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DWC Dinner at Pullman Aerocity (#7/258)

The wine dinner at Hotel Pullman was such a raving success that most people declared it as perhaps the ‘best’ of the 258 wine dinners organised by the club so far, writes Renu Malhotra who has been a member for many years and is passionate enough about food to go earlier in the evening and check out the making of the dinner in the kitchen, with some inputs from Subhash Arora, President of the Club, about Chandon Bubblies and other wines paired and served with the memorable dinner.

Click For Large ViewWe entered the hotel to be greeted by the smiling and friendly F&B Director, Vishrut Gupta. His amicable demeanour put us at ease and made us feel entirely welcome to take a look around the plush facility including where all the action begins, behind the scenes!.

Pullman New Delhi Aerocity houses an assortment of dining options including Honk, Pluck and Pling. Pluck, a modern day eatery is situated on the lobby level. It offers a multi cuisine seasonal menu with freshly picked ingredients. It is one of those stylish go-grab delicatessen cafés offering a widespread range of tea, coffee and other beverages along with freshly baked delicacies.

Click For Large ViewPluck is an avant-garde restaurant,  a creative farm to table eatery with Modern European and Contemporary Indian flavours and is committed to offering the freshest  ingredients in a seasonal menu that is locally focused and globally artistic. The menu at Pluck is decided by seasonal availability of produce. The result is a dynamic, frequently-changing menu inspired by primal means of cooking with live fire. The approach behind this philosophy is a hallmark of Chef Ajay Anand's signature, who is Director of Culinary at Pullman & Novotel Hotels at New Delhi Aerocity.

Chef Anand is a passionate professional who loves serving what he relishes. He swears by the motto ‘Imagination Unlimited’ whilst at work. Ajay heads the entire culinary operations at Pullman and Novotel, Aerocity, New Delhi across the outlets (Pluck, Pling, Café Pluck, Honk, Food Exchange and Quoin).

Ajay's cooking style has evolved from the techniques and flavours from cultures around the world, but is rooted in classic French traditions. He endeavours to balance European traditionalism with Asian minimalism and American ingenuity. The result is stupendous, unlike any other. 

Born and brought up in Delhi, the chef endorses the innovative use of healthy and fresh food like free-range meats, tree ripened fruits, and organic vegetables. His morning ritual involves tending first  to the produce at the organic farm at the hotel before looking at any other work.

He has had extensive exposures with the luxury Taj hotels and has also had the adventure of working on cruise liners where he set up a steak of restaurants. Over the years he has developed a knack for preparing new menus based on industry trends and he loves to explore street food and aims at showcasing forgotten recipes with a modern outlook.

He has been able to achieve all the presentation with the help of Chef Ashish Dhar, who is associated with Pullman and Novotel as the Culinary Designer. He brings along 15 years of rich and varied experience in Food & Beverage operations, Client Servicing and Team Management in the Hotel industry in US, UK and India and specialises in European cuisine. Chef Ashish wants to take farm-to-table food concept to newer heights at Pluck.

Click For Large ViewIn the words of Chef Ajay Anand, “Contemporary Indian fare has been introduced at Pluck keeping in mind the demand of Indian patrons as well as the needs of expats and foreign travellers. While Indians are hooked to having their staple food in the most chic avatar, the foreign palates look for something Indian that is not overwhelmingly spicy, oily and something they can relate to. Low calorie options on the menu take care of those who want to eat out yet watch what they are eating.”

Tristan de Lomie, GM Pullman Hotel and his very French winemaker wife Isabelle make  a star team together! Together with Isabelle supporting him, he would make any hotel in the world proud to have him on board. Both of them exude so much warmth, ease and are tres charming (as the French say it) with a flair for including people into their friendliness. They are both wine aficionados and  hail from the wine rich region of Bordeaux;  Isabelle’s family owns vineyards in Suaternes. They became members of the Delhi Wine Society (Club) practically the day they landed in India!!! During the course of my conversation with her in the evening I discovered that she had a talent not only for wine but also for food of different cuisines. She actively conducts culinary sessions in the hotel and takes on diverse cuisines, Asian cuisine being her favourite!

Click For Large ViewWe were given a lovely welcome at the Tapestries with its hors d'oeuvre of Bruschettas and salads along with aperitifs of Chandon-based cocktails crafted by the brilliant mixologist Topesh Chatterjee. He used different ingredients including chamomile tea to make different delicious and refreshing aperitifs with endless rows of tapas and finger desserts. A lovely beginning to a beautiful evening! Using both the Brut and Rose Brut Chandon, he also invited members to try their hands at making cocktails-with one condition put by our President Subhash Arora that no liquor or liqueurs may be added. Most members tried all 4 different cocktails deftly made in different shaped glasses.

Click For Large ViewI go around the kitchen and poke my nose into flavourful smells that emanate from there and this is what I get to see. A delightful kitchen; any chef's delight with very well thought of crockery with a difference, all designed to enhance the looks and presentation of the food........ Shall I say they really know how to groom their food here!

