“I think I should walk before I run,” Atul Kochhar laughs when I ask him, a trifle hopefully, if he is testing the waters for a future opening in Bengaluru. The enigmatic answer only serves to heighten the anticipation around the chef’s first-ever pop-up in India. Spread over three nights in April, the event will present tasting menus from Kochhar’s restaurants NRI (Not Really Indian) and Lima, both in Mumbai, and the Michelin-starred Benares in London.
“It’s true I’ve never promoted Benares in India but, here in London, we conduct Chef Seasons throughout the year, as part of which leading chefs from the UK and around the world (specializing in non-Indian cuisines) come and create fusion menus with me,” says Kochhar, in a Skype chat. “It gives diners a break and allows the visiting chef to promote his product.”
Products, in this case, as Kochhar showcases an assortment of South American dishes from Lima (the ceviche, the churrasco and the tres leche are the highlights) and Indian diaspora cuisine from NRI (expect a jerk-spiced chicken, lamb chops in a Malaysian marinade and a bunny chow main course). The hot ticket, though, is undoubtedly a seat at the Benares table, where Kochhar expects to serve a five-spice pickled prawn, a tandoori chicken tikka pie, chargrilled Scottish salmon, Cornish crab croquette and a roasted rump of English lamb, finishing off with a rhubarb bhapa doi.
“This is my way of giving back to the country that has given me so much,” says Kochhar, who studied hotel management in Chennai and worked with the Oberoi group before moving to the UK. “I’ve lived away from India for 23 years now and, with the restaurants and now this venture, I’m looking to engage ever more deeply with India.”
To that end, Kochhar has been shopping around for a while for collaborations. The Ritz-Carlton tipped the scales on two counts: Besides its executive chef Anupam Banerjee’s long personal association with Kochhar, the hotel’s F&B division has, in the past, invited chefs such as Vivek Singh of The Cinnamon Club, London, to dish up their skills. Bengaluru’s dining elite couldn’t be happier.
The Atul Kochhar Experiential. Lima on 7 April, Rs4,000 per person; NRI on 8 April, Rs4,000; Benares on 9 April, Rs4,500; and a seat at the interactive kitchen bar, Rs5,200. Private dining (for four), Rs20,000. All prices exclusive of taxes. At The Ritz-Carlton, 99, Residency Road, Bengaluru. For details, call 080-49148000 or email Vaishnavi.Karthikeyan@ritzcarlton.com. Seating capped at 45 for each dinner.