Chef Sarah Todd: Raising The Bar At The Wine Company

Sheets of rain descended upon Cyber Hub as Team DSSC settled in on a high table sipping Pink Frosé — frozen wine slushies crafted for adults. We are greeted by our hosts for the afternoon, the affable Chef Sarah Todd and the suave Ashish Dev Kapur (Co-Founder of The Wine Company) as we embark upon a glorious afternoon of crisp conversation and an experimental menu.

The eclectic new food menu curated by Sarah Todd, along with a revamped wine and cocktail menu, heralds new beginnings for The Wine Company. “Having provided definitive wine and whisky spaces with The Wine Company and Whisky Samba, the unison of food and wine was a natural progression,” shares Ashish, the gent who aims at delivering a coherent dining experience to the discerning diners by harnessing the culinary prowess of chefs like Sarah and Vikramjit Roy (at Whisky Samba). He aims at proffering a 60-minute vacation to patrons as they walk into his restaurants.“A great vacation comprises of good food and alcohol in equal measure,” he asserts.

Tuning into an epicurean frequency, Sarah brings out The Wine Company Cheese Platter highlighting an array of cheese sourced from across India. We nibbled on a spicy zarai, sharp cheddar, gooey brie, and a truffle-scented cream cheese along with crisp lavaash, grapes, walnuts, olives, apricots, et al. Between sips of a crisp Chenin Blanc, Sarah shares how she conceptualized the new menu that packs in several pan-Indian ingredients, “It is imperative to travel to get hands on good quality ingredients and to understand their source. So, I journeyed all across India to pick ingredients like Kalari cheese from J&K, and Bhut Jolokia peppers from North-East India to incorporate them into our food and wine menus.”

Goan Pork Chorizo Bhut Jholokia

Sarah masterfully flambées and swirls Old Monk in a wine glass before pouring it over the traditionally ripened Kalari cheese sitting in a pan across us. The Flambé Kashmiri Kalari scintillatingly sizzled as Sarah added red peppers, sliced onions, and a gentle squirt of lime juice before nudging us to dig in. Knives and forks deep into Kalari, we partook our first bite. The Old Monk helped cut through the richness of the mozzarella-like dense indigenous cheese. The sharpness from onions and peppers, acidity from lemon juice, imparted a depth of flavour and added a multitude of textures to this stellar dish. We sipped more vino as the Red Wine Duck Kulcha paired with cranberry and gorgonzola graced the table. While the texture and treatment of the dish teased our palates, the kulcha gave in under the topping becoming slightly soggy. The vegetarian option of Sun dried Tomato Kulcha with crumbled bocconcini and sriracha hummus fared better with the crisp-edged kulcha holding well under the topping of sun dried tomatoes, cheese, and sriracha. The kulchas, along with all other dishes on the menu, resonate strongly with Todd’s approach of giving the local ingredients her signature spin. “I look at local ingredients with a different perspective. I haven’t eaten them in their traditional form all my life and am not bound by the traditions of cooking them, so, I go about developing new dishes at ease,” shares Sarah. Hailing from Queensland in Australia, she instantly felt at home in similar tropical climes of Goa where she opened her first restaurant, Antares, in partnership with Ashish.

Delving deeper into conversation, we quizzed Sarah about pivots in her food philosophy as she traversed from Queensland to Goa to Delhi, and she explains, “My cooking style has surely evolved. I use a lot more spices and marinades now, but the philosophy remains unaltered. I like to present a well-balanced dish which stands out with its varied textures. And because we eat with our eyes first, I stress on good presentation as well.” We get a taste of her food philosophy in the Quinoa Biryani — the quinoa had a bite to it and the flavours mimicked that of a traditional biryani. The Karari Roti on the side lent a crunch, while the smooth avocado raita provided silken texture. We doff our hats to Sarah for putting together this impressive dish.

Goats Cheese Churros

While one may imagine a menu essentially paired with wines at The Wine Company, Sarah reveals a more relaxed approach towards food and wine pairings, “We do showcase how well Indian food pairs with wine, but we’re not rigid. If a diner wants an experience of exclusively paired wines with their food, we have it right up their alley. But if they only want to have reds or whites or rosé, they needn’t think twice.” Ashish, on his part, lobbies hard to eliminate any taboos related to drinking in public. “We proudly display our alcoholic beverage collection and wish to nurture a culture of fine drinking with the all new bar design at The Wine Company,” says the gent, about the long bar which is replete with lights that highlight the drinks selection along moody frescoes that double up as conversation starters. We get distracted by the Goat Cheese Churros sitting between truffled cream and a chilli dip. Biting into the hot savoury churros filled with goat’s cheese, we instantly feel at home with Sarah’s spin on the traditionally sweet fried choux that she serves as tapas. We find little use of the accompanying dips, but promptly scribble the churros as the ‘must order’ dish on our next visit.

Up next, the Madras Curried Lamb Tortellini with burnt butter and a velvety coconut sauce enticed us with its familiar and unfamiliar elements teasing the taste buds, and egging us to have just some more, while we conjured plans of a siesta. “The menu instils a sense of the city to the mind of the diner,” explains Sarah, adding, “Delhiites are familiar with momos and have heard of and even tasted Madras curries. This dish is my spin on the momos. Upon reading the menu, people instinctively get an idea about what the flavour profile is going to be, and that puts them in a familiar territory. My dishes either have a common technique that people are familiar with, or an ingredient known all over India, or even a marinade to give them something to relate to.”

Drawing curtains on the epic afternoon, we turned to the Moscato Poached & Chargrilled Pears, crème caramel brandy snaps for the finale. The crème caramel satiated our sweet tooth, and the accompanying chargrilled pears imparted a gentle texture to the dish with just the right sweetness. The edible flowers did more than making the dish look good, and added a tangy touch enhancing its taste. Before bidding adieu to the chef who loves her gulab jamun and chaat, we ask her what’s trending in the culinary world, and she feels “sustainability and local produce are the buzzwords, as is writing the source of the produce on menu, right down to the farm from where it is being procured.” The globetrotter chef adds, “I’ve visited some of the Top 50 restaurants in the world and have witnessed a renewed focus on showcasing food in its truest form with enhanced flavours. The chefs out there are serving more simplified food as against the chemical alteration of its form practised until a few years ago.”

#DSSCTopTip: Headed hither? Don’t forget to sip on the delicious Tom Yum Gin, a creation of their new bartender from Bangkok, and refreshing Mimosas made with freshly squeezed OJ.

 

Head over to The Wine Company, Cyber Hub, DLF Cyber City, Gurgaon and lose wallet weight equivalent to Rs. 2,600 for two, with alcohol (approximately).