Saturday, 30 August 2014

THE NEWS BRIEFLY: Le Cirque's Star in Exit Mode; Vella Ramaswamy Heads Home; Vikramjit Roy Returns with Nian; and a Greek Skydeck

Mickey Bhoite is heading back
to Florence leaving his Royal
Enfield for the highest bidder
By Sourish Bhattacharyya

DELHI'S five-star hotels are heading for a churn because of exits by familiar faces and entrances by new arrivals.
The big news is that Le Cirque's Abhay Singh 'Mickey' Bhoite is going back home to Italy, where he plans to settle down in Florence (closer to his collection of more than 60 venomous snakes, who are now in the custody of his mother). That'll be a big blow to The Leela Palace New Delhi (a little bird informs us that Bhoite's deputy, Federico Tucci, is exiting as well) because Le Cirque's reputation owes a lot to Bhoite's personality and style of cooking.
Royal Enfield enthusiasts, though, are waiting for the opportunity to bid for Bhoite's custom-made motorbike, which comes equipped with mind-blowing woofers. Bhoite and his young colleague, Vaibhav Roy, team up together with friends as often as they can and hit the highways. People who know the motorcycle (known as the Highway Queen) say it is in sparkling condition and Bhoite is reportedly asking for Rs 4 lakh for the beauty.
Vella Ramaswamy may not have burnt rubber on highways, but the Mauritian who grew up in Australia is the only expat general manager I know who has seen two hotels in Delhi-NCR come up under his guardianship from the bhoomi pujan to the first guest walking in.
As the opening general manager of The Leela Kempinski Gurgaon (now known as The Leela Ambience Gurgaon), he got the hotel off the ground at a rather difficult time for the global economy and successfully established Spectra as one of Delhi-NCR's foremost restaurants. Then, as the founding father of the Kempinski Ambience Hotel Delhi, he turned its locational disadvantage on the head and took full advantage of the size of its banqueting area to make it the go-to destination for mega business providers in the MICE (Meetings Incentives Conventions Exhibitions) segment. The hotel is also a favourite of wedding planners and has seen many a Big Fat Bania Wedding take place with a no onion, no garlic vegetarian spread laid out for 1,000-plus guests.
Vella Ramaswamy gave Delhi-NCR
to hotels, but is now returning to
home city Melbourne
Puneet Singh is back in Delhi after
spending 20 years with Kempinski
Hotels in eight countries
Ramaswamy's time is up. The affable hotelier with a brilliant sense of humour is going home to Melbourne and he is in the process of handing over charge to a Delhiite, Puneet Singh, who is returning to his home city after putting in more than two decades with the Kempinski hotels in eight countries. After completing his hotel management studies in Germany, Singh got selected to Kempinski's four-year management training programme, which took him to Germany, the U.S. and Turkey. Thereafter, the polyglot roving hotelier, who's fluent in six languages, spent six years gaining F&B operations experience in culturally diverse markets, then held leadership positions at Kempinski hotels in China, Tanzania, UAE, Russia and Egypt, and even in the midst of all this movement, got his Executive MBA from the top-rated Reims Management School, France. Before his transfer to Delhi, Singh was the General Manager of the Kempinski Grand and Ixir Hotel at the Bahrain City Centre.
In other developments, Sevilla at The Claridges has been shut for its annual refurbishment; it is expected to open in October-end. I can't wait to see what Executive Chef Neeraj Tyagi and his deputy, Rajiv Sinha, have up their sleeves for the new Sevilla. Vikramjit Roy, who Delhiites remember from his days at Wasabi by Morimoto, is returning to the rooftop of ITC Maurya to open an 'Asian Cooking Studio' named Tian. The restaurant will replace My Humble House, which never came close to the popularity of Bali Hi. An IHM-Taratolla graduate, Roy opened Pan-Asian at the ITC Grand Chola in Chennai about a year ago and became an instant superstar in a city that hadn't been exposed to his genre of fine dining.
And of course, The Leela Ambience Gurgaon is taking a leap of faith by turning its poolside into a 69-seater restaurant, Skydeck Lounge, with a Greek menu washed down by ouzo, the anise-flavoured aperitif, and retsina wines, which have a more than 2,000-year-old history. It is the first five-star hotel to tread into this unfamiliar territory. I hope it's not the only one taking this plunge.