Click For Large ViewThe regular Menu at Pluck is divided into two sections: Modern European and Contemporary Indian flavours. The Modern European offering at Pluck features old favourites like a hearty Mushrooms and Chestnuts soup with mushroom Carpaccio and truffle mascarpone and the Parmesan burnt Garlic soup with oatmeal strudel, roll over melba. Whether it is the Light Spinach Salad with Crispy Bacon & Mushrooms Blue Cheese Aioli or the Crunchy Smoked Salmon & Tenka, these farm-fresh and scrumptious choices set the tone for the meal.

As we sat down we were presented with the menu cards for the evening interestingly pulled out from a big basket by the Sommelier Kriti Malhotra who handed to the guests individually. We settled down to a sumptuous meal of the various courses put together creatively by the chefs and served so lovingly and Click For Large Viewattentively by the staff at Pluck. What impressed me tremendously as the evening unfolded, was the talents of our sommelier Kriti, as she rubbed shoulders with our very own master Goliath of wine, Subhash Arora.

The chefs at Pluck were excited to share the signature dishes in the newly introduced Contemporary Indian Flavours section as these explore the realms of culinary creativity.  Our sit down meal started with cinnamon flavoured Arancini with apple purée served in a tiny round box.

Click For Large ViewAll soups are presented in a deconstructed form and arranged right on the table. They started with a flavourful and low-calorie Tomato & Coriander consommé served with handpicked steamed greens. Very lightly flavoured on the tongue, it gave none of that feeling of, ‘Oh my god, how am I going to go through the rest of my meal after just the first course!’

The Gol-gappa & Caviar (made of tangy Gol-gappa water) were served with a Greek-styled tzatziki dip and dried ginger gastrique and topped with micro Click For Large Viewcilantro and spell all things modern – there were traditional flavours with elements of molecular gastronomy exploding in the mouth. Do not miss the lovely blue box for the vegetarian Imitation Caviar. Jai Ho to whoever thought of this idea!!

Click For Large ViewThis was followed by kasundhi ka jheenga – prawns, so delicately mixing the strong and subtle flavours of mustard and pomelo .... a must have at Pluck!!

Street Papdis Pluck style served with yoghurt and black salt gazpacho was a stunner on the plate with a tian of papdis that comes with fresh ginger, coriander, pomegranate pearls and .....yoghurt, drizzled with double cooked brunoise of potato as garnish.  The dish had finishing touches with mint foam and micro-greens.

Click For Large ViewThe Virgin Mojito sorbet was next served in a tiny jar with its lid open end carrying  rum Crystals that then according to your pleasure could be mixed with the creamy sorbet to give it a rather interesting alcoholic twist, if you wanted! A favourite at my table!

Click For Large ViewFor mains, Pulled Tandoori Chicken Cannelloni with crispy skin, roasted cumin and cheese sauce is a must have. The chicken is marinated thrice, cooked in a tandoor, then hand-pulled, rubbed with spices and finally stuffed in homemade cannelloni and is served with crispy beetroot skin, roasted cumin and cheese sauce and garnished with beetroot powder that gives it a distinct colour.   Vegetarians could opt for a robust treat in the form of Plantain kofta, Pukhtan style served on a bed of quinoa and spinach pulao. This dish is made up of 75% plantain and 25 % pumpkin. Both the vegetables are boiled and passed through a sieve repeatedly to smoothen their texture, mixed with spices and rolled into croquettes that are served on a bed of quinoa and spinach pulao with Pukhtan style gravy, borrowed from a similar dish from the streets of Pakistan.

Click For Large ViewI looked around to see some guests were shuffling their chairs to leave as the next day was an early start for some and a regular working day. We were amused to observe though, that the minute the dessert arrived, all of them coquettishly sat down so as not to miss savouring this extraordinary treat in the form of Greek Custard, Rasmalai Parfait with strawberry sorbet and candied beetroot awaited you. The Greek custard was made from salty feta cheese and stuffed with a sweet rasmalai parfait. It was Click For Large Viewaccompanied by a very pleasing strawberry sorbet and candied beetroot and finished with cocoa boondi, a rather novel take!

President Subhash Arora had an Ace up his sleeves- a quiz based on Chandon since he had just returned from a visit to the winery and had attended a Chandon-based cocktail evening. The gift of a bottle each of Chandon Brut and/or Rose Brut was given to two members and another two won a bottle each in the lucky draw. Earlier, he presented the First Couple of the Click For Large Viewevening a bottle each of Brut and Rose Brut Chandon as a ‘house warming’ gift since it was first of many events that the club and its members proposed to organised at the charming property.

Kudos to the team leader and the entire team for coordinating a fair number for a sit down dinner; the courses came in smoothly one after the other with just the right amount of interval and there was none of that waiting, waiting, and more waiting for the next course to arrive. All the orders were taken smoothly and executed even better. All in all, a fantastically superb and enjoyable evening! I look forward to discovering the other hidden treasures and many more meals at the Pullman, more so when it is a direct invitation from the Chef himself!!

There are regular evenings of the wine club dinners but this evening stood out for the personal involvement, care and hospitality of the GM and his wonderful wife, for outstanding teamwork and service of the staff and the very noticeable beautiful display of each and every food item.  They say that you eat with your eyes and by that yardstick alone it was an unforgettable feast!

Renu Malhotra
(with inputs from Subhash Arora)



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