Hammer Food & Beverage Business Review: No Bar on Being Focussed

May 19, 2011


Consumption of alcoholic beverages is not always about just consuming the liquor.  Often it is about enjoying the ambience, celebrating a moment by just taking time off after a day of hard work, and sometimes even a conscious seeking out of comfort zone to be left along.  Thankfully, there are sufficient lounge bars and hotel bars apart from waiting sections of successful restaurants to fill these needs, and then there is the niche of “Focus Bar Outlet.’

When there is a focus on any style of staple drink, it does not imply that the other options are no available; it just means that there is more to select from the focus drink, which happens to be the speciality of the bar.  One of the pioneers in this segment could easily be the Aura – The Vodka Bar at The Claridges, New Delhi.  The management of the bar has decided to focus on vodkas – and suddenly the vodka lovers in Delhi have ample reason to celebrate.  With different brands and styles of vodkas serves either in cocktail or as a platter of its own, the outlet seemed to be rocking.

A focus outlet allows the novice to experiment and gives the joy of options to a connoisseur at the same time.  It really is a win-win situation, so I have often wondered why we do not have more of them in any city of India, let alone in Delhi.  Well, all that seems to be slowly but surely changing as entrepreneurs are attempting to make a signature identity for themselves through their food & beverage outlet/s.  Recently, I visited two of such latest additions in the Indian food & beverage industry.  They are located in Gurgaon, which is a part of Delhi, NCR, and Janakpuri, West Delhi.  Here they are:


Located at the lobby level of Global Business Park, MG Road, Gurgaon, it is almost the first building when driving from Delhi, thereby saving the visitor the hassle of negotiating the traffic snarls of Gurgaon, which are even a shade worse than that of Delhi.

The crest of the restaurant is the first noticeable feature.  In Hindi, angoor means grape, and thus it comes as no surprise that the focus here is on wines.  But then you see the crest and remember that langoor is the long tailed Indian monkey!  There are two of them facing each other, holding a round frame in which is showcased a bunch of grapes.  Right at the top is a stylised grape vine leaf, and a bunch of grapes in the plaque is what they are holding.  The crest is repeated on the plates, at all the stemware, and is engraved in the wooden plaques of the menu; delivering an unexpected impact.

The Ambience and Decor

Right from the moment you walk-in the emphasis on wines impressed you.  The tables are laid out with different glasses for white and red wines, and these have laser engravings of the restaurant crest.  Of course, this means that the glasses have to be handled with care by hand and can never be washed in the dishwasher, but that is a small price to pay for the visual impact that such luxury ensures.

One flight of stairs up, with no seating in the area visible, there is a row of cabinets housing bottles of wine in temperature controlled units.  Such a welcome change from most stand-alone places!  Here you can actually walk around and select your wine of choice without even consulting the menu.

Wooden panels of the walls are perfectly matched and provide a great visual foil.  The acoustics of the sitting area is well balanced and although the tables seem to be close, it is not easy to eavesdrop on conversation from the next table.  A section of the restaurant is cordoned off as a waiting area, with lounge style seating.  They have a live jazz band two evenings of the week and piped music otherwise, which is at a reasonable decibel count.  The music played during my visit had a soothing feel to it.

The List Could Make You Heady

There are two plaques for red and white wines – following the simple method of sharing information – that would appeal equally to the new wine enthusiast as much as to a well informed wine lover.  The divisions are easy for both the red wune list and the white wine list.  They mention the country of origin; next is the information on label, then the vintage, followed by the grape varietals in the wine, the house that makes it, and finally the price.  Currently just over half a dozen options are also available by the glass.

It might be difficult to continue with this singular type of wine presentation as irregular supply of wines by the importers or the changing vintage availability would make it difficult to carry on with this style.  But that remains to be seen.  At present, the concept of a wine focussed restaurant-cum-bar is rocking.

Wines and More

Besides wines, the classy outlet lists and stocks fine malts, whiskies, gin or vodka, liqueurs and even cognac but there is no separate menu for the cocktails or mocktails.  However, I requested for and got a perfect Bloody Mary, as I feel that the true mettle of a bartender is tested on the rendition of the most basic cocktail.  I asked for medium spiced and got exactly that.  A well made Bloody Mary is one of the most amazing lip smacking experiences that make you greedily finish.

Here a customer can demand his/her favourite cocktail and it will be well made, and correctly served.  But at the same time, L’Angoor is not in the business to promote cocktails or claim that it has an exclusive list of ‘specialty’ cocktails in its bar.

The Food Factor

A distinction needs to be made between the lunch and the dinner menu at L’Angoor, this distinction is celebrated rather than kept mundane.  It does not in anyway compromise the eating options possible, or for that matter the pairing exercise for the wines.  Besides a range of salads for lunch, you can also have sandwiches and delicious burgers, and for the more formal lunch enthusiasts, there is a selection of pastas and the tempting cheese platter.

For dinner, it gets delightfully difficult to opt for fish over red meat, succulent scallops or rack of New Zealand lamb; drizzled with rosemary scented au jus.  Well, for me it was the wine that helped me to zero in on the lamb.

The Seasoned Man

The importance of a qualified sommelier who can actually help out a customer, has been well recognised in the restaurants and bars, and Davide Zubani is a the official sommelier here.  He has over 13 years of experience in the international and Indian properties, including The Leela group, an international cruise ship, and other outlets.  He approaches the wine with a practical attitude and is easy to trust.  If you point out your tastes’ preference or discreetly point out your price range, he will come up with something to delight your heart while being easy on your pocket.

