That Sarah Todd loves Indian food is no surprise. The Model turned chef had won hearts when she made Alu-Gobhi at Master Chef Australia in 2014. Her fan following only grew after she opened Antares in Goa and curated the menu for The Wine Rack in Mumbai. Sarah, however, had so far been absent from the capital’s food scene. Not anymore, for she is not only in the capital but has also redesigned the entire menu for The Wine Company, Gurgaon.
Founded by Ashish Dev Kapoor and his partner Joydeep Singh, The Wine Company, is celebrating its 4th anniversary and Sara’s menu happens to be the highlight of the event. “When we set up the place 4 years ago, the idea was to bring wine closer to people,” Ashish recalls, “with that achieved to an extent, the focus now is to help people pair the right wine with the right food, that’s where Sarah steps in,” he continues.
The brand new menu at The Wine Company reflects Sarah’s love for Indian food and local produce. While the wines have traveled from all over the world, the ingredients for the kitchen are sourced locally. Artisanal cheese comes from Delhi, Mumbai, and Kashmir, Bhut Jolakia Chilli comes from Nagaland and seafood is sourced from Odhisha. “With people getting more and more conscious of what goes onto their plate, fresh produce and farm to table is the next big thing,” says Sarah while introducing her menu. “Also, I want to break the myth that Indian flavours don’t go well with wine, so I have incorporated a lot of local ingredients to create recipes that will appeal to the local palate and yet pair well with wine.” She finishes.
A large part of the menu represents local elements including an entire section of street food. “I love street food in Delhi and I have brought it to the menu with some variation,” Sarah tells us while presenting the first course. Momos, Pakoda, Kulcha, Golgappas all find a place here, only it is her interpretation of them. The Pakoda is made with a whole soft-shell crab, the kulcha has red wine, duck meat, cranberry and gorgonzola, golgappas come with tom yum, and momos are made with shitake and wombok mushrooms. Surprising as it may sound, the course goes rather well with the La Fantasia Sauvignon Blanc from Chile.
The next course starts with Churros. Made with goat cheese and served with truffle cream and chilli dip, they are crisp and airy, “you could have it with the cream, or, for a kick, dip it in the chilli,” instructs Sarah smiling. With over 70 dishes on the menu, and almost each created from scratch, one wonders how long would it have taken to come up with the new menu.
“I couldn’t say how long it took me to create it, sometimes a dish comes to me while I am stepping out of the door or just walking outside, sometimes it takes several attempts to get it right.” Sarah explains even as she presents her showstopper – flambéed Kalari cheese.
Sarah discovered Kalari in Kashmir, fell in love with the traditional ripened cheese indigenous to the state, and carried it back with her. “Here I have sautéed and served it with flambéed Old Monk which gives it a caramel flavour,” she tells us while assembling the roasted peppers & onions on the flaming cheese. The roasted peppers add sweetness; the onions bring in crunch, and lemon cuts through the sweetness – a classic example of her knack of combining the unusual.
The mains, just like the small plates, represent diverse local flavours and combinations. “We do not want to intimidate people with fancy food,” quips Ashish, “so we said, forget pairing for a moment, the food has to be tasty.” The thought reflects in the course that comes with the likes of Kolhapuri Slow Cooked Lamb on Beetle Leaf with Pomegranate and Boondi, Quinoa Biryani with Avocado Raita, and the Madras Lamb Tortellini with coconut sauce. As per Sarah’s recommendation, it is paired with Jacobs Creek Chardonnay from Australia.
Pairing of wine with food is one thing, incorporating it in the recipe is quite another and you find both in the new menu – especially in the dessert course where wine becomes an important ingredient itself. The Iced Nougat uses Red Wine for the coulis, and Pear Crème Caramel has both wine and brandy in it. Ever so slightly sweet with a hint of wine and brandy, the desserts just like the rest of the menu, showcase their creator’s culinary brilliance.
*A version of this story first appeared in The Hindu,