I like walking into Spectra; the glass floor, the little entrance alley with the glass wine-rack walls, and then suddenly the vastness of a bright, shiny, and busy kitchen floor. Food is in the dead centre of the restaurant and the seating gets sidelined towards the edges – including the window seats which might not have a great view but are still preferred. It’s not the conventional restaurant setting, but one that impresses and by placing the the live counters in the centre, Spectra inadvertently puts food as the main focus, which is the way it should be.
Till about a few years back, Spectra was the IT place for lunch or dinner buffets. Their Sunday Brunch was the talk of the town. Slowly, like most things in life, the craze ended and some of it was due to the dwindling food. However, like the phoenix, Spectra rose from the ashes – could have been from one of the kitchens – and with a new staff and head chef, it got the much needed injection to revive its previous glory.
Once again, Spectra is a much desired food destination with the lunch buffet especially popular among the business customers and the weekend dinner more of a celebratory outing for families, and for good reason because besides the looks, Spectra also has one of the best “spreads” in the city with a huge variety on offer to satisfy all tastes and demands.
A while back I wrote about the advantages and disadvantages of buffets in To Buffet or Not and proudly stated that I can’t seem to understand the craze that has lead to most restaurants having buffet services. Spectra only does buffets or maybe I should rephrase that using, what they call, “live kitchens”. What this means is that the food is prepared right in front of you, and quite a few times “on order”. So it is a glorified buffet in the end, a fancier version, and it doesn’t really change my views about buffets in general, however, if an exception is to be made, then I would make it for eating here.
The common and most obvious reasons for choosing a buffet are evident – in plenty; there’s the variety in food with Asian, Japanese, Indian, Continental, and even a Western Breakfast sections and further assortment within these separate kitchens to satisfy the pickiest of eaters. Then there is enough for vegetarians and non-vegetarians to sink their teeth in, but I strongly feel that the non-vegetarians get a better deal – and I can’t help feel remorse over having turned vegetarian just a week back… yes, a week back.
The food – and I don’t plan to go into details considering I don’t even remember what all I ate – is very good and it is the ingredients that stand out and help the dishes shine. Take the very mundane Babycorn with Mushrooms that Spectra makes a lot more interesting by having different types of mushrooms – if I have my mushrooms right, there was Oyster and Maitake – with the white buttons thankfully absent. The Sushi was colourful and I might have sneaked in a couple non-vegetarian ones – by mistake obviously, wink wink – among the vegetarian that I hogged down a few times. The cold melon soup was yummy and the mixture of cheese, breads, and cold cuts – I didn’t touch the cold cuts – was the kind of breakfast food I would love to eat at any time of the day.
That is not to say everything is perfect as for every delicious Singaporean Noodles and Basil and Egg Rice there was a Vegetarian Bao that lacked flavour and a Crème Brulee that suffered due to mass production, to put it lightly. Even the Tiramisu, that I have had separately from The Leela Patisserie and loved, wasn’t all that great, partly because serving it in a shot glass made it hard to eat. The Indian section though, both for the mains and desserts, scored high with superior flavours and the kind of richness that is expected from this region’s food.
I do have two “complaints” about the place; while the service is very professional and proper, it lacks charm. During my visit, the staff on the floor far outnumbered the guests and yet there was a sense of uneasiness in the air. It’s good service but it’s not service with a smile. The warmth is missing. On top of that when something as elementary as requesting fresh breads (Naan/Roti) takes two reminders and finally a visit to the counter – during which time the curry and lentils have cooled down – it is a little annoying.
My second issue has less to do with the restaurant but more with the hotel, which for some reason does not allow a guest to park the car on their own. Weird right? I’ve had bad experiences handing over the car at hotels so as a rule I prefer to park it myself, but at The Leela I was informed that either I give it for valet parking or else I would have to park it in the next door mall and then walk the entire length of the mall to enter the hotel. What about people who are chauffeur driven? I found this extremely absurd, certainly not “Five Star hotel” like, and it was after much fussing and groaning – not fights or shouting mind you – they finally allowed me to park the car in their half empty parking lot.
When a lunch starts this way, it is a little off-putting. The mood has already changed even before entering the restaurant. I was already second guessing my decision of bringing the family –my father had by now already vowed never to return to the hotel – for a celebratory lunch. And, were it not for my love of the Spectra entrance and the food – read about the 100 Dessert Buffet they put up a while back – I would have been probably very upset while writing this review.
Now, what really makes a buffet outstanding is the customer – me and you – getting value for money. The weekday lunch buffet at Spectra comes to around Rs. 2400,- with taxes which isn’t a bad deal at all, but even with all the choices, there is no way that most of us would be able to eat enough individually for that sort of money. This is where being able to reserve in advance using Eazy Diner – I promise that their promotion wasn’t the reason for mentioning them – comes in handy because at present they have a 1+1 Offer which knocks off 50% of the buffet bill making it Rs. 1200,- per person provided you go in multiples of two and makes this the best buffet deal in the city. I can even go ahead and say that at this price, it’s a steal.
Spectra for me is all about spotlighting the food. As much as I dislike the idea of buffets, I love the live kitchens at this restaurant. I enjoy being spoilt for choice, moving around from one counter to another unable to decide what it is that I want to eat. I also appreciate that the chef(s) go out of the way to present food that is not run-of-the-mill or simple, and they take care in preparations that are unique in their own way, not to forget the little displays on each station highlighting the ingredients – almost ate some of them raw. Since, I lose all my shame whenever I do end up at a buffet and stack up rather than making multiple trips to get the food, my plate eventually looks like a mush-mash of world cuisines, but that just goes to prove that whether I like something or not, there’s more than enough at Spectra that I want to try.