world’s best patisserie and cheese, the Germans indeed bake the world’s best bread, pumpernickel. Pretzel and Italian classics like Focaccia and Ciabatta are baked in-house. Continental fare includes lamb shanks and double baked potatoes with cheese and parsley dressing which are nice too.
I decided to steer my culinary journey eastwards and headed to the Lebanese counter to sample some Pita bread with hummus, mutabell and babaghanoush. The dips are exceptionally well done. At the live Pan Asian counter sushi, hakka noodles with batter fried prawns in garlic wine sauce are noteworthy.
The ‘law of diminishing marginal utility’ is now setting in. However, I decided to end my main meal with the Indian fare. Dudhi ki Sabzi, Gosht Biryani and Goan Fish Curry are the clear winners here.
As I make way towards the dessert section, a Chef de Partie intercepted me to introduce what they call a Mumbai Sandwich Bar. Innovative concept of Indian filling in European bread, prepared Mumbai style! I have to park this for the next time as the Desert section had over 20 varieties to choose from including a chocolate fountain, waffle counter, carrot Cake, icecream, gulab jamun and kheer. Panna cotta kiwi crush, baked yoghurt and opera were my picks and each one of these is sheer indulgence.
The Pondichery Café however is not just about food, it embodies a celebration of relaxed family time spent together and reinvents the concept of reclaiming that lost lazy Sunday afternoon, which the pressures of busy city life has isolated.
At Rs 2600 plus taxes per pax (Children below 12 years dine in complimentary!), this buffet and the choice of drinks is well worth every penny. Strongly recommended for visit with family or friends, pre-booking table cover advised for the Sunday Brunch.
Ratings out of 5
Food: 4.5 | Ambiance: 4.5 | Service: 4.0 |Overall: 4.5
Meal for Two: Rs 5,200 plus taxes (For Sunday Brunch)| Children below 12 years: Free| Alcohol: Yes | Credit Card: Yes | Timings: 24 Hours (Sunday Brunch: 12Noon – 4PM) | Valet Parking: Yes
Address: C-57, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra (East), Mumbai 400 051
Reservations: +91 22 6117 5000
– Ashish Gupta