‘Kraft’ing an experience

The second outlet of Kraft Retail Dining inside the CMRL building offers pan-Asian food and some interior ideas

Published: 11th April 2023 07:31 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th April 2023 05:22 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: If I were to ask you to describe a government office building, most of you would imagine dusty rooms with creaking fans and a serpentine queue of people waiting for their turn. But the CMRL building on Nandanam quashes these notions. While the plush building in a sprawling campus is an attraction in itself, it is now home to a concept restaurant — Kraft Retail Dining.

A two-minute walk from the Nandanam Metro station is the CMRL building. Add a minute to it and you reach the glass-walled, naturally lit eatery that is tucked away from the bustling traffic and incessant honking in the hearts of the city at Anna Salai.

Kraft Retail Dining marries architecture/interior designing with food and beverage. “You would go to a furniture/interiors shop only when there is a need. Here, we want to show the designs that we have and products that we do, while you order and wait for your food. You can pick out anything from here and we can customise it to your liking, if you are doing up your home or building a new one. There is also scope for interaction with the clients and we understand their needs better,” explains Anitha Mohan, architect and director of Kraft Retail Dining.

Alongside Kraft Retail Dining — whose first branch on ECR opened a year ago to rave response — Anitha also runs Wood Inc, where they design and execute furniture, and Sthalam that sells home decor and corporate gifting.

Anitha Mohan

Indulge in interiors
Beyond the glass doors lie a world of designs, colours, and aesthetic furniture. The two-storeyed space has replicas of furniture designed by Anitha and her team. Every table-chair combo is different, giving you an idea of what they can offer. There is a panel of wood-carved and cement door knobs, handmade fabrics with the prints they have to offer, a few side-tables, some small cupboards, mirrors, gift boxes and corporate gifting options. They also sell a few board games and candles. All these are done by Anitha’s team of carpenters who have been trained for almost a decade.

Explaining further, Anitha points to a pendant light hanging on the first floor, and says, “The prints on the (encasing of the) lights there are here, a sample version of it. So you will be able to understand the design I am explaining. I can show the fabric and explain that it can be designed on a light. These can be done on door handles, coasters, etc. and people who can understand only after they see it will find it easy. This way we can give the customer what they want and also convince them better. A drawing or 3D can never match a touch-and-feel experience.”

At the restaurant are tables made of resin, cement and wood, chairs of various shapes, sizes and materials. Anitha or her design team will be available at the restaurant every day to interact with interested customers as the office is set up right behind the restaurant while the workshop is on ECR.

It’s all Asian
The serenity of the place engulfs you as soon as you enter Kraft. At a time when people drive down to the beaches for some peace and quiet, Anitha’s offering can definitely give the waves a tough competition. The subtle yet vibrant ambience sets in a positive vibe.

Kraft opened its doors to the public earlier this month. The pan Asian menu is balanced with an almost equal number of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Having vegetarians in her own family, Anitha understands the need to present as many options for that section of society too. Her friend and consultant chef Gokul Mohit, who curated the menu for the ECR branch, has helped with the menu here as well. “Since we are in CMRL, we have a set Indian menu too,” she says, adding that the staple thayir saadam — christened Yogurt Rice Bowl here — is of course available.

The service starts with the manager asking for your dietary preference while you place the order. We decided to go for a mildly spicy vegetarian fare, and drinks with sugar toned down. We start with a glass of Pink Sea and Layers Punch. The former is a refreshing guava mint mojito, and the latter is a concoction of cranberry juice, orange juice, mint and soda. Both of them do their jobs of being the instant pick-me-up in the Chennai sun. 

Our lunch begins with a bowl of warm Japanese Pumpkin Soup. What’s Japanese about this you may ask. The manager is quick to explain that unlike the usual roasted pumpkin soup that is served elsewhere, here the pumpkin is only half roasted, just like the Japanese like it. One slurp and we cannot stop gushing about the subtly sweet, creamy soup with pumpkin seeds in them. This is followed by Watermelon Salad with olives garnished with mint leaves and drizzled with lemon juice. It is a burst of flavours that one can replicate even at home as a healthy snack in the summers.

In the main course are Darjeeling momos served with chilli sauce — a tad bit spicy for the chilli-wary tongues. CE’s tip: Save some of the sauce for other appetisers as it pairs equally well with all of them. We are served peri peri mushrooms next. For those who don’t enjoy the sliminess of the mushrooms, this crispy avatar is a welcome surprise. The other calorie-inducing fried goodness is Vegetable Tempura with soy sauce. The tempuras include baby corn, pumpkin, broccoli and celery paired with a salty soy sauce. The combination works well as the tempura in itself is devoid of any flavour.

We explored the menu some more with Lo Mein and Singapore Laksa. Lo Mein is a good mix of vegetables, noodles and shitake mushrooms that are fried perfectly. The smaller bowls of Laksa that we are served have flat rice noodles, paneer cubes and mushrooms. The spice from red chilli blends well with the coconut milk base, but it might not be a palate-pleaser for everyone. We end the meal with a bowl of Rajbhog ice-cream that has a generous amount of saffron and mixed nuts.

Tea, coffee & more   
Anitha has expanded Kraft to a small counter called Kraft-Tea that will soon start serving tea, coffee and snack to CMRL employees, and The Grind, an outdoor cafe and patisserie that serves coffees, smoothies, ice-creams, juices, all-day small bites and English breakfast. Soon, a private dining room will also be made available. 

The designs you see here are unique and Anitha has more to offer. “If we make something new, we will present it here. We are brimming with ideas and we are waiting to implement it,” she says.Some eateries have books, some have games. At Kraft Retail Dining you can conceptualise your dream home with unique interior and home decor options.
Meal for 2: `1,200. Open from 12 noon to 11 pm.

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