Private, secret, or exclusive dining clubs have existed for as long as civilisation. Ancient Greece had the symposion or drinking party (the word symposium today has acquired a very different meaning, the eating and drinking having largely been done away with); London has had the Bullingdon Club of Oxonians for over 200 years (infamous for trashing — and paying for — the restaurants where they dined); Bangalore today has the Chaine des Rotisseurs and The Bangalore Black Tie.
The Chaine des Rotisseurs, an international gastronomic society founded in Paris in 1950, traces its origins back to 1248. For more than four centuries the Confrérie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs cultivated and developed the culinary arts, meeting all the requirements of professionalism and quality demanded by the “Royal Table”, until 1793 when the guild system was dissolved during the French Revolution. Today the Chaine has 25,000 members across 70 countries, with a significant representation from the hospitality industry — read that as chefs and managers of the best hotels worldwide.
In India the Chaine des Rotisseurs was established in Bangalore in April 2008 by Anja Matysik-Kroll, Chargee de Missions of the Bailliage de Indie (Indian chapter), and has since expanded to include chapters in Goa and Mumbai. The dinner this Thursday, June 7, at The Park Bangalore was typical of the fine-dining experience for which the Chaine des Rotisseurs is famous: a seven-course sit-down pre-plated dinner for 41 participants at Italia, along with a selection of nine wines, hosted by Chargee de Bailliage de Bangalore Rishad Minochar and the hotel’s general manager Siraj Mukherjee. It is a a runaway bargain at Rs 1,450. However, like any self-respecting club, membership is by invitation only, and is restricted to a tight circle.
The Bangalore Black Tie (www.tbbt.in) — note the absence of any word like “Club” or “Association” — is more recent, but even more exclusive. Started in 1999 in Muscat by Stanley Pinto, musician and adman and bon vivant extraordinaire (when he unabashedly described it as “An Affiliation of Gentlemen with Epicurean Proclivities”), it was revived in Bangalore in 2008 (strange how that year saw two such interesting associations get formed) and now has 40-odd members. It has held over 40 dinners in the best restaurants, not just in Bangalore but as far afield as Bangkok.
The point is, each dinner is painstakingly put together, with each dish paired with suitable wines (and sometimes the wine decides the dish), so that the two complement each other.
Witness some of the dishes served at the Chaine des Rotisseurs dinner referred-to above: Tenderloin Carpaccio with cooked grape must, arugula and mint, with Gaja, Rossj-Bass, Chardonnay, DOC Lange, Piedmont, 2007; or artichoke served three different ways — with Hugel, Gewurztraminer, Alsace, 2006.
Wines I’ve been drinking: It was actually 11 wines, put together for a private wine tasting by an Italian winemaker visiting Bangalore. All the usual suspects were there. Interestingly, in the regular range (below Rs 700) the Big Banyan Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Rs 650 in Bangalore) stood out from all others; a clean, attractive aroma of fruit and berries, balanced soft tannins, a bit chocolatey — nice! In the reserves, the unanimous choice was the Vindiva Reserve Shiraz 2010 (Rs 875): soft fruit and vanilla on the nose, sweet soft balanced tannins, and a great long aftertaste. Lovely!
Alok Chandra is a Bangalore-based wine consultant