The last time we had the Saturday brunch at Focaccia, Roberto was around. It was a client meeting and he stunned them all. The meeting went well. The two times I went after the chef left, I came out feeling, 'I miss Roberto.' The risottos and tiramisu and the things he could do were simply excellent. He is an Italian after all. I was excited when I heard the another Italian chef is going to take over Focaccia. Being the only Saturday brunch in the city, Focaccia has a clientele that is hard to take away. I mayn't be able to understand why the newly expanded brunch came before the new chef, but I guess it was time. You had to make up for not having Roberto.
So my friend from Germany, who with his wife is a self proclaimed Italian specialist with their vast eating out in Italy, joined me for brunch. It looked fabulous. There were crabs and fish and large prawns for the grills, an extensive dessert counter, a mellowed down cheese counter (actually no Italian cheese that I can remember seeing), a live pasta station with varied colours of pasta, frittatas and nice main course counter. Everything looked good on paper and definitely lived up to its new name, Il Grande Pranzo. It was definitely grand! And big! OK, same thing in Italian.
I was hoping I won't miss the old chef. It didn't start off that way, though. The pizzas weren't great. The frittatas were cold and dry and definitely not what I was expecting. Cheeses weren't exciting.
Then some good stuff came along. A couple of salads and starters were excellent. There was a nice little glass of chicken with zucchini which I loved and some beef that was tender. Grilled meats were nice. Then very good stuff came along. A fantastic roast lamb that was placed on the main course was yummy. There was a lot of basting sauce for you to make as saucy as you like and we loved it. The cannelloni was excellent for me too and along with the potatoes were the nice things in the main course.
Then came the excellent stuff. The risotto. Now, good risotto is a rarity in Chennai and the old chef was a master at it. Every risotto that we had that day were excellent, so I guess the chef making it live was good at it and mayn't have been by chance. I had one with chicken that was perfect. It had the bite to it and the sauce was yum. My hard-to-please-pseudo-Italian-German-settled friend finally had a smile on his face. His pastas was excellent too and I certainly did not miss Roberto here.
The dessert counter is so big that you can't go wrong. While classic Italian stuff like the Tiramisu, which didn't have enough coffee hit, and Panna cotta without that wobbly texture weren't great, the tart was excellent and the poppers on the stick were great. We filled a plate with dessert and were happy.
For me, this was a large Saturday brunch and because its quite large, you will find enough stuff to make it worth it. As of now, its the only Saturday brunch in the city and does get filled. At 1350 plus tax which ends up around 1600, it is certainly not expensive compared to the overpriced Sunday brunches in most places. But I still miss the old chef and I am looking forward to the person who is going to take his place.