A new beginning: A restaurant that tries to bring about a shift in the existing paradigm of how things are perceived is always a welcome endeavour
Recently, I made a big change in my career. After having worked in the B2B space for almost two decades, I finally decided to face the music. And so it was that I, Magandeep Singh, India’s OG wineman, decided to dip my toes into the consumer market. For 20 years, I cheekily went with the whole ‘those who can’t do, teach’ motto and, now, I felt like trying something different.
It’s not that I don’t know how things work in a full-service restaurant. Over the past many years, we have been behind some of the most iconic wine programmes in the country and elsewhere, but the key word was always ‘behind’. When you walk into Delhi’s latest fine dining establishment Rooh, try the wines and either think they aren’t well chosen or don’t work with the food, well, you know who to blame.
By the way, Rooh will be serving up international Indian fare mostly in a fixed-menu-style format. I will say no more because if I praise it, it will reek of nepotism as much as if I diss any other restaurant. That said, I have always refrained from typical reviews and will continue to do so, trying to be as objective as humanly possible when I share my F&B experiences. Also, there is no better way to judge the food and beverage quotient of a place than by visiting it, so make a reservation and come say hi—except on Mondays when it’s closed.
So this is my foray of sorts. But it’s not the only one and other things are in the pipeline where I will be on the frontline—the stories I have heard about annoying guests with tantrums to match their fragile egos! I am not saying everybody is a monster, but if anybody plans on being one around me and, well, if I am at fault, I will be more hospitable and accommodating than a Mughal king’s court. But if not, consider this fair warning for what will come the said person’s way.
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That established, here are a few things, which I have tried to do differently. Again, these are not said in praise for the place—that is for you to decide—but merely shared in a neutral vein for sake of information.
Pricing: I have ensured that this list is super value-for-money. No, it isn’t about being the best-priced (it is) or the quirkiest (it might be), but the reason why most people drink the lowest-priced wines first is because the margins at most places are ridiculous. In fact, I simply order beer, which, although a great beverage, may not always be the best suited for the length of a tasting menu. Rooh, I can safely say, can change that. It’s definitely affordable—and I know because what I have really done is gone and priced wines that I like and a price that I’d be happy to pay.
Variety: Now, most places feel that a heavy list is the only kind one should find in high-end places. Here instead, we have a 40-wine list, but one that will change ever so often. Anybody walking in a few months down the line will find a big change in the brands listed. The good thing is that it means the list always incites curiosity, but the downside is that sometimes, we (well, I) end up lopping off someone’s favourite wine.
Pairing: This is the most important aspect—a wine and the food served besides it should complement each other. This requires that both are structured to need each other in the first place. If they are all complete unto themselves, it can be hard for them to lend themselves to a matching. I find this is what troubles certain boisterous Shiraz from Australia as also Gewürztraminer in general. The same can be said of Indian food when it is served in a thali format, that is, all coming together. It can all be overwhelming for our senses. Hopefully, we would have fared not too badly in this department, but I leave it for you to try it and tell me.
All in all, a new restaurant, especially one that tries to bring about a shift in the existing paradigm of how things are perceived, is always a welcome endeavour. As I always say, food and wine is a conversation: Rooh is just chef Sujan and Priyam’s prose in plates duly punctuated with beverages by me. So come by and engage.
(The writer is a sommelier)