December 2011 | Antoine Lewis

Prego - The Taj Coromandel, Chennai

India's first and only fine-dining Italian restaurant to exclusively serve up Italian haute cuisine, Prego continues to draw diners with a yen for authentic Italian flavours

Finding an informal Italian restaurant in any Indian city is a breeze. In some of the more cosmopolitan metros and tourist areas, you’ll find a decent selection of fine-dining Italian restaurants. But an Italian fine-dining restaurant that doesn’t include pizza on the menu is a rarity. To discover a restaurant of this calibre in Chennai — not a city associated with cutting-edge, trendy restaurants — is nothing short of astonishing.
 
Launched in 2009, Prego at the Taj Coromandel is India’s first and only fine-dining Italian restaurant exclusively offering Italian haute cuisine. Conceived four years ago by Chef Hemant Oberoi when the hotel was being renovated, Prego is a restaurant that’s truly ahead of its times, not just in Chennai but in India.
 
Located at the lower lobby level, the restaurant is decorated in a warm and contemporary style, with elegant white linen, sparkling lead-crystal glassware and silver cutlery. When paired with earth-toned upholstery and gorgeous flooring, the result is chic and formal, but not overbearing.
 
Twilight transforms Prego into a refined dinner venue with music and subdued lighting. While the section overlooking the pool and lawns at the far end of the restaurant is perfect for a sunny Sunday afternoon brunch or a more private meal in the evening, the open kitchen creates an interactive space in the central dining area. The highlight is the temperature-controlled Enoteca. Considered to be among the best wine libraries in India, with 75 wines from Italy alone, guests can browse through the collection, or taste from the different wines set out every day, before making a selection.
 
After travelling through the length and breadth of Italy and visiting a clutch of Michelin-starred restaurants, it was decided that the menu would be a blend of classical and contemporary. The flavours, insists Chef Giovanna Marson, who heads the kitchen, are pure Italian even though the presentation is international.
 
The I gamberoni con l’avocado, le fragole e gli agrumi — perfectly grilled king prawns arranged on a long white plate decorated with avocado and strawberry coulis — is as beautiful as it is tasty. Top quality olive oil and 15-year-old balsamic vinegar is served at the table, only the best artisanal meats are selected for the cold meats and most of the pastas are handmade.
 
Signature dish
Prego's piece de resistance is the Il risotto alla Milanese, a Milanese-style saffron risotto with gold leaf. Served on a black plate, the creamy golden-orange risotto, flecked with streaks of saffron, is garnished with a sliver of gold leaf-coated parmesan.
The chef
Giovanna Marson, with her strong roots in traditional Italian cooking, passion for experimentation and Japanese-influenced visual aesthetic, is the perfect chef for this standout restaurant. One of the few lady chefs known across Italy, she has worked at many well-known, Michelin-starred Italian restaurants.
While there is no compromise on the authenticity of tastes and flavours at Prego, her style of cooking is distinguishable by its delicateness and emphasis on creativity and freshness.

This article was a part of a photo feature on Taj Hotels published in the December 2011 issue of the Tata Review. Follow the links below to go to the other parts of the photo feature:
Photo feature: Featured are five of the best that the Taj group has, with a sampling of their signature dishes and the opulent ambience in which they are laid out

Thai Pavilion – Vivanta By Taj-President, Mumbai
Karavalli – The Gateway Hotel, Bengaluru
Wasabi By Morimoto – The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai
The Quilon – 51 Buckingham Gate, Taj Suites and Residences, London

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