We Indians have a fascination for the word “Michelin “. Mention it and you are sure to get everyone’s attention. While many of us have eaten at Michelin starred restaurants overseas, India in not yet one of the 22 countries covered by this prestigious ranking system for food establishments, started way back in 1900 by a French tyre company.
So when a Michelin Chef is invited to come and cook for us in New Delhi, it is a big deal.
The star is actually awarded to a restaurant and not to a chef though the chef does get catapulted to celebrity status when his restaurant gets that coveted status after meeting the exacting standards set by the Michelin guide, which many accuse of being too “Francocentric”.
We may not have any Michelin starred restaurants in India as yet but we do have many Indian chefs whose overseas ventures have been awarded Michelin stars. Most well-known are Atul Kochar’s Tamarind (2001) & Benaras (2007) in London, Vineet Bhatia’s Zaika (2001) & Rasoi (2009) in London and Vikas Khanna’s Junoon (2011) in New York.
Michelin still remains the last word when we talk of fine dining and according to many “the only guide that counts”.
Keshav Suri, Director of The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group decided to treat food lovers in the capital by inviting to The Lalit New Delhi, Chef Oliver Dabbous whose eponymous venture, Dabbous in London, created waves by being awarded a Michelin star within nine months of its opening in January 2012.
The occasion was the re-launching of European speciality restaurant The Grill Room at The Lalit New Delhi. Chef Ollie along with his partner and co-owner of Dabbous, Mixologist Oskar Kinberg showcased their contemporary cooking style with a “less is more” approach by presenting four well-thought-out courses and some signature cocktails. Some of these will be incorporated in the menu of The Grill Room.
The duo also churned out some cocktails and finger food at Lalit’s famous nightclub Kitty Su and another exclusive dinner at Baluchi, the Indian speciality restaurant at The Lalit, which goes beyond being just that and is more of a concept with its famous Roti Bar.
Keshav Suri plans to take the Baluchi concept overseas with the opening of The Lalit London, the group’s first hotel outside India, which should be operational by November 2016.
Going by the huge success of the three day event where not just the food and drinks were the stars but also the Chef and Mixologist and their team of an assistant mixologist Harvey Lewis & the sommelier Charles Pashby-Taylor (WSET Level 4 Diploma) who looked more like a school kid, it was evident that Delhi is the right place for high profile food events like this.
In fact, when Chef Ollie Dabbous emerged from the kitchen dressed like your neighbourhood halwai in a ganji-banyan (vest) and lungi, he was greeted with a thunderous applause usually reserved for rock stars. He looked no less than one, reminding me of another flamboyant Chef, Gaggan Anand. Chef Ollie, who has honed his cooking skills at famous restaurants like Mugaritz in San Sebastian Spain, Noma in Copenhagen & Fat Duck in Bray England, has been called “the new culinary messiah”.
The dishes and cocktails presented by him and his mixologists Oskar and Harvey reflected a freshness and minimalism which is a hallmark of contemporary European cuisine.
The stand-out cocktail for me was Whiskey Business made with Bourbon (Jim Beam) Vermouth (Cocchi di Torino), Fino Sherry, Passion Fruit and Danish Bitter (Gammel Dansk. Another wine based cocktail by the name of “Sorrel Seems To Be The Hardest Word” made with Sula Sauvignon Blanc, Hendricks Gin and a mysterious green juice was very refreshing. All the cocktails were well balanced and none had any jarring element.
As for my favorite course, it was the soupy dish of Carrot with passion fruit, coriander and saffron with a pretty garnish of almonds that I found stunning.
The second course of Salmon with toasted cauliflower with sesame dressing was excellent too but the third dish, lamb with aubergine left me a little underwhelmed. The clever use of toasted gram flour pancake or in desi terminology our good old “besan-ka-cheela” in the dish was a creative touch.
What was interesting about all the four dishes was the incorporation of local ingredients and flavours with a lot of finesse.
Big thanks to The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group for bringing a Michelin experience to India and giving us chance to enjoy it at a fraction of the cost of what we would have paid in London.
Never mind trying to get a table at Dabbous, which I am told is next to impossible with a waiting list running into months.
By: Lavina Kharkwal