Celini holds a strange position in the corner of the ground floor of the Grand Hyatt in Kalina. It feels more like an extension of the lobby area, with little demarcation between the wooden tables and the irritating crowds of people who have come to watch the cricket on the temporary screen in the reception area. The sea of yellow granite that engulfs every inch of the lobby (walls and floor included) continues on into the overbearingly ‘functional’ dining area of Celini.
At around 8pm, fellow diners in the restaurant are a mix of residents and foreigners, mostly the suited variety. I would imagine it’s the sort of crowd whose only interaction with India is within the sterile confines of a 5 star hotel and for whom, eating familiar and pedestrian Italian food is a blessing in a city that bestows too much risk and menace for a business sojourn.
Cooking Italian food is a bit like cutting men’s hair: the difference between good and bad Italian cuisine, like men’s hair, is operationally-speaking very minimal. As we know with Men’s hair, it’s a question of fractions, a little too much off the fringe, a touch too high round the ear or the collar is all it can take for one to look like a disastrous copycat of Vijay Mallya. Similarly for Italian food, it’s the minor details that can turn Italian cuisine from gastronomic alchemy to vitiated animal fare.
The burrata to start would have been good, had it not have been for the rather acidic after- taste of the cheese. I was surprised that the burrata was not served with any accompaniments apart from the two sun-dried tomatoes; a few rations of the ciabatta bread as standard would have been customary.
A mere enquiry bout the polenta burger seemed to cause frantic whisperings amongst the waiting staff. Eventually, the chef arrives to describe what is, in fact, a very simple dish: grilled polenta, sautéed cabbage with a tomato chutney and mornay sauce on top (why such a sauce was described as “cheese fondue” is befuddling). A starter-like portion of the dishes arrives; the sauce and grilled polenta is luke warm and the cold tomato chutney a foul addition. INR 1300 for such a dish is exasperating. The pizzas are pleasant if you like the ubiquitous wafer thin pizzas that pervade every Mediterranean restaurant in the city (Dome, Indigo etc).
I leave my readership with the translated words of the eponymous inspiration of the restaurant, the famous artist, Mr Benvenuto Cellini himself:
“You must know gentle readers, that though I put on an appearance of pleasantry, my heart was bursting in my body to think that a fellow should have dared in the presence of so great a prince (AA Connoisseur) to cast an insult of that atrocious nature in my teeth”