It’s difficult to associate aesthetic value with the toll gate on NH 8 between Delhi and Gurgaon. Ask anyone who does the rush-hour commute between the two destinations and it’ll be fairly evident why. Long queues, undisciplined drivers and frayed tempers is what they’ll tell you it’s all about. But hey, want to enjoy the toll gate and its bank of booths? Climb up to the sixth floor of the Leela Kempinski Hotel next-door and grab a table next to the window at Zanotta, the Italian restaurant that is open only for dinner.
The lit-up toll-gate with the long necklace of red tail-lights from cars crawling or waiting to cross over to the other side actually looks nice. Not half as nice as the relaxed classiness of the ambience inside Zanotta, though. Zanotta is a moderately sized restaurant but what strikes you first is the huge open kitchen where, as our server informed us, everything barring the salads and desserts is prepared by chefs who seemed to be going about their jobs without any fuss or noise.
Zanotta, like the Leela’s ground floor multi-cuisine restaurant, Spectra, has an extensive wine cellar, well stocked with bottles of various provenances.
We settled for a Sicilian, the Tenuta Rapitala Nuar Nerod’Avola (2008, I think it was; Rs 3200) and what a fine wine it turned out to be: ruby red and full-blooded. For an appetiser, I chose the medium platter (good for two) selection of Italian cold cuts (Rs 700) that came with the most luscious Sicilian olives, Pecorino Romano and sourdough bread. The wine complemented the chorizo, the parma and the mortadella very well.
We ordered pasta, the Rigatoni alla “Carbonara” (Rs 600) and I was, quite frankly, floored by the subtle use of white onions (rare in a carbonara, I thought), the perfectly done bacon and a hint of cognac. I haven’t eaten carbonara as good as this at Italian restaurants in Delhi and as a sucker for Italian food, I’ve been to most of the better ones in town.
For the mains, I went for the Tenderloin a la “Rossini” with foie gras and truffle (Rs 1950), which came perfectly medium (as ordered) and sitting on an incredibly delightful spaghetti frittata. The foie gras on top of the steak was topped with shavings of black truffle and the potato gnocchi that came with the steak were soft and an apt accompaniment to the juicy Australian beef. My companion said the other main, the Sea Bass Baked in Foil (Rs 1250) that came with mussels, king prawns and organic baby potatoes was excellent too.
By this time, I’d nearly forgotten the second glass of wine that stood breathing next to my plate and, of course, the view of the toll gate. The rush-hour jam had now eased and, by the time the excellent Tiramisu (Rs 400) arrived with the espressos (each Rs 200), the toll booths were devoid of queued-up cars. I wrote a quick note to self: next time I’m here, I’m going to be ordering the steak. Again.
Where: Zanotta, The Leela Kempinski Ambience Island, NH 8, Gurgaon
Meal for two with wine: Rs 10,200