Delhi’s top wine destinations – part two

This is the second part of the story and features restaurants in five star hotels with exceptional wine offerings. A version of this was published in Time Out Delhi’s special wine edition ‘The Grape Escape’, under the title Veni, Vidi, Vino. I am posting the original and unedited version here for the benefit of the readers of this blog.

The first part which featured standalone restaurants can be accessed here. I recommend you read the first part before continuing here, as it sets the overall objective of the entire exercise of writing about these wine destinations for Time Out Delhi.

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San Gimignano, The Imperial

Janpath Lane, Connaught Place, New Delhi

San gimignano
Imperial’s San Gimignano offers an idyllic setting for food & wine enjoyment

There are very few restaurants in Delhi that can boast of playing a trendsetting role in the city’s food and wine and fine-dining landscape. Imperial’s San Gimignano not only occupies the top echelons of that list but is also recognised for maintaining extremely high standards of food and wine offerings over the years.

Named after the eponymous hill town of Tuscany, San Gimignano epitomises the region’s world-famous wine and gastronomic heritage. A well-crafted wine list packed with the choicest of labels complements the best of Italian cuisine. Out of the 390 odd labels, unsurprisingly, a bias towards Italian wines is evident, although many other classical wine regions also feature prominently. From the ubiquitous Chianti to the cult known as Ornellaia Masseto, the Italian wine selection is a perfect match with the signature items on the menu, some of which are apparently made with generous additions of premium Italian wines.

The quaint and private, yet highly sophisticated interior of the restaurant is ideal for an indulgent food and wine experience. But if you enjoy a livelier, alfresco experience, opt for a seat in the snow-white and blemish-less courtyard outside, aptly named the ‘Paradiso del Vino’ or the ‘Paradise of Wine’.

The wine list:

Main Feature: Carefully chosen Italian wine selection.

Strengths: Top names from Bordeaux, Burgundy and of course a vast selection of Italian wines from all the country’s wine producing regions.

Wine-by-the-glass Selection: 12, across types and styles. For those new to the restaurant, this may seem to be too limited but apparently it is a conscious decision as most guests prefer to order bottles of wines to enjoy over a long meal.

What to look out for (specials): Alfresco dining at the Paradiso del Vino and Chef special menu paired with wines.

Food & wine recommendations: Try out their Tagliolini Con Salsa Di Frutti Di Mare Champagne (homemade tagliollini pasta with a delicate champagne seafood sauce). Pair this with a crisp cold-climate Chardonnay/ Ribolla Gialla blend on the list from the Friulli-Venezia region, like ‘Livio Felluga Sharis delle Venezie IGT’.

Another signature dish, Scallopine Di Pollo (crumb fried chicken breast with parsley butter sauce and capers), is a good partner with the light to medium bodied and fruity Allegrini Valpolicella.

Price range: Expensive. A meal for two with wines on an average costs about Rs. 15000 plus taxes, where the price of wine considered is in the range of Rs. 7000 to 8000.

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Threesixty° & Enoteca, The Oberoi

Opposite Delhi public School, Dr Zakir Hussain Marg, New Delhi

threesixty
Threesixty° at The Oberoi offers the most complete wine experience in Delhi

Any mention of Delhi’s food and wine destinations is incomplete without the special reference to Threesixty° at The Oberoi. A melting pot of delectable world cuisine complemented with a selection of wines to crave for, this iconic address has always been on top in the itinerary of the city’s diners.

The restaurant has many distinguishing factors which separate it from its peers in the industry. Most will agree that the prime among these are the sheer variety and quality of food on offer, in addition to the superb service so intrinsic to Oberoi hospitality. But wine also plays a major role in shaping up the restaurant’s overall profile. In fact many would argue that the wine-friendly setting of Threesixty° is its main draw.

