Some meals aren’t your ordinary square meal of the day. Nor are you sent invitations sealed by red wax and an insignia everyday, holding the promise of a delightful night ahead. Such meals are special, for those who prepare them, and those who are lucky to partake in them. I was recently part of the exclusive guest list who previewed LOUIS XIII’s first full-meal pairing at Jamavar, Leela Palace New Delhi’s excellent restaurant specialising in Indian food.
LOUIS XIII and the Leela Palace Delhi came together for its first chef’s collaboration on a culinary pairing experience and we were the first invited to experience it, a few days short of Diwali.
Said Mr. Leonardo Ferracina, Global Executive Director LOUIS XIII of the whole experience, “LOUIS XIII Gastronomy –India is a wonderful and unique sensorial experience. It confirms the intense bond we have grown over centuries with India and emphasizes our wish to go even further with local and sustainable offerings. With LOUIS XIII Gastronomy –India, we are delighted to inspire and support chefs and artisans in their creations. At LOUIS XIII, we think a century ahead.”
A French and an Indian chef came together for nine months of this year to create a food pairing of the cognac with bold flavours. The executive chef of Maison Remy Martin Mr Romuald Feger, and Mr Shamsher Ahmed, Masterchef at Leela Palace’s Jamavar, combined their creative potential and savoir faire to open the Indian audiences to new sensations and emotions.
The Executive Chef of Maison Remy Martin, Mr Romuald Feger and Mr Shamsher Ahmed, Masterchef at Jamavar, Leela Palace New Delhi collaborated on a menu that was an experience for all the senses at once. We all began by sampling a glass of the fine cognac in the bell-shaped crystal glasses that sound like a cathedral’s bell when clinked. Our host for the night, LOUIS XIII’s ambassador to India Mr Malo Le Mestre, pointed out to the beautiful floral cut of the crystal that shone back at us from the bottom of the glass, to bring back memories floral notes of the cognac we had just had. It was just the enchanting thing to muse over as we waited for our amuse bouche to arrive.
A reminder of Delhi’s popular street snack chaat, kale fritters deep fried and served with local mint and tamarind chutneys, the snack was an instant hit, and a surprise as the first entrant. The entrees included veg and non-vegetarian options. I opted for the murgh doheri kebab and burrada smoke sandal Himalayan trout. While the kebab was presented in two different ways, and reminiscent of the gilawati, a Lucknowi specialty, I was more taken with the mint and red garlic chutney served along with it. The trout, a Himalayan specialty was suitably fresh, skin crisped just the right amount. The saffron and garam masala aromatics from the kebab stood up to the nutty and woody aromas of the cognac.
Straight from the heart
Masterchef Shamsher drew from his Rajasthani heritage to highlight a very special dish next, a soup made with barley and corn, called Sakora Aab aur Millet Raab, a hearty food of the villagers during Rajasthan’s bitter winters. The calm flavours of the soup worked as a palate cleaner for the spicy notes on the cognac. We could imagine ourselves sipping this on a cold, winter night followed by a nightcap of the delicious Louis XIII. The chef jested that the copious amount of ghee, an integral part of Indian, especially Rajasthani households, initially threw Chef Feger by surprise, but both were ultimately able to agree on a suitable quantity in the buttery, slow-cooked broth, not a porridge, but not exactly a soup, a star of the evening according to me. It was a dish that compared to the famous French Onion soup, and was served with a slice of khakhra on top.
Speaking of the drink, the makers envision it as a drink for celebration, and what says celebration better than a platter of Gosht Nalli Nahari? The vegetarians had the equally inventive Kathal Haleem, followed with Dal e Jamawar and ajwainparonthi, Leela’s specialty dal makhni slow-cooked in a vat over 24 hours.
And just when we thought we were fully satiated, Chef Shamsher brought out his masterpiece, along with a story from his childhood, of having Nimish, an Indian sweet made with milk foam, saffron and dry fruits on the streets as a child. The dessert he brought forward was as traditionally Indian and yet as modern, a masterful creation, balancing flavours and inviting complexity in the palate.
Called Nimish Kesar ke Phool Aur Gulab Firdaus ki Lakeer, the intense sweetness of gulab jamun was cut through the lemony ice cream rose in front of us. I had been expecting chocolate for dessert, since cognac was the order of the day. But the risk paid off, as the floral cognac, where jasmine predominates worked brilliantly with the rose, pista and saffron notes of the dessert.
The fact that the chefs had put their minds together and thought of a menu for the last nine months was self evident. Each course had been dwelt upon, designed for a global audience, and yet was a slice of life from India’s diverse cuisine and sophisticated flavour palate.
Those who are interested in experiencing the unique chef’s collaboration, find the details below:
A limited number of dinners at Jamavar (The Leela Palace New Delhi) – 1 dinner per month, from the 2nd week of November 2022 until March 2023. Guests must book in advance.
Dinner paired with 30ML of LOUIS XIII (Rs. 30,000 + taxes per person)
Dinner paired with 60ML of LOUIS XIII (Rs. 50,000 + taxes per person)
Dinner paired with a full decanter of LOUIS XIII 700ML – up to 8 guests (Rs.4,50,000)
To book, call The Leela Palace New Delhi reservation desk (+91 011 39331212 or register online on LOUIS XIII Society. For further assistance, contact the LOUIS XIII Brand Ambassador in India Mr Malo Le Mestre at email@example.com).