Autumn Leaf Cafe (ALC) has been in Hyderabad for a couple of years now, and I’ve been going there since it opened. From starting off as a place that was finding it’s feet with managing orders and providing timely service, it has matured into the best outdoor garden seating restaurant Hyderabad has to offer for western, continental, and casual cuisine. There is a sense of comfort and serentiy that comes with the multitude of flora and foliage that adorns ALC and the fact that it has been allowed to thrive and grow has worked wonders for the ambiance of this cafe.
There are a few other eateries that have gone for the garden villa – turned cafe theme, like Roastery Coffee House in Banjara Hills, and the Garden Cafe in Jubilee Hills, but I’ve got to say, ALC is right up there for the best garden seating and well, just a FANTASTIC garden. It’s got a variety of trees, bushes, shrubs, creepers, and flowering plants that grow all around the house, and during and after the rainy season, you might as well be sitting in the Nilgiris or Coorg. I hope you understand that mosquitoes are a given here especially into the later hours of the evening and they stop outdoor sitting during dinner, but believe you me, the mosquitoes will DESTROY you even if you sit indoors at night. The staff try to help you with coils, but the coils do nothing! It is for this reason alone that I prefer going to ALC for brunch/lunch during the stark sunny daylight hours. Carry your own mosquito repellent spray and cream if you’re going at night. (Some folks aren’t that prone to mosquito attacks like me. I am the mosquito mecca).
The food has more or less been average to good, with some dishes which are excellent. Their range of smoothies and fruit juices are all excellent and are named after my all time favourite TV series, the Simpsons. The Homer is thick and tasty with blueberries, banana, yoghurt, and honey.
I suppose I must have tried almost everything on their menu over the past couple of years and certain dishes became a standard for me every time I went to ALC. The tenderloin steak has mostly always been decently soft (for Hyderabadi steak offerings), and my personal favourite sauce to go with it is the barbecue sauce or the red wine reduction. The vegetable sides with it has mostly always been fresh and juicy and you get to choose from a variety of sides for any kind of taste and palate. Get ready to get your fingers all saucy with their chicken wings, they’re downright delicious with whichever sauce option you choose. My favorite has been the fiery buffalo sauce. The quinoa salad was a tad bit medicore and could have used a little more pomegranate or perhaps even a sprinkle of feta cheese to give it some acidity to cut through the otherwise monotonous mouthfuls of quinoa, beetroot (a nice touch) and lettuce.
The pasta options are standard and you can’t go wrong with any. Try adding a side of grilled chicken with it to give it some body or perhaps the fish add-on (slightly spicy grilled).
A dish that stood out pleasantly during my last visit there was the Goat Cheese Phyllo Parcel.
The pastry is paper thin, delicate, and crispy that boasts of technique and finesse. Each parcel is full of cheesy goodness that sort of explodes when you pop one in your mouth. The cheesy bursts are cut right through with hits of tamarind tanginess from the tamarind glaze on which the pastries sit. Fantastic stuff. The Egyptian Lamb is also a fantastic starter but took a good 15 minutes to serve, but I wasn’t complaining once I ate it. I’d give the devilled eggs a miss, and the sandwiches aren’t exactly satiating due to the fact that there weren’t any bread options apart from a rather meager white. The burgers are all good (a quick shout out to the Mexican veg burger here, which my wife liked). The french fries here aren’t my favourite as they border on too crispy and not thick enough. The pork ribs were a little fatty for my taste and it took a bit of work to finish it all in one sitting (pork ribs are usually quite fatty), but they’ve got the flavours bang on. The chops on the other hand took a bit of work with the knife but were tasty enough to order again. I’d choose the chops over the ribs for their pork mains. I’d go for their blackened fish (salmon) over their grilled fish because I’m not a fan of Basa. Both dishes were tasty and well made, but the salmon just tastes better as a fish in such a preparation.
The service is always pleasant on a not-so-busy day, but can get a little frustrating during the slightly busier hours as the waiters are always scurrying around various trees and foliage so you can’t exactly catch their eye very easily. One way or another though, they will spot you and are happy to help. Cutlery is nice and clean with no complaints there. Seating outside is in the form of proper straight backed thick wooden chairs which do their job for the hour or so that you’d be there. The only downsides to sitting out here as of late has been the odd wafting stink from an outdoor drain. It’s that sickly sweet hydrogen sulfide smelling gas. It’s not that noticeable one you’re sitting amidst the trees, but the odd gust of wind will make you perk up your nose and wonder for a second if some let er’ rip. Apart from that, the mosquitos during the evening/night hours are big deterrent for me. During the day, this is my go to place for a bit of greenery and delicious and very reasonably priced food.