Enoteca – the wine bar, wine library and tasting room – all rolled in one is a customised and climate-controlled wine cellar strategically located at the entrance of the restaurant and acts as the centre stage of all its wine activities. It is perhaps the biggest visible cellar in town, consisting of over 1200 bottles and over 150 labels of wines. An ideal place to tickle one’s vinous senses, it is legendary as a hub for wine tastings in a setting nowhere else to be experienced in the city.

There are many other reasons why Threesixty° carries the worthy distinction of a genuine food & wine destination of the highest order. Some of the most notable among these are; one of Delhi’s most lavish spreads in Sunday brunch accompanied by choicest of Champagnes, a private dining experience for groups at the glass-encased private dining room, customised wine dinners, and many more.

The wine list:

Main Features: Vast selection of cuisines and wines from around the world. Interactive dining experience. Wine sampling at the Enoteca.

Strength: A carefully designed list with healthy representation from almost all the major wine regions of the world.

Wine-by-the-glass Selection: 12 across types and styles, including two sparklings.

What to look out for (specials): Sunday brunch with choice of Champagnes. Wine sampling at the Enoteca.

Food & wine recommendations: For appetizer, you can try their famous ‘Thai Pomelo Salad’ paired with a well-chilled Henri Bourgeois Sancerre. Among the many choices for the main course, the ‘Threesixty Baluchi Raan’ is a highlight. You can pair this signature dish with the Rupert Rothschild Merlot.

Price range: Expensive. Average cost for meal for two with wine is around 10000 plus taxes assuming two glasses of wine are consumed per person, during a 3 course meal (appetizers, main course and dessert).

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Masala Art, Taj Palace

2, Sardar Patel Marg, Diplomatic Enclave, New Delhi

Masala art
Masala Art is one of the very few Indian cuisine restaurants in Delhi where wine plays an important role in the overall dining experience

Food and beverage has always been a prime focus at the Taj Group of Hotels, aptly demonstrated by the myriad of highly sought-after brands across their properties in India. Delhi accounts for a fair share of these restaurants, with some deserving special mention owing to the incorporation of effective wine programmes in their overall F&B offerings. Masala Art at the Taj Palace is one such restaurant which stands out for its commitment to promote wine as the beverage of choice for diners. Whether it is the wine-focussed happy hour with its one is to one offer on specially chosen wine bottles, wine paired dinners, or on-the-table recommendations of chosen wines with the restaurant’s signature dishes, the dining experience in the restaurant is enhanced with the inclusion of wines.

The group’s long standing focus on its wine programme also appropriately reflects in Masala Art’s wine list, which scores highly on key parameters like depth, variety and exclusivity. It features in excess of 450 labels from almost every major wine region of the world, including more than 20 competitively priced wines-by-the-glass. The knowledgeable staff is always at hand to suggest wines based on your preference as well as the combination of masalas (Indian spices) and cooking style.

The restaurant’s contemporary take on presenting rustic Indian cuisine with a western-style interactive food preparation is a welcome change for the city’s Indian food lovers. And the judicious addition of wines to its repertoire has only underlined Masala Art’s endeavour to offer its guests the very best in fine dining experience.

The Wine List: 

Main Feature: Vast selection of international wines presented in a neat, user-friendly design.

Strengths: Equal focus on every style and type of wine representing all major wine regions.

Wine-by-the-glass Selection: 22 well priced wines specially selected with the compatibility to food in mind.

What to look out for (specials): Wine paired set menu. Interactive kitchen where you can get your dish custom made. Happy hour between 6.30 pm and 8 pm where there is a one-is-to-one offer on international wines.

Food & wine recommendations: The ‘Chatpata Crab’ is an interesting dish to try. Made with tangy and aromatic spices, an equally zesty and flavourful Riesling comes to mind as a worthy partner. Try the glass of St. Urbans-Hof Riesling Kabinett from Germany’s Mosel with this item.

Staying with seafood and an equally strongly aromatic dish, the ‘Jheenge ka salan’ is also worth sampling with a Kessler Gewürztraminer Grand Cru 2006.

