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A true blue Sunday lunch

With life becoming faster, time for a leisurely lunch can be saved only for a Sunday. SUMITRA SENAPATY recommends Blooms at Park Royal Intercontinental in New Delhi for a laidback holiday lunch with champagne to add zing... .

THE GOOD news is that there is such a thing as a `big' lunch, for those whose bellies are bigger than their wallets. You'd never guess it from looking at the restaurant's exterior, but once you get in, Blooms at Park Royal Intercontinental in New Delhi offers a scrumptious Sunday lunch experience - food that smells of exotic flavours.

You get everything from bottomless champagne to endless dessert. But this fantasy brunch isn't only about all-you-can-eat, though the availability of endless salads and pasta may blur the line

between gourmet and gourmand. Elegant, tasty entries are part of the deal: choose from Chicken Steak in Mushroom Sauce or Prawn in Hot Bean Sauce. Blooms has a salad bar, which has a good range of vegetables, and a favourite is the Zucchini and Tomato Salad. Yum! Other popular veggie

options are Cottage Cheese Terrine; Potato and Chickpea Salad and Koshambari, a cold vegetable salad from Karnataka. There are also pastas to choose from, cold cuts, Chinese and Indian delicacies, garlic toast and bread sticks too.

Besides free flowing bubbly, you also get free refills on soft drinks and beer, which is excellent. To eat your money's worth you need about an hour or so. There's also a fantastic range of desserts at Blooms - Crisp Apple Strudels; Strawberry Chiffon Tart, Baked American Cheesecake with fruit coulis; Rasmalai and Gulab Jamun. Though some women - and men too! - are famous for their teensy-weensy figures, when it comes to cakes and pies, they apparently have a totally different stomach in which to store them. Where does it all go? You see them go back for thirds and fourths at all-you-can-eat places and pile their plates with Butterscotch Gateau; Tiramisu; ice creams and toppings and loads of other goodies. For those of you who need to satisfy your sugar craving, Sunday brunches are perfect to discover whether you have that extra stomach as well. The Champagne buffet is on from noon to 3.30 pm every Sunday and overall Blooms is a nice place for a family lunch specially when the buffet deal is on. It is worth it for people who have big appetites, otherwise spending Rs. 575 plus taxes may seem like a tall order. For children, it is Rs. 325 plus taxes. If buffet's not your thing, you can think Italian and order one of nine Panini sandwiches from the menu, for Rs. 275 or Rs. 300.

Panini, an Italian creation, is a grilled sandwich made with special bread, brushed with olive oil and toasted gently on a grill. When the grill closes over the sandwich, the bread crisps and the cheese oozes for a distinctive texture, taste and treat. Panini is made of sturdy, crusty bread, rolls or loaves in any shape. Our `Pao' will do as well. Earthy olive oil and fresh basil or watercress is preferred to mayonnaise and iceberg lettuce. Italian roasted red peppers are a good substitute for tomatoes and a couple of slices of paper-thin Parma ham is enough to take the edge off tangy capers and goat cheese. Vegetarian? The flavourful combinations are many, including mozzarella cheese, artichoke

hearts and roasted red peppers, celery and cream cheese, black olive paste and fresh basil. Incidentally, Nunzio is credited with the creation of the Panini, or sandwich in Italian. Which was invented quite by accident when Nunzio laid some grilled eggplant and fresh goat cheese between two slices of foccacia bread he had just pulled from the oven, but that's another story.

And in case, you've heard that it was the Earl of Sandwich and not Grandpa Nunzio who invented the sandwich, remember that in food, as in life, anything is possible. So stay open to new ideas and fresh tastes...and eat plenty and often.

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