It indeed did come as a surprise to me as I was stepping into the swanky new Cream Centre on Haddows Road that I had never had a meal at any Cream Centre across the country, especially since I have been vegetarian for the better part of the last three years. I have heard everything from ravishing praise to strong loyalty amongst pure vegetarians and others towards the franchise. As expected, I had this inkling that Cream Centre was an Indian joint. But my first glance at the menu and I was thrown off - Indian, Italian, American, Lebanese, Mexican, Continental and street food on the same menu. Not much of a fan of multi-cuisine restaurants, this degree of mix ticked me off instantly.
We went as a group of 5 + 1 kid and all of us were quite hungry. My company included a few who were regulars here and I was told that the American Corn Cheese balls came highly recommended. We ordered that along with Papdi chaat and Bambaiyya Ragda pattice. My mother and I are both suckers when it comes to good Ragda pattice, having been spoilt with it as a great evening snack when in Mumbai.
I frankly wasn't looking forward to the Cheese balls but was very impressed - they were indeed very tasty and yet didn't leave a sick dairy after taste that usually accompanies dyna bytes or cheese fritters / balls. The papdi chaat was a far cry from that at Gangotree and / or the recently opened Kailash Parbat (Harrington Road - not that I love it either, but their papdi chaat is very good) - shall not order again. The ingredients as such were good by themselves but they didn't mix very eclectically to leave me happy.
The Ragda pattice - I did have high hopes. Cream Centre is from Bombay, home to Ragda pattice. Even our friendly restaurant manager was from Ghatkopar, Mumbai and I was expecting authentic stuff. The pattice (patties I know, but this is how this is referred to as!) was hard and didn't seem to go harmoniously with the ragda (channa). It seemed a tad over fried and wrongly spiced.
Main course between us was a Pizza Siciliana, Macaroni Magic, Masala Bhatura with Channa and Methi Aloo Paratha meal. To cut a long story short, dinner was a downer. Except for the Paratha meal which was fresh, well tempered and served with a good measure of tasty raitha, the rest were just below average. The macaroni was just plain macaroni dipped in a white sauce made of cheese. The menu mentioned mushrooms and I did find one or two imposters swimming around but they were either too old or genetically modified to lend any unique taste to my pasta. There was no form of chef's seasoning - I'd have expected basil or thyme at the least if not a dash of vodka or wine - okay perhaps I am pushing it but I just demanded that my pasta have a flavour of SOMETHING. The pizza was the worst I have had at a public place. The base was stuck between crisp and soggy, cheese tasted old and the peppers on it again, seemed to have no taste.
I had read on the internet of Cream Centre being tagged as serving the "World's best bhatura" - I don't know what they were talking about. Just like a lot of other people on the internet and specifically posts on burrp on this topic, I too was quite taken aback that they served the Bathura and Channa as separate portions, costing Rs. 35 and Rs. 95 respectively. Didn't really cut any ice with me. I'd still recommend the Channa Bhatura at Ashoka or Sukh Sagar.
Desserts - Sizzling brownie, thumbs up.
I did toy with the idea of visiting the place again before writing this review but I guess the place's reputation and it's inability to satisfy me on my first visit put me off badly enough for me to write this straight away. I have been told very good things about their sizzlers and biriyani. I will try it again sometime soon though I don't expect too much since I heard the same about the macaroni and the "W
Cream Centre is stuck between being a fine dining restaurant and a food court and I don't see why I'd want to pay for that.
Ambience: The place is neatly done without being over the top. The first thing I registered was the bathroom door that opened outwards instead of inwards - I don't think I've seen that anywhere else in Chennai. Brightly lit interiors are always preferred by me over dim interiors and that was a good plus. Somehow, I am growing a little tired though of the brown veneer finished laminate woodwork in most public places these days. Tip off: Visit the AC section of a Saravana Bhavan these days and it'll look exactly the same as Cream Centre! But overall, comfortable seating and happy lighting = no complaints on this front.
Access: Is the biggest challenge at this location. Located on a one way road means circuititious entry and exit and very little parking compared to it's large fan base means hassled valet parking drivers, not a relaxing thought during weekends.
Staff: Most of them seem to be from Bombay, an interesting trick which hopefully works for them. The waiter tending to us didn't seem to understand what we were asking for and the moment one of us got slightly exasperated, the alert and very warm restaurant manager replaced the waiter in a jiffy. Neat touch. But overall the service was quite quick and no-nonsense. Don't expect broad smiles and lectures educating you on what you are eating. But then again, what do you teach Indians about Parathas and Channa Bathura they'd argue.
Facilities: Good clean toilets and hand wash.
Cost: Steep, not expensive. Just that it feels weird paying so much for what seems like fast food.
Date: 25th August, 2009
Place: Chennai, India
Reviewed by: Harish Anand Thilakan
Must Order ?American Corn Cheese balls & Sizzling brownie - but then again, would you travel all the way anywhere just for a starter & dessert?
Average Cost per person - Rs. 350-450 a head including a beverage (obviously non alcoholic, this is TN remember!) and dessert.
Address- 45, College Road, Chennai - 600006
Driving Directions - Enter College Road from the Good Shepherd school / Sterling Road side and you'll find it past the first bend on the left, just before the Meteorological dept office.
- Cream Centre has replaced Bombay Blue at the same location.