Price range: Expensive. Average cost of meal for two with wine is around 10000 plus taxes assuming two glasses of wine are consumed per person.

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Le Cirque, Leela Palace

Diplomatic Enclave, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi

Le Cirque
The chic & upmarket Le Cirque scores highly not only for its avant-garde food but also for the largest wine selection in town

Le Cirque at the Leela is India’s most high profile import in the luxury restaurant segment, and since the iconic New York brand debuted in Delhi, it has left an indelible mark on the capital’s fine dining scene. Carrying on the tradition of exemplary food and wine offerings in its original home, Le Cirque has also created a cult following among a niche clientele in the capital.

The French-Italian cuisine served at the restaurant uses only the very best quality ingredients – a large proportion of which is imported. The flavour and texture of the carefully crafted dishes demand the best possible wines to enhance their sensory and taste profile. The wine list has been designed keeping this in mind and features a huge selection of top quality wines (more than 500 labels appear on the list), many belonging to the cult or super-premium category.

The wine list has many other eye-catching features; one of them being the largest collection of Champagne in town; 30 in total, across all possible styles. It also has an enviable collection of fine wines from classical wine regions of France, Italy and Germany. The representation from the New World is mainly led by Australia and USA.

Le Cirque’s reputation in the Delhi fine dining market is as much about glitz, gloss and glamour as it is for the world-renowned food and an eclectic collection of wines. So, if your idea of a dining extravaganza involves pure luxury and you are not constrained by budget, this may be the right place for pampering your epicurean soul.

The wine list:

Main Feature: Sheer number and variety of labels from almost every wine region of the world.

Strengths: Focus on traditional strongholds of the Old World, namely France and Italy and a wide selection of types and styles from the New World.

Wine-by-the-glass Selection: 20 with a good balance of grape varieties and styles.

What to look out for (specials): More than 30 champagnes with all the recognisable names, styles and price points possible.

Food & Wine recommendations: The ‘Lobster Risotto’ with subtle infusions of rosemary and capers is a must try. Pair this iconic dish with your choice of a Vintage Champagne or an elegant white Burgundy from the extensive wine selection.

For those looking to try one of Le Cirque’s signature red meat items, the succulent ‘French Lamb Noisette’ is a must-try, paired with a New World Pinot Noir like the stylish Villa Maria Pinot Noir from New Zealand.

Price range: Expensive. A meal for two with wines would cost Rs. 16000 plus taxes, on an average, with most moderately priced wines and wine-by-the-glass. Depending on the kind of wines you consume and in most cases this amount is likely to be much higher.

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Cheers,

Niladri

Delhi’s top wine destinations – part one

A version of the following article was featured in Time Out Delhi’s special wine edition ‘The Grape Escape’, under the title Veni, Vidi, Vino. I am posting the original and unedited version here for the benefit of the readers of this blog.

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Wine Offerings
Wine & food partnership is the new mantra of modern gastronomy

Gone are the days when dining out in cosmopolitan India was mostly about the cuisine served in a restaurant. With fast evolution of the country’s F&B scene, that status quo has long been done away with, for good. Today diners seek much more than an aesthetically presented or even a sensuously delicious dish. And among all the added pleasures that make up great gourmet experiences, wine has emerged on the top of the savvy customer’s wish list.

Delhi has long been home to some of the country’s most iconic restaurant brands serving choicest of cuisines. While wine has been a part of the city’s restaurant scene for quite some time, the quality and variety of wine offerings have come of age in true sense in the last five years or so. Wine lists now not only boast of choicest international brands of the most desirable vintages, but are also thoughtfully designed to complement the cuisine, concept and theme of the restaurants. All these have been the result of the hospitality industry’s unflinching vision of cultivating a thriving wine culture in the country.

This steady evolution of world-class wine destinations has come as a boon for the city’s gourmands and its wine lovers in particular. But at the same time the proliferation of these ‘wine hubs’ has also resulted in a pleasant dilemma among wine consumers about the most suitable places to satiate their vinous senses along with their taste buds.

