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Christmas exotica

All dressed and ready for Christmas, hotels in the city are in a mood for celebration


IF A festival is round the corner food can't be too far behind. The city hotels have concluded that on Christmas Day, success is measured by delectable dishes and gracious, attentive service. Turkey and mince pies may be the oft-regarded traditional meal but chefs in city hotels are pulling out all stops to create new dishes that will tantalise the gourmet.

"Our specialty this year is whole boneless stuffed chicken, Kerala style. It can be ordered as a takeaway," says Najeeb Zackeria, director Abad Group of Hotels. And this is not all. The cynosure for all eyes is an oversize Christmas cake in the lobby and visitors are invited to nibble at it as they walk around.

But tradition cannot be given a go-by and Le Meridian's renowned chef is busy in the state-of-the-art kitchen cooking up his signature- special-exotic-sounding platters, Din Dae Roti a la Englaise, which is a roast English turkey in Cumberland sauce. Also on the a la carte is honey kissed Oyster Duck and Pudding Scott Pierre. Evidently meals are being prepared with great care and obvious planning.

Kerala can't hope for a white Christmas like in the colder regions of the West, but the hospitality sector has its own rendition of the festivities. Hotels are putting on their thinking caps to create something extraordinary.

In a bid to be different Malabar House in Fort Kochi has amassed 1,500 little Santa Claus' and built them up into a pyramid in the porch. Hotels are vying with each other to be one up in terms of cuisine, entertainment and deco. Lobbies are decorated with tinsel and twinkling lights; a tall Christmas tree occupies pride of place and even though the staff isn't going overboard to create a blockbuster wonderland they have managed to transform every corner. Anthuriums and poinsettias are lavishly used so that the public areas are decked up to the hilt. Candles form a bulk of the area lighting in Malabar House with large candelabras placed aesthetically in the gardens and courtyard. The effect is enchanting.

All talk however, must revert to food. Even as Malabar House has flown in a chef from Switzerland for the season, Pepper at Taj Malabar will offer a Christmas Buffet Lunch with roast turkey, plum pudding and wine. Dinner can be a romantic candle-lit experience as the couple relish a five-course Mediterranean menu with live band in waiting. Also on the anvil is a barbeque buffet, offering an assortment of continental, Indian and seafood at Dolphin's Point.

The city's latest hotel, Harbour View Residency will kick start celebrations on December 23 with a children's party. As the young ones troop in anytime between 2 and 6 p.m. they will be served up a snack menu even as they regale in the games, magic shows and special gifts from Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve gastronomes can dig into the dinner buffet on Rooftop, while Kalinga, a city-based band performs for them.

It is the busiest time of the year with hotels filled to capacity and plans are afoot to make it a dream holiday for visitors. From fascinating room décor to special gifts stuffed into the stockings and carol singing, there's a trip to the Jain Temple to feed the pigeons, cycle explorations, beach trips to Cherai, all washed down with a bit of culture on the side; a Bharatanatyam or Mohiniyattam recital before they call it a day.

Plainly, hotels are going the whole nine yards. Trident has revivified the M.V. Vrinda and guests are lining up for a cruise where besides so much else they can experience the cool blush of ocean air. Says Anita Mary Peter, executive housekeeper "it is more luxurious than the Trident itself."

As they say, Paradise just doesn't get better.

SUNANDA KHANNA

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