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Menu matches the mood

THIS CITY is in the throes of yet another sporting event, the Tata Open, being played at the Nungambakkam stadium. Chennai is home to tennis lovers — with most of the great names like the Amritraj brothers, the Krishnans and Mahesh Bhupathi having been cradled in this city, it is only appropriate that the city has been designated the centre for India's largest annual global sporting event — the ATP Tennis Championships. And the Tata Group is the official sponsor till 2004.

Taj Coromandel, the official host for the event, has gone all out to sell the championships gastronomically and hospitality-wise. The spirit of tennis is all-pervasive at the hotel. With the `players' party that kick-started the event and the Tata Open Ball that ushered in the New Year, the Taj has tried to customise its services to suit the occasion.

Specially designed menu cards set the ambience with the green of the court forming the background to the lead-line — Paes and Bhupathi, Woodford and Woodbridge, Taj and the Tata Open.

Taj has set up a players' lounge. The bar card, Tata Open Ace, has been imaginatively redone. On offer are heady cocktails like The Dominator (vodka, Galliano and orange juice), Leander's Ace (white rum, blue curacao with citrus juices) and several other popular names in tennis finding their favourite mixes christened after them... Flamen Pavel, Fab-A-Kazi, Johannssens Five interspersed with Between The Sets, ATP Hurricane and Passing Shot.

At Match Point, the starters commence with the Chef's Volley — a delicious concoction of chilled prawns coated with pesto mayonnaise sauce and tossed with olives and coconut shavings served with spiced avocado salsa; Love All, which is a high protein nibbler with golden fried nuts and sesame mozzarella served with chilly basil and sun dried tomato dips; Olivier Olive Rochus of black and green olives with gherkins; Brugueras Backhand that comes on a fried pita bread with broccoli, babycorn, mushroom and peppers tossed in sesame ginger. Leander also lends his name to his favourite starter, which is grilled Creole spiced chicken, tossed with barbeque sauce and aptly named Paes Ace.

One could savour the Match Point Special, which is succulent chicken in hot puff pastry or the Quarter Final Special, which is an assortment of meats. Theres Beckers Deck which is surprisingly a vegetable club sandwich, and Fabs Lob that is more a salad of vegetables also beckon attention.

The Food Department of the Taj reveals that players usually make a beeline for the pastas and why not? It's christened Steffi's Spaghetti! When it comes to the final icing, it must be either a Centre Court Special of fresh strawberries with vanilla ice cream or a slight variation with pecan pie as in Maxs Temptation. You could also contemplate on a finito with Kiwi Participation. But it's not over yet! The cheque may seem steep but style never comes cheap!

P.B.

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