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Wine Dinner at Qla (European Cuisine) (#5/256)

If there can be no Roses without thorns, the evening at the Q’la Restaurant was Rosy with excellent ambience, delicious flavours of food and wines supplemented by Czech wines to taste from a group of visiting producers, and the live music especially arranged by Q’la Restaurant for the al-fresco dining, so rare in Delhi even though the service with smiles was the thorn that stung the members, leaving them with ‘yeh dil maange more’ feeling with more food, wine, music and impromptu dancing in the future, writes Subhash Arora

Photos By:: Adil Arora

Click For Large ViewQ’la Restaurant celebrated its first anniversary a couple of days after the Delhi Wine Club Dinner on April 25th. Despite its being close to Olive, Lavaash and En, where we have had wine events before, it was surprising that many members didn’t know the location of the restaurant or the cuisine; some thought it was an ‘Indian Cuisine Restaurant’. During the tense days before the event, it appeared that the restaurant had some staffing issues. behind the smiling expressions of the staff we saw on entering the compound, we could see the lines of anxiety on their faces. We were to officially learn later that the Chef was new in town and had been managed just a couple of days earlier.

Q’la Restaurant (where Blue Frog used to be located) has a courtyard outside the main restaurant in an old haveli owned by Sanjeev Batra (he owns Olive haveli too), that can be used for al-fresco dining if the weather is nice. Fortunately, it did get cool enough suddenly and we decided to have the dinner outside in the compound. The restaurant did an excellent job in laying two grand tables in the courtyard under two massive umbrella-arrangements. In one corner was the surprise of the evening; a two piece band was playing live music, to be joined occasionally by the saxophone playing owner of the restaurant, Ranjan Chopra and the Chef who is also a good drum player.

Click For Large ViewThe evening started with Prosecco doc matching the  Insalata caprese on stick and Duxelle champignon tart for the vegetarians and the Mini fish n chips in a cup and Bacon wrapped prunes for the carnivores. During the last 14 years of the existence of the Delhi Wine Club in which 255 dinners had been organised earlier, it has been traditional to have the pass around snacks for the first hour in which the appetisers are served with a light wine, when the members arriving at different times can greet each other and there is a free fellowship as the members move around. Someone from the restaurant made the mistake of requesting members to sit down almost instantly to serve the pass around snacks.

This started a chaos of sorts where no one knew what was coming or who should be served. Someone was raving about the best fish n chips in the bite format while the next person was clamouring to get at least one. Green apple & chicken mousse tart as Amuse Bouche came to another one. We have never seen service so out-of synch. Repeats were rare to come by. It was no surprise that Rose Sparkling Brut, the second wine, was being served to some while the new arrivals still looked for the Brut as they came a few minutes after the proceedings had started.

What saved the evening-in fact added to the fun- were the music and the quality of food which the new Chef Priyam Chatterjee was dishing out and doing the best he could. Another interesting feature turned out to be the presence of a group of Czech producers and winemakers who were in town for promotional activities at the residence of the Ambassador and had requested to attend the dinner and also brought a few samples for tasting. They had a Sommelier who deftly presented the wines.  

Click For Large ViewHam, raw mushroom and arugula with honey mustard dressing was a perfect match for the Rose Sparkling Brut-not an easy job. Veloute aux truffle soup was outstanding with flavours exploding in the mouth- and the Rosso di Montalcino was a good match. The easy drinking Rosso kept everyone in a good mood as did the music which by this time seduced a few members and the Czech guests to the floor and dance to the lovely music, making the evening very lively and giving an opportunity to the serving staff to get their act together.

Black cod, tartare of prawns with mango cream and grilled mango was perhaps the prized dish of the evening. Interestingly, the restaurant had given Lamb, porcini, morels and mushroom jus as an alternative option to members and a vast majority had opted for the black cod, making us change the designated wine- a St. Emilion Grand Cru with a Nero d’Avola as the former would not go well with the fish. It turned out to be a correct decision as the reds were fairly well-matched with the black cod and the condiments. Added to the wine pool were the Czech samples being tasted.

Click For Large ViewValencia Cheesecake was an excellent choice, thanks to the Chef, to finish off with the Noble One. Made by De Bertoli of Australia from the Noble Rot Semillon, the sweet wine being imported by Prestige Wines and Spirits had a vivacious acidity to balance the sweetness and match with the cheesecake. The elixir evaporated fast, making it a happy ending for one and all.

Thanks to various positives of the evening, it turned out to be one of the best evenings of the Club. A couple of relatively new members quipped it had been the best wine evening they had attended. As I have always maintained, these evenings are not only about tasting different wines (we tasted around 9) but an overall experience where wine is one of the protagonists. The evening did show chinks in the armour and highlighted the importance of every member of the restaurant team but despite the unintentional slack in service (I have attended wine dinners at Q’la before and the service has been impeccable), it was an experience that certainly calls for another rendezvous soon.

Click For Large ViewA note on the Czech wines tasted is in order.  Martina Fiamoli, Director of M & Bc Fiamoli in Prague in Czech Republic had been in Delhi with her Consultant and Advisor Mirka Saratova. It was their second visit and they were here to visit various cities and conduct a Tasting-cum workshop at the Residence of the Czech Ambassador. They had brought an English speaking Sommelier who presented the wines for tasting. 

The wines tasted were (1) Irsai Oliver 2013 from Winery Krist Milotice, (2) Welch Riesling 2013 from Winery Mikrosvin, (3) Palava 2013 from Winery Reisten Pavlov, (4) Pinot Noir 2011 - Diamond Collection from Templar Cellars Čejkovice and (5) Riesling 2013 - EGO Collection from Chateau Winery Bzenec. The wines were all of very good quality, and one could feel the difference in terroir. The Pinot Noir was loved by everyone despite its being a bit earthy. What was a real surprise was the Palava. Very fragrant wine with Moscato-like notes, the wine made from an indigenous grape variety,  was slightly off-dry but was so loved by the members and the restaurant owner that he ‘committed’ to order 20 cases right away. Maybe metaphorical, but his instant reaction reflected on the clientele that comes to his chic European cuisine restaurant. We shall have to wait till these Czech producers represented by the company, find an importer and the wines clear the FSSAI hurdle. Most labels were Greek- oops, Czech to us!

Let’s hope next time the Czechs come to India, they have an importer and we can have an encore with their wines at the Q’la Restaurant.

Subhash Arora



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