Whether you are looking for a sophisticated fine-dining experience featuring an exhaustive collection of wines from virtually every region of the wine world or wish to be pampered with a customised menu paired with wines, Delhi has many places which should be bookmarked in your dining itinerary. Let’s explore each of them individually.

In the first part of this article, let’s have a look at three restaurants which offer the best wine selections in the standalone category. The second part deals with restaurants in five star hotels:

Diva
M8, M Block Market, GK2, New Delhi

diva
Diva’s wine selection is impressive, not just for the variety but also for its pocket-friendliness

A shining star of Delhi’s standalone restaurant scene, Diva has long been one of the torchbearers of the city’s reputation as the gourmet hub of India. With one of the country’s most talented chefs at the helm, it has redefined the concept of dining out by inspiring foodies (and winos!) to think beyond five star hotels and upmarket, overly hyped restaurants.

Many Delhiites may not be aware of the fact that apart from being a ‘Chef Extraordinaire’, Ritu Dalmia is also a keen wine aficionado and possesses vast knowledge about the subject. This reflects in the wine list of the restaurant which stands out as much for its variety and attention to detail as the careful selection of labels to accompany the authentic Italian cuisine.

The wine list here is unpretentious albeit so well thought out that you will hardly find a dish on the food menu which cannot be paired with multiple wines. The highlight has to be the wines-by-the glass selection which features more than 30 different labels sold at extremely affordable prices. Additionally, and quite logically, the list smartly captures Italy’s wine portfolio by ensuring representation from almost all the country’s wine regions. There are also several other international wines, making it a well-rounded list.

The wine list:
Main Features: Extremely affordable pricing. Food-friendly international wines specially chosen to accompany Diva’s signature cuisine.

Strength: Wine selection from almost all the wine regions of Italy.

Wine-by-the-glass Selection: 30 odd labels offering excellent variety and depth. Very competitively priced.

What to look out for (specials): Weekend wine pairing with specially crafted dishes.

Food & wine recommendations: One of the must-try dish is ‘John Dory fillet dusted with Polenta, pan grilled, served with Celeriac puree and crispy Prawns’. Pair this with a bone-dry, fresh, floral and minerally Michele Chiarlo Gavi.

Another recommended dish is ‘Phyllo pastry bundles filled with Artichokes and Taleggio cheese, baked golden and served with a creamy Spinach sauce’. A light but pleasantly fruity Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino will partner the dish perfectly.

Price range: Moderate and extremely pocket-friendly. Meal for two, on an average, costs about Rs. 2000, plus taxes. A couple of glasses of wine consumed with the meal per head would cost another 1500.

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Indian Accent

77, The Manor, New Friends Colony, New Delhi

Indian Accent
The culinary magic of Indian Accent is well complemented by a well thought out wine list

If there is one Indian standalone restaurant worthy to be among the top Michelin star restaurants of the world, it undoubtedly has to be the Indian Accent. In this highly competitive business, such distinction can only be earned if there is a genuine passion to create a unique product of highest quality. And if passion indeed is the key ingredient in deciding a restaurant’s popularity and success; this place oozes plenty of it. No wonder, in a short period of time it has created a niche for itself in Delhi’s fine dining market.

Chef Manish Mehrotra and his team’s brilliance aside, Indian Accent also deserves a special mention for its outstanding wine list which can rival the best in the city. A quick look through the list is all it takes to realise the minute attention to detail that has been employed in selecting the labels. It is also apparent that this selection, in addition to the designing of the list, is entirely influenced by the cuisine and a style of modern cooking where international ingredients are innovatively married with Indian spices. A ‘Fois Gras stuffed Galawat’ or ‘Achari New Zealand Lamb Shank’ married with wines may sound too adventurous for the uninitiated but you will be surprised at the sensory delight of such combinations.

