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.