Atmospherics: What used to be a French restaurant is now Italian. With three private dining rooms, a profusion of pastel-coloured flowers, comfortable furniture and crockery that has a rim of the exact same maroon as the Moltini range in the open kitchen, Bella Cucina is an attractive proposition, even if it is only a bottle of wine you want with a starter or two. Most restaurants serve eminently forgettable breads in their (gratis) bread basket. Bella Cucina gives you what must rank as the tastiest ciabatta in the NCR! Even the tomato dip was deeply umami. Only the silly little balsamic ‘pearls’ were slightly dated: molecular alterations to food were a novelty a decade ago; not any more. A word about the service: young manager Dhinender Kandpal is one of the finest in the industry.
Table talk: The menu is comprehensive yet fairly compact. Cappuccino of mushroom with porcini brioche (Rs 475) is an excellent way to start your meal. The rich, savoury flavour of the mixed mushrooms sets the tone for the meal. Compressed beetroot, baby arugula and goat cheese snow (Rs 450) used a few molecular techniques, but sous-vide cooking of the beetroot resulted in a superbly tender texture; ‘snow’ was added tableside (from an ungainly kitchen tin!) Smoked chicken, avocado mousse and cucumber gel (Rs 550) displayed the chef’s ability to put together classic flavours, albeit ones whose structure had been altered. Grilled scallops and prawn risotto (Rs 925) was made in the classic way, with uncooked rice, though I was told that it could be speeded up and made in 5 minutes with previously cooked rice! 40⁰C Atlantic Salmon (Rs 1200) had been pre-cooked sous vide and baked so that the skin becomes extra crisp. The green pea tapenade and the flaming orange carrot cream that was brushed onto the plate were interesting counterpoints to the fish. Do leave space for dessert. Tasting of crème brulee (Rs 450) was excellent and value for money: three separate pots of chocolate, vanilla and lemon flavours.
Plus and minus: the restaurant closes without any notice when it has a banquet function. This is simply unacceptable! Also, too much molecular intervention spoils the broth! But the warm space and the easy to like food makes it a good option. An excellent wine list;
Must try: spinach and nuts ravioli; Chilean seabass; espresso mousse
Food: 3.50; Service: 3.50; Décor: 4.00
Le Meridien Gurgaon, MG Road, Sector 26, Delhi-Gurgaon Border, Gurgaon.
Open from 12.30 to 3 pm and 7.30 to 11.30 pm
Credit cards accepted; alcohol served
Meal for two: Rs 3,500