By Sourish Bhattacharyya
THE CLARIDGES in New Delhi is in the throes of transition. Oliver Martin, the quietly efficient regional general manager who had kick-started a major turnaround of the hotel, has left the organisation and been replaced by Atul Lall, for whom it's been a homecoming.
After heading signature hotels of The Oberoi and Taj groups, Lall was appointed general manager of The Claridges New Delhi in 2005, but he left the hotel in 2007 to become the COO-International of Berggruen Hotels, an operator of mid-market hotels known for its Keys brand in India, and then he successfully opened the country's first Fairmont in Jaipur.
|The Majorcan Michelin-starred chef, Andreu Genestra,|
will present his native specialties and the genre-defining
New Catalan cuisine with his own twist at Sevilla
In the middle of these changes, the hotel's much-acclaimed al fresco Mediterranean restaurant, Sevilla, will see a 30-year-old Spanish Michelin one-star chef unveil his culinary genius on December 10. He'll be the second Michelin-starred chef to arrive in Delhi after Francesco Apreda, who came from the Imago restaurant at the Hotel Hassler in Rome to The Oberoi last month with a bag full of enticing white truffles and his own brand of Italian cuisine with a Japanese touch. (See my review of Apreda at Travertino that first appeared in the Mail Today edition dated November 29.)
Starting as a dishwasher at the age of 16, Andreu Genestra has interned for two seasons at Andoni Luis Aduriz’s iconic Mugaritz restaurant, worked at the home of Juan Mari Arzak, one of the masters of New Basque cuisine, and with Ferran Adria at El Bulli and the Alsatian-born celebrated Barcelona restaurateur, Jean Louis Neichel. This varied exposure has given Genestra the skills and the breadth of vision to straddle the worlds of both his native Majorcan kitchen and the genre-defining New Catalan cuisine.
He is now the chef-owner of his eponymous restaurant at Hotel Predi Son Jaumell in the Majorcan town of Capdepera. The restaurant is as famous for reviving the indigenous low-gluten Xeixa wheat variety in the attached farm, and using it to make breads, cakes and even its own beer, as for what the Michelin Guide calls its "enticing" set menus.
The Guide, in its short review, has this to say about Genestra's establishment: "A restaurant with a delightful porch-covered terrace and a pleasant dining room, whose decor is restrained yet elegant. The à la carte is very much contemporary in feel and based around local and organic ingredients. Enticing gastronomic set menus."
A TripAdvisor reviewer from England narrates his experience: "Four of us tried the 35€ dinner menu, which was both original and creative. The fish course arrived in its cooking bag. The setting inside was a bit minimalist but the service was most attentive. We plan to return and next time shall try the à la carte menu, which has more choice."
The restaurant remains shut from November 16 to February 14, which is when Genestra travels around the world. His peregrinations have taken him to Brazil, France, Russia, Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S., and also to Kuwait, where he managed the royal family's kitchen and consulted with Lazurd, the upper-end caterer of the Middle East. Interestingly, his current menu features Coconut Rice with Brown Crab, Anchovy Dough and Kuwaiti Black Lemon Sauce.
Genestra's travels have gifted him an evolved worldview. Last month, he joined other Majorcan top chefs in the spectacular Hotel Castell Son Claret to prepare a fund-raising dinner for the benefit of the victims of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in the Philippines. For the big-ticket event, he prepared goat cheese gnocchi with consommé of sopas mallorquinas, which are thin slices of the Majorcan bread pan payes, and caper and truffle jam. And he served a mix of yoghurt ice-cream with apricot and cinnamon prepared with a traditional ice-cream maker.
Like all capable chefs, Genestra lets the ingredients, sourced from his backyard, do the talking. At his restaurant, he says, the vegetables are picked daily at the farm when they are at their flavourful best and the fruits still have the early frost of the morning. The olive oil is made with olives picked from the trees growing in the farm, the hens are fed with Xeixa wheat so that they benefit from the cereal's qualities, and soon, the restaurant will have its own wine produced from its own grapes.
The young chef is an ardent practitioner of the locavore philosophy of sustainable dining, but above all, he's a talented chef who promises to bring his brand of excitement to Sevilla, where evenings turn magical in these winter months.