Oakleaf often gets overlooked when discussing the FnB scene in Hyderabad, but this peacefull cafe at Oakwood Residence has always impressed me with its food. Earlier this year, Executive Chef Brijesh Kumar moved out of the kitchen to assume the responsibilities of FnB Director. Chef Reagan Fernandes, who was responsible for the brilliant Mexican Food Festival, is heading the kitchen. Last month, I was invited to a tasting session featuring new additions to the menu by Chef Reagan.
For several months after Oakleaf began, it didn’t have a liquor license. However, now that it has an active bar, the appetiser selection is being retooled to feature several bar snacks. A perfect example is the soya drizzled Chiang Rai Chicken, which presents familiar spicy and tangy Indo Chinese flavours. The Lemon Tandoori Prawns with saffron, lemon juice, and lemon zest also makes for a great grub to pair with beer and cocktails. The cheesy Oak Lamb Kebab with fried onions and cashew is equally delicious, but Oakleaf missed an opportunity to both incorporate some drama and play with the name by not smoking the kebabs with oak wood chips.
For the main course, Oakleaf shifts gears and navigates into gourmet territory. But before jumping into the mains we were offered a couple of salads – Mesclun Greens and Warm Asian Chicken salad. The latter was a mix of soy-marinated chicken with peppers, sprouts, spring onions, and glass noodles, while the former is a mix of lettuce, and tomatoes with balsamic vinegar and thin slices of cheese. My pick out of the two was the refreshing Mesclun green with fresh crunchy lettuce; the glass noodles didn’t quite gel with the other ingredients in the Asian salad.
I also requested for a bowl of Mushroom Cappuccino, one of my favourites at Oakleaf.
The main course selection showcased delicacies from different geographies. We began with Gamberi Chimichurri – giant tiger prawn marinated in Chimichurri sauce and served on a bed of pesto, tomato, and pineapple salad. Chimichurri is a Latin American sauce that typically accompanies meat. The distinctive feature of this sauce is that the ingredients are not cooked – instead herbs and spices are chopped and mixed with olive oil and red wine vinegar. I’d love to have more of that chimichurri sauce as a dip, but there’s not much room to complain about this dish. The tangy marinated prawns had been cooked perfectly and were bursting with flavour.
For the next couple of dishes, we moved to Europe. I can’t say that I didn’t miss the minced meat in the Lasagna Exotica, but as far as vegetarian Lasagne are concerned, this one is quite good. The next dish was a demonstration of classical French cooking techniques that demand patience and care. The succulent Confit Chicken with a thick, cranberry juice was quite easily my favourite of the evening. My only grouch is that Oakleaf opted to use a skinless chicken thereby losing out on the additional dimension added by a crispy skin on a chicken confit. At the very least, incorporating the skin as baked chicken skin crisps would lend the dish some textural variation and elevate it by a couple of notches.
Next up, was a delicately balanced and aromatic Thai Green Curry (veg), followed by a couple of Indian specialities – Mutton Rogan Josh and Malai Kofta with bread (Roti and Naan). The Rogan Josh with tender mutton chunks in a rich, fat-laden gravy was yummy. The Kofta gravy ticked all the right boxes and was delicious, but the Koftas themselves hadn’t had the opportunity to soak in all of that goodness due to the peculiar presentation of the dish.
The final course was represented by a gorgeous coffee soaked Tiramisu, a perfectly torched Creme Brulee, a luscious, velvety, sugar-free Chocolate Mousse, and a fabulous Blueberry Cheese Cake.
The new menu at Oakleaf has plenty to excite the palette of foodies. Many of the new additions like Confit Chicken, Gamberi Chimichurri, and Blueberry Cheese Cake are fabulous. However, at the same time, a few of the earlier signatures like the Pan Fried Pomfret and Kiwi Baked Yoghurt have been axed. Thankfully, many of my other favourites, including Insalata Caprese, Funghi Di Cappuccino, Grilled Polenta have made the cut.
Oakwood Hyderabad has only two dining options – the Oakleaf and Cafe 115. Since the latter is focussed on bread and bite-sized eats, Oakleaf has to do a lot of the heavy lifting. It has to satiate the culinary requirements of in-house guests, offer enough local favourites to attract diners from the IT companies in the vicinity, and also showcase gourmet delicacies befitting an Oakwood property. While I’d always love to see more inspired creations in the menu, I’ve to admit that Oakleaf pulls off this tricky balancing act. Irrespective of your palette and cuisine preferences, you should be able to find something in the menu to fall in love with. A meal for two at Oakleaf will cost around Rs. 2200.