The Parisian night is thick with excitement. I could cut it with a knife and pop it into my champagne glass I raise a toast to this 250 year old historic treasure that has recently been reborn to global applause and been making headlines ever since. We’re dining amid this contemporary palace’s architectural riches of the 18th century which have been transformed into state of the art 21st century modern French art de vivre.
We re at the tiny intimate jewelbox L’Ecrin, Hôtel de Crillon’s gastronomic restaurant. Id met the young and brilliant Chef Christopher Hache several years ago and he is in my book “A vegetarian in Paris” (A Times Group Books publication). Here’s the exciting bit…next day I attended the prestigious Michelin Guide awards and applauded him receiving his very first Michelin star. So once again Crillon is hitting the headlines. Kudos to our very own superstylish, superstar hotelier Radha Arora who as President of the international group has been spearheading this transformation. As we feast on Chef Hache’s masterpieces of flavour and texture, Im delighted that my young friend, entrepreneur and pastry chef Pooja Dhingra could join me at short notice (thanks to Instagram). Pooja has been seamlessly and continuously delivering Parisian styled culinary experiences in India. Inspirational journey… from working out of a tiny kitchen at home, to three stores, a café, two books and the 31 year old has exciting plans ahead. We nibble the night away as chef Hache continues to dazzle and the ever charming Pierre Jung ensures we have the perfect flawless French gastronomic starred experience. After all we’re in the world’s most excitingly luxurious modern day palace with an 18th century soul.
Im celebrating. Im saluting the trailblazing culinary revolution focussing on health, vegetables, naturalness that is taking place here, in Paris, the gastonomique capital of the world. I’ve been researching vegetarian restaurants around the world ( China, Russia, Japan too) and here in Paris I find paradise. This Parisian landmark is synonymous with Dior, Dietrich and diamonds. This is where icons and trends are born since 1913. And it is here in Plaza Athenee that the very best of the best, the Michelin starred maestro Alain Ducasse’s shimmering temple to gastronomy is blazing trails. He serves up the trilogy…vegetables, cereals and fish. It goes without saying that the brilliant chef in the restaurant Romain Meder, ensures that the technical base of French haute cuisine remains intact, including expertise and absolutely precise detailing for vegetable preparation, cooking and seasoning.
NO GARDENER, NO COOKS
Its amazing that here in this temple to high gastronomy the gardener is being given as much importance as the chefs. And there are several reasons for it.
Head gardener of the Royal Grand park de Versailles at the behest of François Delahaye who helms Plaza Athénée have established an exclusive partnership with the Palace of Versailles for the vegetables and fruits supply of the Alain Ducasse restaurant.
The freshest of seasonal Sorrel, squash, broad beans, zucchini, to shallots, rhubarb… dazzle. Also artichokes introduced centuries ago by Catherine de Medicis and were a runaway success at Court because of their hypothetical aphrodisiac virtues .
Needless to say, all these fruits and vegetables are never exposed to phytosanitary chemicals etc. Picked in the morning and in the kitchen with hours. The ever helpful Isabelle Maurin translates whenever I need explanations in the kitchen.
Starting off with the refreshing tomato water flavoured with hibiscus, a parade of masterpieces dazzle, black current in black rice, the kiss of beetroot flavour in amaranth seeds, the crunch of flax or sunflower seed and so on. This approach infuses the work of the talented pastry chef, Jessica Préalpato too.
What do Liz Taylor, Marlene Dietrich have in common with the Parisian landmark Plaza Athenee? Plenty. For sure, they along with legendary figures of the world of glamor and royalty loved to stay here but there is also a deeper connect: a delicious salad dish. I tasted this Salad Mc carthy for the first time in Los Angeles, in Polo Lounge, Hollywood’s most beloved and historic dining institution, when it had just undergone a subtle Tihany-style revamp to celebrate it’s 100th year .It was in Beverly hills (also part of the Dorchester collection) The Polo Lounge that Charlie Chaplin had a standing reservation, Marlene Dietrich, eradicated the “no slacks for women” dress code and dined here. And the gorgeous beauty Liz Taylor honeymooned here four times . Her daily favorite used to be the McCarthy salad . I loved it then and requested for the recipe too, Imagine my delight when the dapper Francois Delahaye (who I met just by chance thanks to my old friend Paul Roll) shows it to me on the menu and has it made too. Ofcourse here in Paris it has been adapted by Ducasse and diced bigger and softer. But I reproduce for you my Hollywood Polo Lounge recipe.
Beverly Hills Hotel McCarthy Salad
1/4 head iceburg lettuce
1/2 head romaine lettuce
1/2 cup grilled, diced free-range chicken
1/2 cup diced roasted red beets
1/4 cup free range egg yolk
1/4 cup free range egg white
1/2 cup bacon
1/4 cup diced tomato
1/4 cup diced avocado
Balsamic Dressing Recipe
1 c. Balsamic Vinegar
1 T. brown Sugar
3 cloves roasted garlic
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
salt and black pepper
Place all ingredients in a blender and drizzle in the vegetable oil to emulsify. Check seasoning
Arrange salad in bowl. Toss with balsamic vinaigrette tableside. You can vary ingredients according to your preferences.
Jains and vegetarians, looking for a swish ambiance with decent traditional regional food (and booze)? Not too fussed about gourmet and modern versions? This way please. Tantra is your new mantra.
