The mention of a wine dinner often conjures up images of folks indulging in gastronomical revelry of a finer kind. These are mostly sit down engagements involving a brief round of faire connaissance , followed by occupying privileged places replete with immaculately laid out glasses and cutlery set to receive the ensuing gourmet delights. Most of us- specially food and drinks passionates- feel enthusiastic at the very prospect of attending such engagements that bring with them the best in culinary civility.
Rote however, is not a virtue of life and as a consequence, wine dinners are evolving to keep consumer interest alive. One such dinner that I attended recently was Tour de Leela (TDL) organized by Hotel Leela Ambience Gurugram in the National Capital Region of India (Delhi/NCR).
A known wine friendly destination in Delhi/NCR, Leela Ambience has taken some recent initiatives to further the cause of the “elixir of Gods”. Michel Koopman, the hotel’s General Manager has been at the centre of these initiatives. TDL was one in the series of their monthly wine dinners based on novel concepts. Commensurate to its name, it took guests to various quarters within the hotel, that included places not accessible to visitors otherwise. Imagine savouring a main course in the hotel’s laundry room with massive driers whizzing around. Or a meal served in regular trays of the staff cafeteria. With these and more, TDL imparted a sense of unbridled freedom to guests even as they paced around, goblets in hands. Here’s retracing the stops of the tour:
Champagne and Hors d’œuvres
The Presidential Suite of the hotel (Rs 68,000 a day) on the sixth floor served as the assembling point for guests, who were greeted with a glass of Champagne Taittinger Brut Reserve along side starters. Conversations galore, guests had an opportunity to soak in the suite’s luxury as they explored its premises. The flow of Champagne didn’t abate either.
The First Courses
Taking the elevator to the ground floor (Champagne glasses in hand) we entered the hotel’s Indian restaurant that has recently been rechristened INdiya from the earlier Diya (meaning traditional Indian earthenware lamp). An amuse bouche of Double Chaat (flour crispies with peas, yoghurt and tamarind) awaited us as the first white wine for the day- Sileni Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) was poured. The wine, bursting with tropical fruit aromas did a decent job with the paired Indiya Kebab Platter. This was followed by a deeply satisfying Mulligatawny soup with a dunked in Baloni kulcha (Afghani flat bread) while the next wine for the day- Accomplice Chardonnay from De Bortoli Australia was poured. The guests were pleased to carry this wine along to the next venue as well.
Main Course #1
Traversing across on the same floor , we settled down at the vibrantly furnished Café Chilli where the Leela staff dines in the normal course of the day. Opting for the lobster stuffed Malfati di Aragosta– a home style ravioli like pasta that was served with spicy lobster and tomato emulsion, I found it absolutely delightful with the accompanying mouth filling Sileni Pinot Noir from New Zealand.
Main Course #2
The setting for this course was most unique- a UV lit laundry room at the basement level. Neatly stacked laundry and relentlessly spinning driers, formed the backdrop for a long dinner table where all 50+ guests were accommodated. The experience was unique but the place got a tad warmer due to the air conditioning struggling to cope with the unusual traffic. The hotel staff sprung into action to address the issue with cold serviettes, which put the focus back on food and wine. Pancetta wrapped pork and Porcini roulade was paired with a dense Mas La Plana– a single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from the iconic Spanish winemaker Torres.
Getting up a floor level again, we headed towards the hotel’s glamorous Rubicon Bar and Cigar lounge where a mind boggling array of desserts, cheeses (including some Himalayan ones) and savouries were on offer. India’s domestically produced Chandon Rosé sparkling wine and a redux Taittinger Brut Reserve did the honours for this course.
That pretty much concluded the dinner except for some cigar fans who went on to make good use of the Cigar Lounge. But that is a story in a different realm.