Cleo’s Grill & Cafe – Harissa all the way!

Wow factors:  Cleo’s Grill & Cafe has a warm ambiance, extensive menu straddling global cuisine, Indian, Chinese with elan, Harissa sauce is their USP and they score a home run every time with any dish that has this spice, friendly staff and good service, their sit down buffet is sure to please the crowd. 

Possible wow factors: Few dishes missed the mark and could be improved, difficulty in communicating with few staff members.

My rating: 3.5/5

Location (4/5): Cleo’s Cafe is located at the beginning of a small lane bang opposite IMPCOPS in Adyar/Thiruvanmiyur  at the beginning. Refer Google Map for accurate location.

Ambiance (4/5): Dimly lit, the restaurant is done beautifully in brown, pulley holding lamps which hang quite low just above your head,  and comfortable sofa seats at few corners. Some portions of the wall were also adorned with pulleys and the walls were coloured in green, yellow etc.

Parking (3.5/5): There is parking space available outside. The lanes around has plenty of space for parking, so should not be a major issue. No valet parking, though.

Cuisine (3.5/5):  Though it is named grill & cafe, it is not your traditional on the grill-type restaurant nor is it a cafe in traditional sense. The menu has good variety of which Harissa dishes are their specialty. Their sit down buffet mainly comprises North Indian and Chinese.

Pricing (3.5/5):  I cannot exactly describe it to be highly priced as the cost is on par with most competitors. A meal for two could cost  between Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,500. 

Service (3.5/5): I went twice, once a la carte and second for a sit down buffet. Service was overall very good, non-intrusive yet easy to get attention. Some waiters could be new or could not understand English, so I prefer to communicate in Hindi if they are from the East part, English/Tamil if they are a local.

Reservation: Walk in works fine

I went twice, first in September 2015 for a final kill before Puratassi started, and again in February 2016. While in Sep we went for a la carte menu, in Feb we chose the sit down buffet.

A la Carte Experience:

The dinner started on an excellent note, absolutely loved the soup and starters. But then spiraled down with the main course which kind of destroyed the good experience with the starters. On the first occasion the lighting was very dim where we sat, so the picture quality is very bad.

Drinks:

Lemon mint cooler (awesome, loved it), Chilli blu sea (was alright)

Soup:

Broccoli and cheese veg soup (could have been thicker, still loved it)

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Starters:

Veg-Cleo’s Grilled Paneer. One of the best I have had, excellent use of chipotle sauce and mayo to go with it. Loved it so much, that we ordered a take away also.
Non-Veg: Harissa Grilled Prawns and Crab Claw Lollipops. Wife loved the prawns (Purpose of the day, or rather month accomplished). The crab was decent enough.

Main Course:

Then came the disaster of the evening. I ordered Ratatouille. I was not expecting a perfect dish for sure. But what they served was an absolute disaster. Of course, mistake was partly on my side, all other dishes we asked umpteen questions and then only we ordered. But forgot to ask about this. I just thought, how much can a classic go wrong. It did go wrong, in all dimensions. I will let you decide from the pic.

Skipped dessert as they did not have chocolate panacotta. The damage for two people was close to Rs 1, 500/- (includes an extra starter).

Service was very friendly and non-intrunsive, yet easy to get their attention. Patiently answered all our questions. The young waiter even brought a phone to show the pics of all the dishes.

This place deserves a 3.5 or 4, but killing a classic dish is what made me dock the points. By the way, the team noted this point and promised to correct it already. I know Mad chef from my previous experience at Maaplai. He is one who takes feedback earnestly. I do know for sure that is a rare blip. I will definitely visit this place again soon to try some of the other dishes.

Sit down buffet: 

I recently visited this place as the buffet looked interesting. Though I am not a big fan of buffet, 5 starters looked very alluring, at least for my wife who wanted to have a good variety of starters and we did not want to go too far. So Cleo’s fit the bill perfectly. In fact, I thought the advertisement must definitely be misleading. When it said 5 starters, I thought it must be 3 veg and 2 non-veg starters. I definitely did not expect 5 non-veg and 5-veg starters. So it is definitely a bounty. I also deliberately chose another place, by the window, so the pictures turned out better than the first time.

Welcome Drink:

The strawberry based drink looked very misleading with a small blob at the bottom but tasted wonderful. A perfect thirst quencher and refreshing.

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Soup:

Both the veg and non-veg soup tasted average. I am not a huge fan of soups in buffets, as they usually tend to be below average. Both were Chinese variety and nothing great.

Starters:

There were  5 veg starters and 5 non-veg starters.

Veg Starters: 

Spicy paneer tikka: This was the best of the lot and both of us loved it very much. Though I am not a big fan of spicy food, I was bowled over by this. One of the best I have had. In fact, my wife who solely concentrates on non-veg took a break to have this and she also liked it very much. Happily took a second serving too.

Aaloo starter: I mistook this for a mushroom from the looks, so my enthusiasm dampened a bit on realizing it was aaloo. But then it tasted very good.

Malai paneer tikka: Naturally tasted sweet, and once you have the spicy paneer tikka this will pale in comparison.

Babycorn and Chinese chaat: Both tasted alright, but nothing extraordinary to merit another serving.

Non-Veg Starters: 

The non-veg lot had 3 chicken starters, 1 mutton and a fish starter. Pictures below. According to wife, none of the starters were truly outstanding. They were all the usual fare. The grill chicken that came first time around was slightly undercooked, but improved in the next serving. She liked the fish starter, while the rest were okay.

Main Course:

The main course comprised 3 veg and 3 non-veg dishes. For a moderate eaters like the pair of us, this proved to be way too much. We ended up wasting quite a bit of food. I did apologize profusely for wasting so much food.

The jeera rice tasted very good and the paneer gravy went very well with the rice. The dal was quite alright, while we did not like the Chinese gravy. The veg noodles tasted very bad in particular. I managed to polish off the jeera rice and most of the paneer gravy. In non-veg I guess there was a chicken gravy, Chinese variety of chicken, and Noodles.

Desserts:

I have heard that desserts are pretty average here, so did not have high expectations. In the initial days they had chocolate panacotta, but they took it off the menu. So they served us three desserts.

Gajar halwa with ice cream: Of the three this was the best I liked.

Chocolate mousse: Somehow I did not like the texture, I have had better mousse than this.

Mango cheesecake: Felt heavy on artificial essence, it tasted just alright. Not the typical cheesecake, the menu says cheesecake in a glass. Not something I would like to order again.

Pricing:

Veg buffet is priced at Rs 499/- and non-veg buffet at Rs 599/- excluding taxes. Including taxes the total bill came to around Rs 1,250 I guess.
Cleo's Grill & Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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