An Aqua Afternoon
Aqua, the al fresco dining space on the third floor of The Park, Hyderabad, is much-loved by regular diners not least because of its “Infinity Pool”, named so because of its seemingly limitless stretch towards the horizon. With a serene and relaxed ambience, (with pigeons dipping in the pool for company!), Aqua’s Sunday Brunches, especially in the right season have been always sparkling.
Recently, The Park rejigged its Sunday Brunch, positioning it as the Verandah SUnday Brunch, Verandah being the all-day dining indoor space, although the brunch spread for the bloggers’ table to which I was invited also made use of the outdoor Aqua space, thankfully!
There has been a change of men at the helm at The Park recently, with chef Mandaar SUkhthankaar having moved on, and Chef Thimma Reddy, his trusted lieutenant for years in the Park kitchen, taking over as the executive chef.
Its a nice breezy afternoon, when I land up at Aqua to try the brunch and go indoors to Verandah to meet Chef Thimma and find him somewhere near the newly-introduced live chaat counter. There are paani puris. Raj Kachoris, aloo tikki, aloo paapdi chaat and the works. I soon find myself gorging on some delicious paani puri (the water is minty, cold and spiked just right with teekha or spicy and khatta or tangy) and also a bit of Raj Kachori.
Outdoors at Aqua, there are more live stations: a haleem and mandi counter, barbecues including both Western grills and sauces as well as some Hyderabadi style grilled kebabs, Pan Asian\Mongolian station doling out the Chinese bao, stir fried noodles, soups), an Italian counter with pasta, pizzas, frittatas etc, Irani chai and of course the most scintillating bar. I try, from the pan Asian counter a bit of Udon noodles stir fried with prawns and loads of green veggies like broccoli, spring onion and pepper but dont find a sauce of my choice, so settle for a Schzewan.
Indoors: more live counters: a sushi station, Maggi, organic drinks\detox shots made of herbs and fresh fruits and vegetables, croissants etc. There is also a kids station with live stations dishing out popcorn, candy floss, marshmallows, doughnuts and a lot of fun activity. So good to be a kid, always!
There is also a molecular gastronomy section to whet diners’ curiosity and appetites and the sorbets being sizzled out of liquid nitrogen are of some great flavours, basil, ginger etc, and we all love the ginger beer sorbets!
The highlight of the outdoor counters turns out to be the smoky-flavoured Mandi, the Arabian variant of biryani. While Mandi is traditionally made with mutton, the Aqua version had used chicken which was grill-roasted until crisply done. The rice was non greasy, mild and yet with its own flavours and the dish was served with a tangy, spicy tomato chutney.
I try a spoonful of the haleem, which frankly I found a little pasty and overdone in terms of texture but the generous topping of fried onions, mint leaves and barista make it quite delicious in the end. I also try a bit of pesto flavoured pasta and its perfect!
Indoors, there is a humungous spread of hot main courses but there is barely any appetite or even space left. I still deign to try some Phyllo fish cigars and some Andhra prawn pulusu, both of which are quite good, so is the bite of orange and blueberry chocolate roulade which I just have to try, as it looks sinfully decadent and turns out to be just that! Dark chocolate, orange and blueberry indeed make for a deadly combo!
With such a varied spread, both outdoors and indoors, the Verandah Sunday Brunch is definitely worth a try. The brunch is priced between Rs 1500 (AI) for a non-alchoholic package to Rs 2000 AI with IMFL and Rs 3000 for FML.