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A well-choreographed buffet



READY FOR A BITE: The Reddys enjoy the hospitality offered by Uppal's Orchid Ecotel. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt.

WITH RAJA and Radha Reddy winging their way across the world giving Kuchipudi performances, taking classes or rehearsing some festival or the other, it's tough to tell their working hours from leisure time. So where do you invite them for lunch? Work is 24 hours, and home is where the family is - which could be anywhere in India or some other country where they go on performance tours. Perhaps it's only fitting that they should come to a 24-hour restaurant that boasts of world cuisine. So it is that they end up as elegant guests of Bonitos in Uppal's Orchid on the national highway between Delhi and Gurgaon and not far from the international airport. All familiar elements to the globetrotting couple.

Like many artistes, they seem less concerned about eating than their work. Slim and regal, the Reddys don't profess to diet as their rigorous regimen ensures plenty of exercise. While many Delhiites eat a light lunch and a substantial dinner, it is quite the opposite with the Reddys. After several hours of morning rehearsals, a solid meal is called for, and South Indian traditional is how you would label their thaali. The Andhra delicacies served up at their residence include some fine chicken curries and other dishes served up with the zestful masalas of their native State, and those who have been guests at their table remember these delectable occasions.

Here at Bonitos, the fare is varied enough for the fussiest gourmet, but the Reddys are not fussy. Walking through the lavishly designed buffet, they steer clear of the non-vegetarian dishes and go for mostly Indian cuisine. Perhaps for world travellers, home is where the homely food is. Recently returned from a successful summer tour of the U.S., where along with Kaushalya Reddy and daughters Yamini and Bhavana they danced to full houses across the nation, the talk is all about standing ovations and the warm response elicited by their performances, especially Bhavana who being the youngest, was an instant success.

At the salad counter decorated like a fancy garden, there are raw and cooked options. Barbecued mushroom salad, kabuli chaat and French beans with coconut are some of the choices. For non-vegetarian tastes there are tomato and tuna cups and egg and pepper salad with pimento mayonnaise. Also, there is a choice of soups - cream of broccoli or tomato consommé with chicken quennels - along with assorted breads and rolls.

But what seems to attract the Reddys is the Dhabewali Dal and other curries like Mushroom Harapyaz that can be eaten with steamed rice and naan. The buffet counter is enticingly laid out. These Kuchipudi heavyweights are not heavy eaters, it would seem. If variety is the hallmark of this restaurant, the Reddys are no less adept at it, and while savouring the food accompanied by fruit juice and soft drinks, Raja Reddy speaks fondly of one of his choreographic compositions that triumphed on the recent tour, in which the five members of his nuclear family represent the five jaatis found in classical music.

But if scenic walks delight the Reddys, Uppal's Orchid - that takes pride in describing itself as Delhi's first five-star deluxe Ecotel - is the place to walk. The Reddys admire the soothing vistas, starting with the view from Bonitos' glass wall that faces a beautiful garden.

With tables available outside near the fountains, dessert can be enjoyed there - a quick enough part of the meal to be consumed before the ever threatening rain comes down to add its flavours to the recipes. But first there is another trip to the buffet counter, where the desserts and their nameplates beckon temptingly from behind their glasshouses. Mango Mille Feuille, Nutty Pear Parcels, Fig and Chocolate Slice are only some of them. Naming them, however, is not always important. The luscious whites, the dreamy chocolate coatings, the spongy cakes invite you to switch off intellectual faculties and succumb to more sensory pleasures. Then again, if you would walk a path devoid of these sins disguised as bliss, there are fresh fruits of the season - mango, watermelon, pineapple and Afghani melon. But they can always be livened up with ice cream. Again, the Reddys lay no claim to walk the path of denial and partake of the desserts with good grace.

To walk off this meal, the grounds of this Ecotel, spread across 10.5 acres and run with pro-environment policies, offer not only a refreshing constitutional but also a tonic from the fumes and noises of Delhi. From colonnaded walkways to the arbours outside each room, the Reddys admire each aspect, but it is time to go. The hot summer is over, and these Padma Bhushan recipients know that with the relief of the monsoon begins a deluge of programmes. Now it is not only theirs, not only along with Kausalya, but also with the two girls who are growing into individual artistes of their own. The elder one, Yamini had her formal solo debut recently and is planning to take the India International Centre stage this coming week. The show goes on as usual, even if the choreography is always different.

ANJANA RAJAN

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