On the one hand, you will find a healthy number of fresh, crisp and aromatic white wines to accompany the light-on-the-palate dishes, on the other there are also a good collection of red wines across a wide spectrum of body, mouthfeel and weight on the palate to pair with the comparatively heavier items. Overall, the balance, variety and compatibility to the cuisine make it one of the best wine offerings in the capital.

The Wine list:
Main Features: Variety, balance and affordable wines.

Strength: Food inspired wines – in other words, each and every wine very carefully handpicked to accompany the nouvelle Indian cuisine
Wine-by-the-glass Selection: 32 labels selected with careful attention to the food menu, which is almost 50 % of the total wine offerings. One of the best wine-by-the-glass selections in town.

What to look out for (specials): Chef tasting menu paired with wine – fantastic way to sample the chef’s magic.

Food & wine recommendations: Among the classic food & wine pairings suggested in their Chef tasting menu, I really liked the idea of marrying the ‘Meetha achaar chilean spare ribs, sun dried mango, toasted kalonji seeds’ with a glass of Peter Lehmann Shiraz from Barossa Valley in Australia.

Another equally chef-recommended combination is ‘Tempered ricotta vada, pao bhaji, kafir lime butter pao (Chowpatty in a bowl)’ with a glass of Miguel Torres, Santa Digna, Sauvignon Blanc from Chile.

Price range: Moderate and affordable. Meal for two, on an average, costs about Rs. 4000, plus taxes. A couple of glasses of wine consumed with the meal per head would cost another 1500.

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Set’z
3rd Floor, DLF Emporio Mall, Nelson Mandela Marg, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi

setz
Set’z’s vast choice of food is matched by its wide selection of international wines

In spite of Delhi’s reputation as a major gastronomic destination of India, the burden of serving soul-stirring food and world-class beverages in an upmarket and chic environment always rested with the five star hotels. That was until Set’z (earlier avatar Zest) appeared in the city’s hospitality horizon, especially in the multi-cuisine segment. Since then it has acquired a reputation of being a game changer of sorts, inspiring a wave of independent F&B outlets trying to emulate its success as one of the most happening dining addresses in town.

Apart from the vast array of cuisines, the concept and theme of Set’z is perfectly suited for wine consumption and quite expectedly, the restaurant management has made it a prime focus in its overall service offerings. The customised and well-appointed wine cellar and tasting room at the entrance is one of the very few of its kind in Delhi and adds to the ‘wine ambience’ of the restaurant. The wine list is extensive (about 180 labels) and contemporarily designed with country-wise and varietal categorisation, making it easily navigable for most. It offers an excellent regional and style variation and one would be hard-pressed not to find a wine that cannot partner its vast selection of Indian and international food. Although, considering the size of the food menu, one would expect to find more wine-by-the-glass offers. Currently, the list only features 14.

The wine list:
Main Feature: Contemporarily designed menu with a wide selection to partner with the large selection of dishes.

Strength: Wines from classical wine regions.

Wine-by-the-glass Selection: 14 across types and styles, that are replaced with new labels every three months.

What to look out for (specials): Weekend brunches accompanied with Champagnes and sparkling wines. Alfresco dining at the terrace. Wine sampling at the customised cellar cum tasting room.

Food & wine recommendations: For fish lovers, the ‘Persley Crusted Sea Bass’ is not to be missed. The carefully cooked fillet retains the all-important moisture and juices while the light herb crust adds to the texture and flavour. A racy Burgundy like the Domain Hamelin Chablis will complement the dish perfectly.

Another good combination to indulge on is the ‘Braised lamb shank’ with moderately priced but elegant Bordeaux Blend, Chateau Malmaison.

Price range: Expensive. A meal for two with wines on an average costs about Rs. 12000 to 14000 plus taxes. This price will vary according to the type of wine ordered.

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Part two of this review article, which focusses on restaurants in five star hotels, can be accessed here.

Cheers,

Niladri