Dining out has never felt so much like dining in, especially given that I am speaking of a world-famous restaurant like Le Cirque, rumoured to be the most expensive restaurant in India. And that is the first thing that strikes you about Le Cirque at The Leela Palace, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi—its casual chic vibe that is synced with an understated decor-style, giving the restaurant a muted air of intimacy. A stroll through the wine cellar, tucked discreetly behind the bar, reveals an impressive collection of new and old wines from around the world, not to mention the Chateau Petrus waiting to be picked. And that is the first impression one gets of Le Cirque and its philosophy of subtle opulence that rises above commonplace elegance. However, unlike other fine-dining restaurants, it doesn’t overwhelm and that has to be its USP.
With 144 covers, three private dining rooms, a bar and an option of al fresco seating, there is space for every kind of mood and entertainment. A special chef’s table may be reserved for a one-on-one interaction with Le Cirque’s chef, “Mickey” Bhoite, who brings his Indian roots and Italian upbringing to the kitchen, creating one-of-a-kind dishes like the masala tea tiramisu and a chikoo dessert.
For dinner, I am given a course-wise set menu that extrapolates the culinary range of the restaurant. I turn down the foie gras for my own ethical dining reasons, but the rest is hard to resist. Courses that range from a double-cooked mozarella starter to a delicately-flavoured Dover sole that melts in the mouth are brought to the table with charming precision. The plate presentation is understated (I am beginning to see this as a signature) and doesn’t detract from the food. The cover layout and cutlery is minimalistic and doesn’t intimidate with a show of multiple course-wise knives and forks—these are replaced at regular intervals and before the next course is served. So discreet is the service that one doesn’t realise you are being guided to eat with the right dining instruments without having to make a choice, lest you should err. And haven’t we all? It is this gentle sensitivity that underlines the service sequence and re-enforces my belief that for a fine-dining restaurant, Le Cirque is remarkably comfortable.
For me, the standout dish is one that most would define as comfort food Italian-style—the risotto. In this instance, it is the Risotto