When it came into existence some ten years ago, it became a sort of cult to be seen there. In the intervening years, Yellow Brick Road at the Ambassador Hotel has acquired a few more layers insofar as cuisine goes. Its sunny yellow interiors have worn well, and it still looks as fresh and chirpy as it did at the outset. Many things remain the same: the menu is still printed on a newspaper that is crammed end-to-end with interesting trivia, the club sandwiches still outsell everything else except the Thai dishes and the restaurant buzzes with activity as late as 3 am on weekends.
The menu has found its feet. Surprisingly, it is not in Anglo-Indian classics, but in excellent South Indian dishes. You’d be lucky to sample Chettinad Chicken (Rs 430) this authentic in Chennai itself and the Bisi Bele Huliyana (Rs 290) would give the temple at Udipi a complex. I would have tried Curd Rice, but was told that the restaurant cooked it with basmati rice: a travesty, especially considering that the South Indian section has been added solely for the edification of South Indian patrons of the restaurant.
Where Yellow Brick Road is on shaky ground is their western section. YBR Chicken, one of the signature dishes, is composed of the nauseating combination of soya chilli, vinegar and red wine! And the menu description of Thai Pie is nothing short of revolting. The Risotto menu, include some mind-numbingly un-Italian combinations. The Sole with Lemon Butter Sauce (Rs 450) was not the simple classic I thought it would be: there was way too much garnish.
In spite of that, you can have a really good meal. Burmese Mahmi (Rs 220) soup is an excellent soup to have: the spices in it are not unlike those in mulligatawny soup, with chicken nuggets, noodles and crunchy bean sprouts. Prawniest Cocktail (Rs 480) consists of a martini glass with surprisingly large prawns in tangy mayonnaise. Get Mushy (Rs 280) is composed of chopped button mushrooms in a red wine sauce that makes a good option for vegetarians or those on a diet. A far, far better option is the Chicken Trio Salad (Rs 320) in which juliennes of smoked chicken, chicken salami and chicken sausage are combined with ultra fresh iceberg lettuce leaves.
Bangkok Chicken Curry (Rs 430) is not only good value for money because of its enormous size, it is also one of the few versions in the NCR that includes pea aubergines: the bitter little devils that no Thai curry in North India ever use. Their Pao Bhaji (Rs 320) is enormous and no more expensive than at a stand alone restaurant.
A sizeable chunk of the customers visit YBR only for the sandwiches (Rs 330-350) that constitute a full meal and for the signature Bull’s Eye (Rs 210), two iconic favourites at this tiny coffee shop with loads of character.
The Ambassador Hotel
2 Sujan Singh Park, Cornwallis Road
Open 24 hours
Average cost of a meal for two: Rs 1200
Alcohol served; credit cards accepted