Scotch Whiskey has always had very different associations for me. More than the rich oaky notes, the smooth intensity, and the lingering finish of the drink itself, it conjures up images of large wooly sheep against the backdrop of startlingly green and rugged mountains, massive ancient castles still standing tall and proud amidst manicured gardens, and mirror-like lakes that look like they have just been created! And of course, ye red-cheeked Scotsmen in checkered kilts and the hypnotic music of bagpipes!
Yes, a glass of whiskey is never just… whiskey. The amber liquid is often a culmination of your tastes, your desires, your triumphs, and your ambitions – a blend of who you are, and what you want to be seen as 🙂
Given this deep philosophy, its not very often that you get to indulge your senses in a mad city like Mumbai that has little time to pause, let alone smell the flowers. But last week, The Westin Mumbai Garden City not only provided a sniff and a taste of the good stuff, but also made us enjoy it in plush comfort with some top-notch contemporary Indian food.
The occasion was a little get-together of select members of the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program, and the 20-odd guests that made up our party were treated like royalty right from the start. Tall crisp flutes of Mumm’s Champagne greeted us, as Whiskey Ambassador Sandeep Arora threw a poser – “Where were you 21 years ago?” – and brought out some funny, some embarrassed and some incredulous responses. But it drove home the point – that the evening was about the precision, the foresight and the dedication of a bunch of high-spirited whiskey-makers, who decades ago somehow envisioned we would all be together on that particular night to relish that particular drink… at a time when we were still struggling to finish school! The evening was about one of the finest Single Malt Scotch Whiskey’s of the world, The Glenlivet, in it’s 12, 15 and 21 year old avatars.
For this special occasion, Chef Ajay Chopra had pulled out all stops and conjured up a very innovative, contemporary 3-course dinner at Kangan, keeping in mind the specific notes and aromas of the 3 whiskeys they were being paired with, that ticked all the boxes in terms of taste, flavor and texture.
For starters, the melty Lotus Stem Shammi Kebab with Broccoli Samosas, and the Crisp Amritsari Sole Fish served on a bed of surprisingly homely and delicious ‘Khichdi’ were interesting twists on traditional fare, both in perfect harmony with the nutty flavours of the 15- year-old Glenlivet.
The main course was an elaborate affair. The Pulled Raan Mille Feuille had layers of flaky Indian flatbread vying for attention with tender lamb, with a side of crisp Puy Lentils adding a fun, snacky touch. The Stuffed Tandoori Chicken Breast was a tad dry, but for me the humble Pithaud Cake, made from steamed gram flour and yoghurt, was the surprise winner with its clever play of spices and textures, which complemented the intense 12-year old Glenlivet well.
It’s not easy concentrating on the food when you have Chef Ajay pull up a chair right next to you to regale you with food stories, kitchen anecdotes and the complex process of pairing food with alcohol, but one look at the glittering presentation of the signature dessert, the Chocolate Molleux, and all focus was lost! Infused with cardamom, and accompanied by the little sprinkling of White Chocolate Soil, it sat like a fat, happy log in front of me, waiting to be devoured along with the incredibly smooth 21-year old Glenlivet. And since the Chef knew there was no end to my dessert desires, he immediately asked for a portion of the Carrot Halwa Spring Rolls as well, this a cheeky take on the classic ‘halwa-puri’ that you just can’t keep away from!
Not very often do you get to dabble with some of the finest Scotch whiskeys, with one of the best chefs of the country at your elbow. But the icing on the cake was enjoying all of this with one of the biggest connoisseurs of whiskey, the man who has finally succeeded in instilling some finer whiskey sense in me after years of failed attempts, losing out to rum, vodka or wine at various stages – my Dad! It was enough for me that he thoroughly enjoyed the company, the chatter, the food and, of course, the finer nuances of his beloved whiskey that evening. Enough for a very long time… 🙂