La Riviera, the fine-dining only restaurant at the Pullman’s Central Park hotel on MG Road, Gurgaon was where I was headed to on the evening of last Friday. The dark and unimpressive approach meandering through the marble dealers is discouraging until you happen upon the bright lights of the unpretentious hotel lobby with a colourful mural.
With huge walls of glass on the one side and the muted lighting and décor on the inside of the restaurant, La Riviera is refined and understated in its décor, the transparent kitchen with a splash of red lending a dash of colour to the otherwise staid colour palette. Nice. The poolside that the huge windows of the restaurant overlook were pitch dark and did nothing to enhance the magic of the metro rail, streaking to and fro beyond the vast windows, like a Christmas lit caterpillar amidst the not too distant city lights.
After settling ourselves in a near empty restaurant, there was just one another couple other than us, we proceeded to order our drinks. We ordered a glass of Sicilian red, young and universally pair-able with the food on offer and a Bloody Mary. The holy mother’s namesake was not hot-blooded enough and a Tabasco bottle was requested for and its contents emptied with much vigour into the drink. With my settling for sparkling water, we got the drinks ritual out of the way and got to the main act.
The menu is Mediterranean and the restaurant offers select dishes instead of playing safe and having a bit of everything. For entrées we ordered Seared Scallop and King Prawns with Pistachio puree and Noilly Prat Fumet (Rs.1100/-), Cherry Tomato Risotto, Liguarian Olives and Panagrattato (Rs. 850/-), and Linguine with mud crab and confit tomato sauce (Rs. 950/-).
The lone scallop and an even lonelier, decapitated and de-tailed prawn were beautifully presented resting on the pistachio puree floating on a light and airy wine foam. The prawn shell and the wiry loop made for a fine garnish. The wine fumet and the creamy nutty puree did a perfect tango with the soft meat of the crustaceans. But at Rs.1100/- the scallop and prawn, just one apiece was too expensive for me to enjoy the dish wholeheartedly. Steep!
The risotto was thoroughly enjoyable, the tomato sauce giving it a tangy twist and the cheese and bread grated on it enhancing the texture and taste. However, the perfectly cooked linguini was smothered with a generous dose of pepper and vinegar, overwhelming the taste buds with the heat of the spice and tanginess, sending the crab scurrying to oblivion! An otherwise excellent pasta was left unappreciated.
Being a fan of Gnocchi, I had no hesitation in ordering the Pan-fried Ricotta Gnocchi with artichoke barigoule and cauliflower cream (Rs. 950/-) though I had reservations about the pungent flavor of the sulphurous vegetable. My fears were laid to rest. The Gnocchi was tasty, the searing giving it an edgy flavor and the cauliflower was content to play the background score to the wonderfully pickled artichoke.
The Sous Vide Poussin with speck, wild mushroom and baby peas fricassee, chestnuts (Rs. 2300/-), was a winner with the rich brown sauce distinctly flavoured by the smoked ham, lending a sophisticated taste to the baby chicken. The presentation was otherworldly and alien-like, with gossamer-like wings spanning on either side.
My companion was disappointed with the Butter basted Scallopine, smoked Pomme puree and Chorizo glazed (Rs. 2300/-). The presentation and taste were more TGIF than chic francois but for the portion size which remained true to the spirit gaulois.
I must make special mention of the palate cleanser and the bread. The crusty triangular French bread served warm with rosemary flavoured olive butter was delicious but a little more substance to the bread would have made it excellent. However, the butter was too salty, so much so that we had to add extra virgin olive oil to even out the salt.
The Basil sorbet with crunchy caramelized orange zest served as palate cleanser was a heart stealer. I simply loved its refreshing and unusual taste, the icy sorbet playing with the crispy citrus notes. I appreciate the fact that it was served to all three of us even though it was part of the fixed menu and only one of us opted for it.
La Riviera is one of the few restaurants that have an option of sugar free desserts. The sugar-free Chocolate Mousse (Rs. 725/-) was regular but at least it was an option for diabetics and weight watchers. The Petite Antoine with Cherry ice cream (Rs. 725/-) was satisfying, the light fruity ice cream pairing well with the combination of dark and milk chocolate pastry. The Ivory Chocolate Crème Brulee (Rs. 725/-) was reminiscent of the Crema Catalana of Spain, and my companion who tried it was of the opinion that it was too light and needed more custard. Perhaps a weight watcher would have appreciated it better.
The red sphere bottomed water glasses gave a touch of the baroque to an otherwise clean and linear table service. The service was impeccable, the waiters attentive without being intrusive. I had requested to speak with the chef to gain insight into his choice of the dishes on the menu and the ingredients, but was told that he was busy and shall attend to me shortly. Nearly at the end of the meal, I was once again told respectfully, that the chef was busy in a meeting, (at 10.30 pm!!) and shall attend to me shortly. We finally left the restaurant, unmet by the chef.
French cuisine is known for its undersized portions and oversized snob appeal, but the portions served at La Riviera were miniscule. I cannot understand why only one scallop and one prawn, not jumbo sized as claimed on the menu, were served for Rs.1100/-. The menu had some dishes being served sensibly in two sizes, as a starter and the main meal. But even the main meal sizes were more dwarf than adequate. I did not expect a TGIF size portion but you could not share even a small morsel with the other for tasting purpose without sacrificing half your portion. La Riviera is seriously over-pricing itself out of the market. Unless the restaurant finds a way to balance the quality-price ratio, the footfalls shall be discerning but meagre.
Ratings out of 5
Food: 3.0 | Ambiance: 3.5 | Service: 3.5 | Overall: 3.5
Meal for Two: Rs 6000 (Without Alcohol) | Alcohol: Yes | Credit Card: Yes | Timings: 12-3.30pm (Lunch), 7.30pm-11.30pm (Dinner)
Address: La Riviera, Pullman Central Hotel, MG Road, Sector 26, Gurgaon | Phone: 0124-4992000