Coimbatore’s Sree Annapoorna enters fine dining with Kove restaurant
Sree Annapoorna reinvents itself with a business hotel and fine dining restaurant, complete with jasmine cake and ‘nannari’ negronis. Here is a first look
Lucknowi galaouti kebabs fuel our conversation with Jegan S Damodaraswamy, executive director of Coimbatore’s Sree Annapoorna, at the group’s newly-opened Kove: their first foray into fine dining. The group, best known for its unpretentious and well-loved outlets specialising in ghee dosas, rose milk and quick, friendly service has been an integral part of the city for decades. The founder of the Sree Annapoorna Sree Gowrishankar Group, Damodaraswamy Naidu, is credited with changing the face of eating out in Coimbatore with his first restaurant in 1968.
Now, his grandson has re-launched a 50,000 sq ft property at RS Puram in Coimbatore, with a refurbished Sree Annapoorna restaurant on the first floor, Kove on the second floor and IKON by Annapoorna — a 52-room business hotel — a new player in the business hotel segment. The rooms at IKON by Annapoorna are in two segments – executive and suite, and three halls to host functions and business meetings.
- Located at 75, E Arokiasamy Rd, Opp. Hotel Annapoorna, RS Puram, Coimbatore. A parking lot where 100 cars can be parked is coming up soon. To book your table, call: 98422-46780
An engineer with a Masters in Food Science, Jegan has travelled extensively and is constantly thinking of new ways to refresh the family business, while staying true to its roots. “I was keen to recreate favourites, like the galouti kebab, for vegetarians in a fine-dining ambience. That’s how Kove shaped up,” he says, adding “I wanted to stick to our strengths. Except milk, no animal derivative is used in the menu, including eggs. It is 100% vegetarian right from the word go.”
He admits, however that fine dining is a completely new challenge. “When I took over Sree Annapoorna, I just had to innovate an existing working model. For this one, I had to work really hard,” he laughs. “We customised our cutlery with copper finish and our Swiss water jugs come with an intact lid to limit contamination while filling the glasses. It’s been two years of trial-and-error, great learning, and lots of fun.”Jegan pauses to order his favourite dishes from the menu. In a few minutes, we are enjoying smoky yam galouti kebabs served on squares of saffron naan.
Kove’s decor showcases designs inspired by the engineering and textiles sectors that the region is known for. Copper-plated railings gleam, and above, a vibrant ceiling displays fabrics in different textures, prints, and colours. Hand-made ethnic tile designs make up the flooring.
A 25-member team led by Chef Murugesan V from Sri Lanka oversees the kitchen. The most challenging part has been the menu, admits Jegan. “To avoid comparisons with pricing, we kept our Annapoorna staples out. At Kove, they also pay for the experience. We call it progressive cuisine and that will be our USP.”
His travel experiences inspired him to fuse global ideas with traditional favourites. For example, the curd rice arancini at Kove is a South Indian twist to the Sicilian staple where rice balls are stuffed, coated with bread crumbs and deep fried. Starters include vazhaippoo kola urundai served with curry leaf mayo. There is dim sums: stuffed with spinach, corn and paneer, as well as crystal dim sum with shitake, button and oyster mushrooms.
A place called home
Breaking with tradition, they are are accompanied by four dips — exo (dried garlic and chilli dip), Korean chillies, spring onions with olive oil, and a Sri Lankan dip. Emphasising the attention to detail here, the dim sum also features a caviar-like hand-made garnish made with balsamic vinegar and agar agar.
Jegan talks of another favourite — rendang, an Indonesian delicacy made with beef or duck. “We replaced it with kari pala (bread fruit) and amazed at taste and texture.” And the best way to enjoy this is with a bowl of steamed jasmine rice. The menu also features wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas with a crusty, airy base and tortellini made in-house. There is fusion in desserts menu as well from beetroot halwa with cranberry cream and Irish panna cotta with blueberry consommé, to tiramisu with coffee caviar. “ For jasmine cheesecake, we distil fresh jasmine flowers to infuse the flavours.”
Yes, there is a bar attached. And local flavours have been infused in the cocktails. Try the sangu poo infusion or the nannari negroni. What does Kove stand for? “A fusion again of Kovai and love,” says Jegan, adding “What other better name to show our love for the city we owe everything to?”