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Im tasting stars! Here in this remote and sensationally beautiful Thai island, many a magnificent dinner based on cosmic cycles and Biodynamic viticulture is redefining gastronomy. Do you see the huge telescope in the photograph? visiting astronomer and well-known scientist, Dr. Massimo Tarenghi used it to explain the relationship between the Cosmic/Lunar cycles and the pattern of water, earth, air and fire on our planet. Brilliant chef Kengo Tomita’ creates food to match these rhythmic cycles and the knowledgable beverage maestro Melroy Fernandes pairs it with unique biodyanamic and organic wines. As we dine on the lunar deck, time stands still in this magnificent back to nature Soneva Kiri surrounded by the shimmering Andaman sea. Love their philosophy of S.L.O.W.( Sustainable Local Organic and Wellness) life. Its not just about serving up delicious experiences but also educating about the philosophy of Bio-dynamism and Sustainability. Holistic, barefoot luxury gets redefined.And my learning continues!
Open all day. Lunch, dinner and high-chai. Fun dining takes centre-stage in this recent rollicking reincarnation of the old Bombay Brasserie.
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It’s not just about the Talaibagh (read Talaiva) palace food here. It’s about drinking…..dining,,,,,and dancing! Disco lights, DJ music and entertainment in the nights (I went back a second night only to check this and Talaiva was packed). Plenty of innovative cocktails too.
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Foodies please note, a few weeks ago, the prestigious Michelin guide has made its entry into Bangkok. And while Im here Im determined to eat my way through the Michelin starred restaurants. Starting at the very top two-starred Michelin and right up to the street food Jay Fei who has been conferred a Michelin star.
Dish after dish has visual and gustatory starbursts. And wow! there is vegetarian caviar too, sublime in taste and texture: a vegetarian’s dream come true. Here the brilliant chef Arnaud Dunand Sauthier dazzles.
My sparkling starry meals in Bangkok begin at the legendary epitome of French fine dining, the best in Thailand (since 1958) Le Normandie. It is truly a connoisseur’s fantasy of splendid cuisine, impeccable service and elegant ambiance.
The tiny gem like amuse bouches implode with flavour and texture. I love the fact that the distinction of many dishes is a judicious intricacy, the strength of others is their focus: how intensely they taste of their central ingredient, like the seabass. And the airy and light Grand Marnier mousse is easily the best in Thailand. It elevates my Michelin starred meal even higher. From the starred French fine dine I go to my other favorites, the British High tea and the Thai Restaurant in the 141 year old historic Mandarin Oriental, But before I do that I request the chef for the recipe of the vegetarian caviar.He sets it in an empty caviar tin. If you cant find one, then any small tin will do. You need cauliflower, spring onion, veg gelatin and a little mayonnaise. No quantities are being given as it depends on the size of the tins you use to set it.Peel the extremity of the cauliflower then chopped finely. Blanched for 1min then refresh in ice bath.
Mix with the chopped truffle ( if not available, use mushrooms), sliced spring onion. Let mixture macerate for 4hrs.
Make the jelly with
and veget gelatin
Roast the cauliflwer until brown color then add water to cover it. Cooked for 2 hrs.
Pass the liquid through a cloth then put the gelatin
Put the cauliflwer couscous inside the box then cover with the jelly.Let it set and finish with some mayonnaise
BRITISH HIGH TEA
It is here in it’s elegant and historic “Authors Lounge” that I sip (literally too) over a century of legendary literary history. I enjoy the classic British High tea. It is here, in Le Grand Dame that the world renowned authors (Somerset Maughm, Noel Coward ) have lived and immortalised it. Dapper dynamic Australian Gregg Lidell who continues to helm this landmark orchestrates everything to perfection, everhelpful Karn Puntohong epitomises best of Thai hospitality. It is here, that the very gifted Patisseur Christophe Sapy constructs (the only suitable word for his amazing work) cakes. Each one a work of art. And his pastries seduce, Through it all we nibble on superlative finger sandwiches (cucumber,chicken, ham). Outstanding pastries, tarts, madelienes and a meltingly, rich, chocolate cake. And the most delightful scones with clotted cream and rose petal and pomelo jams.
And oh! That amazing sourdough bread, freshlybaked and crusty on the exterior and soft and warm inside has me asking for more. The gifted young Danierl Texter not only takes me to the amazing treasure trove of freshly baked bread, cakes and pastries but also shares the recipe of an easy to make bread at home. Should you need it, please email me email@example.com
HIGH ON THAI
It is here too, that Bangkok’s finest Thai restaurant beckons. Time is standing still as I gently glide down the gleaming “River of Kings”. We do so in a beautiful wooden-carved long tail boat. At the other end of the bank Sala Rim Nam, an exquisite restaurant serving authentic Thai food awaits me. But that is yet another story. A delicious one too!
Gorge. Gulp. Groove. That’s the theme tune of this concept cafe which has come to Mumbai via Delhi and Chennai. Go to soak in the madness of MTV.
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Hot news. Last week, I was lucky enough to get a taste of the delicious new offering by the father of modern Sri Lankan cuisine, Dharshan Munidasa and the stunningly beautiful Bollywood actress Jacqueline Fernandez.Sure it’s name “Kaema Sutra” harks back to “kama Sutra’ our very own bible of all things sensory and for sure this restaurant experience pampers all the senses too. However, Kaema is the Sinhala word for food and “Sutra” the Sanskrit word for the study of an art or ideology. And happily (for us) this is Chef Dharshan’s own philosophy. It seduces… be it the porksicle or “what the hopper”