Under an open sky on a cold winter night, warmed by a coal-fired brazier and sipping a Glenfiddich 21, one could almost hear a piper play….writes Vishnu Makhijani
And so it was as Chef Manish Mehrotra paired 12, 15 and 21 year-vintage Glenfiddich single malts with bespoke and specially created menu that translated into a transformational experience on the lawns of the Indian Accent restaurant at The Manor in south Delhi’s tony Friends Colony neighbourhood on Wednesday night and actually nipped the cold in the bud.
But why in the open?
“We noticed that sales had dipped in Scotland. Then we realised this was because more and more houses had acquired central heating. So we thought of recreating the home country for you here,” James Pennefather, General Manager, William Grant and Sons, India, told the select invitees at the food tasting session, tongue firmly in cheek.
He was right, because the setting did make for the perfect ambience, what with the two long tables for the sit-down dinner gently illuminated with elaborate cadle-stands.
So, how did the evening come about?
“We’ve worked with Glennfiddich in the past and had done a similar event in Mumbai a year-and-half ago. Winter is great for food, so we said let’s do it here,” Mehrotra, who’s been the Indian Accent chef for the past eight years, told IANS.
“Whiskey and Indian food can be perfectly paired, particularly if it is the ‘ghar ka khana’ type with moderate spices,” he explained.
Thus, the rather elaborate appetiser consisted of sarson ka saag, sweet corn papdi, jaggery, onion and Italian Buratta cheese paired with a Glenfiddich 12 cocktail that tasted okay enough but couldn’t mask the sacrilege of using a single malt as the base for the concoction.
“I agree it’s a sacrilege and so we used the Glennfiddich 12. Why not experiment? Not everyone is a purist. This was the fun part before we get down to the serious end of the evening,” Mehrotra explained.
Next up was an elaborately plated winter peas vada accompanied by puffed rice and tomato bhel in a tiny canape. The peas gave the vada a fair amount of crunchiness not normally associated with it but one wished the canape had been a shade larger.
The Glenfiddich 15 paired with this more than made up for everything — silky smooth with sherry oak, marzipan, cinnamon and ginger.
“It’s the ginger that gives you warmth,” Mehrotra explained.
An anardana and churan kulfi sorbet, served in a miniature pressure cooker was up next after a while to serve as a palate cleanser before the piece de resistance: Lamb shank with Rajasthani pearl millet khichdi with black dairy dal, wasabi and cucumber raita and Indian Accent kulcha.
The lamb shank was a delight, effortlessly easing off the bone and easily blending with the khichdi but the dal was a strict no-no, while the raita, good by itself, made for too many mixed flavours, as did the kulcha.
But then, it was the Glenfiddich 21 pairing that came charging to the rescue — bringing to mind fruitcakes, spices, buttery vanilla and malt, while the nose took in the overlying layers of barley sugar, dark brown sugar, orange peels and marmalade.
And, there was one other secret: “Patiently matured for 21 years on site at the distillery, it is then matured for four months in Caribbean rum casks,” Shweta Jain, Head of Marketing William Grant and Sons, explained.
In sum, it made for an immensely satisfying evening.