Davide personally decanted a gem of a wine from Argentina – Yocachuya a Malbec & Cabernet Sauvignon blend, and swirled it expertly to air it well.  It was sheer poetry with silky smooth tannins and a firm structure that had a beguiling and charming long finish.  Although the Michel Rolland crafted wine declares 16.2 percent alcohol content it did go down well, has a perfectly balanced nose on the notes and was a true winner among the selections in its price range.  However, it is not yet available by the glass.  That might well change as customers begin to honour choices of the sommeliers.

With the growing popularity of wines, it is imperative that focus bars with a widelist of wines from the world are made available to the consumers.  L’Angoor is the right effort in that direction and at the outset there seems nothing lacking in its endeavour to be successful.  A wish list though would be the inclusion of the wine-based cocktails and more wines by the glass, so that the customers can truly experiment with their palate and pocket.

Malt & Co.

Hilton new Delhi/Janakpuri has the honour of being the first five-star property in this extreme west side of Delhi, though more are scheduled to open their doors to the public of the area.  Right at the foot of the Metro station, the hotel has managed to make a place for itself already, and plans to open its speciality F&B outlets.

At the lobby level itself, with the check-in island being at the centre of the lobby with half circle of seating options around it, the coffee shop is on the right and the bar, Malt & Co. is on the left.  It is a dedicated space for malt whisky lovers.

The Inviting Ambience

The first impression at Malt & Co. is that of gentle seduction.  The atmosphere is inviting.  Most of the spaces are low seating of the lounge kind, with deep plush sofas and minimal decor.

The area cordoned off for serious malt appreciation is decorated with a few malt bottles, and a lot of red glasses and carafes in different shapes and sizes.  There are a couple of coffee table books to glance through, but once the whole paraphernalia is in place, the bar comes across as a fitting shrine for malt whisky lovers.

The bar with classy decor is a 66 cover outlet.  The main bar counter is on the side opposite to the malt room and has high stools.  Once the whole list of malts is operational, there would be forty brands available.  There is no denying the fact that once all the desired labels of malts are in place; this outlet is going to be a place to reckon with on a national scale.  Imagine a selection of forty, no less, labels of malt whiskies to select from!

The bar has six options of international brands of water and the list also includes Voda Voda from Serbia, in addition to the French Perrier and San Pellegrino of Italy, and other known brands too.  These are in addition to the local Indian options.  The wine list is still being worked upon with additions to happen soon, yet it has made an interesting selection for the first round too.  There is something for every palate and mood.  The aromatic and light-bodied whites to the more complex full-bodied reds from around the world are included in the list.

Right now, there is only channel music but soon a DJ would be hired to keep the place hip and happening, while at the same time, keeping the more mature client and hotel guests happy with the malt selection.  With over a decade of experience under his professional belt, it is Awadhesh Kumar who is the Manager at Malt & Co.

Sumptuous Offerings

With a coffee shop offering a delightful selection and an Indian restaurant named Zune is already operational on the first floor, and two more restaurants scheduled to open before the end of the year, there would be sufficient choice to have a sumptuous dinner after a couple of drinks at Malt & Co.  However, for those who desire something more than peanuts with their drinks, a finger food menu is available at Malt & Co. also.

Here you can listen to live music as you choose from an extensive range of fine malts, armagnacs and cognacs, or sip an expertly mixed Cosmopolitan or Manhattan as you savour a selection of signature culinary treats prepared by the Master Chefs.

Fried onion rings with three sauces choice (includes guacamole, tomato salsa and tzatiki) or a Crisp Popia Roll with sweet chilli sauce are good options.  For the vegetarians, on the more exotic side would be the likes of ‘dried figs with veggies and spices’ in kebab or even spicy potatoes cooked in tandoor, served with mint sauce.

Though there were chicken dishes, and other tikkas, fish fingers, etc., I sampled the exotic prawns, served singly in a shot glass, to be picked with a toothpick.  And the satays are there too – in all their different avatars.  Signature platters allow one to choose any favourite three options from either the vegetarian or the non-vegetarian segments to get value for money.

Future Vision

The future of any outlet, whether five-star or stand-alone, and especially for a focussed outlet, depends on the convictions of the leader of the team.  Nishan Silva, the Director of Operations at the property, is a young and dynamic professional who has lots on his plate right now.  But he is coping well, leading the team without feeling any pressures.

Of course, with such a focus on malts, the bar will have to have a dedicated plan of promotion for these malts.  Silva informs that the logistics are still being worked out and before the promotions can be undertaken, there are various other factors that need to be in place.  “We have to get the product right and we have ti serve it right, and other factors too will fall in place,” asserted Silva with conviction.

The management of the property does intend taking professional help from sommeliers and also from Diageo – a global alcoholic beverages giant headquartered in London, whose products will be able to enjoy a chunk of space in the malt selection of Malt & Co. surely.  Then promotional activities will begin in all earnestness.  Here it deserves a mention that Diego is the largest producer of spirits in this planet, and a major producer of beer and wine in the globe.

Although the property is new and does not have the tax advantage, the prices are at par with other bars, which is definitely an excuse for trying to find the discerning malts that speak your language and satiate your taste buds and moods.

Read the original review.



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