When I step into the lobby of the Gateway Hotel on Residency Road to sample the fare at Stir, its newest restaurant, I have no idea what to expect. All I have been told that Stir replaces Northern Gate, the hugely popular North Indian eatery; that it is an “all-day dining experience” (read coffee shop); and that it serves “global cuisine” (read culinary confusion). My dining companion, advertising professional Rajesh Nair, points out that the name “Stir” could have Oriental connotations (as in “stir-fry), so we’re half-expecting some sort of twist on a Chinese theme, perhaps some kind of fashionable fusion-type thing.
Imagine my surprise, then, to walk in to a wide open space, completely transformed from its earlier avatar. Gone is the heavy opulence of Northern Gate; it’s almost as if the muted lighting, stately décor, and art-gallery ambiance never existed. Instead, Stir is a 3000 sq. ft. sweep of wooden flooring and chic furnishings, flooded with natural light from the al fresco dining deck that runs its length on one side. The metamorphosis is dramatic.
At first glance, the menu can be overwhelming, containing as it does several different cuisine options, meal combinations, platters-for-two, and three-course chef’s meal offerings. Fried Idli and Ragda Pattice sit alongside Crostini and Bagel With Lox in the snacks section; the entrée selection features pastas and risottos rubbing shoulders with Australian lamb chops, Hunan lamb, and desi favourites like Kakori Kebab and Pudina Murgh; and there’s even a section devoted to burgers and sandwiches. Spend some time studying the menu, however, and you’ll realize that it’s been carefully designed to offer something for everyone. Special mention must be made, for example, of the Wellness options and Low Calorie desserts on the menu; very few restaurants offer special selections catering to those with dietary issues.
I begin my meal with Wild Mushroom Cappuccino – a thick soup of button and shiitake mushrooms served, as the name suggests, in a cappuccino cup. Once I got over the repeated temptation to pick up my cup and sip it (it really does look like a cup of Cap!), I found the soup hearty enough – if a little short on the ‘body’ usually lent by shiitakes – and extremely filling. If you order this, do not plan on eating much else.
I also sample the Sautéed Prawns On Crisp Tossed Asparagus With Aioli. This is excellent. The prawns are done to perfection and the barest hint of garlic complements rather than suffocates their delicate flavor. Rajesh, allergic to prawns, opts for the Crostini, which he pronounces very enjoyable, despite being little heavy on the sun dried tomato and therefore more chewy than crisp.
At the urging of Senior Chef de Partie Shajeeh Siddiqui, we also order a small portion of Diavola pizza, topped with tomato, cheese, and spicy salami. This proves to be a winner – the pizza at Stir is not smothered with cheese or tomato. Instead, a just-so smear of pizza sauce and a light sprinkling of mozzarella play their supporting roles well, allowing the perfectly baked crust and the not-too-pungent salami topping to be the starring pair. Like a well-made movie, it works only as a whole – take away the rest of the cast, and the leading protagonists cease to shine.
Although Stir has retained many old favorites from the Northern Gate menu, we opt instead to try some of its newer offerings. We can only manage tasting portions for our entrées: Australian Lamb Chops, Minted Green Pea Mash, and Ratatouille; and Pan-Seared Norwegian Salmon Steak With Rucola Sauce, Creamed Cabbage, and Citrus Fruit Salsa.
The salmon is exquisite, dressed with a creamy sauce just barely infused with the peppery flavor of rucola. The cabbage is crisp, not soggy, and the citrus salsa provides a tangy twist that refreshes the palate between mouthfuls. I give this an A+. The lamb chops, unfortunately, are a bit of a let down; although the minted green pea mash is an inspired accompaniment, the chops themselves are dry, and completely devoid of the succulence we associate with properly grilled chops. This is a pity, because the gravy and the ratatouille taste good.
Stir’s varied menu also incorporates an Oriental touch, so we sample a quick spoonful each of Yod Phak Nam Deng (steamed vegetables in soya sauce) and Spicy Hunan Lamb With Shiitake Mushroom, both served with fried rice or noodle and pickled vegetables. Both are tasty, but uninspiring – with so much else on offer, we see no reason to order Chinese food at Stir.
We finish our meal with impossibly large portions of dessert. I choose the house specialty – a sinfully rich Dark Chocolate Mousse – and Rajesh indulges in a fond bout of nostalgia as he tucks into a bowlful of Malai Kulfi with Falooda.
Stir offers a range of different buffet dining options, including a global cuisine buffet with unlimited draught beer every Wednesday at Rs.650 plus taxes; a Lebanese food festival every Thursday and Friday at Rs. 700 plus taxes; a Midnight buffet between 11.30pm and 2am every Friday and Saturday at Rs.300 plus taxes; and the ubiquitous Sunday brunch at Rs.1250 plus taxes.
Gateway Hotel on Residency Road
#66, Residency Road