Some more wine, please

Oct 10, 2018, 08:29 IST | Suman Mahfuz Quazi

first in midday: India's first wine-on-tap restaurant which opens its doors in Juhu this Friday, comes with the promise of good food and a greater high

Some more wine, please
Lotus stem roll

Men are like wine — some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age," said Pope John XXIII. But of course, that was years before, or he would have known better than to compare an absolutely wonderful liquor to what in many cases, is an insatiable ol' man with sexually predatory behaviour. And we repeat, in many cases, as we tip-toe around those who are waiting to yell back — #NotAllMen. But we digress, and perhaps it is the residual alcohol from our visit to the Wine Villa, India's first wine-on-tap restaurant, and owners Micky Panjwani and Roopanshi Bhatt's second enterprise.

Cottage cheese wich
Cottage cheese wich

"You know how you go all in when you're playing cards? That's what Micky and I did," Bhatt recalls, speaking about their first venture, Tea Villa Café, in 2014. At the time, Bhatt was as young as 23, and still dabbling in her career as a wedding planner. Four years down the line, the young restaurateurs are now better prepared for their endeavours.

Moong dal halwa strudel with lychee rabdi
Moong dal halwa strudel with lychee rabdi

This comes through in the carefully designed menu, the availability of almost 100 varieties of wine — that you can self-pour using an ATM-like card and purchase in different quantities, including to taste, beginning at prices as low as Rs 62 — and the refined décor of the fine-dine restaurant that despite appearing a tad ostentatious for our taste, is still a far cry from the yuppie vibe that their cafés embody. Both Bhatt and Panjwani have grown up and it is clear in more ways than one.

Wine Villa, Third Floor, Hotel Horizon, Juhu Church Road, Juhu

For Bhatt, it all started in 2015 when she finally quit her job as a wedding planner to make space for her business that coincided with bouts of overseas travel. "I used to miss good wine every time I came back to India," she tells us. During her trips to Europe, she chanced upon a machine that dispensed wine. And that's when Bhatt managed to put a finger on her dream.

The wine ATM allows you to pour yourself any choice of wine by the bottle, or full and half glass, and for tasting. The ATM cards are placed on each table. Pics/Ashish Raje
The wine ATM allows you to pour yourself any choice of wine by the bottle, or full and half glass, and for tasting. The ATM cards are placed on each table. Pics/Ashish Raje

So, the idea had been in the works since the end of 2016, and after a year and a half of importing machinery, building it specially for the restaurant and having an eclectic food menu in place, a part of which has been curated by Masterchef Australia 2017 winner Diana Chan, the doors are finally ready to be opened to patrons this weekend. And how did Chan, a Malaysian-born Australian chef, navigate the Indian palate?

Roopanshi Bhatt
Roopanshi Bhatt

"My first plan was to curate a menu that will appeal both to expats and the Indian crowd. So, I added a tinge of my Malaysian roots and a touch of the Indian chatka to European cuisine. It took me close to six weeks to come up with what I believe will be perfect for this restaurant," Chan tells us.

Diana Chan
Diana Chan

And as city eateries increasingly swivel towards cuisine-specific food, this one boasts of a range of Indian, European and Malaysian delicacies. Such as the chicken varuval with yogurt and pomegranate (R495), a quintessential Tamilian dish that Chan has re-imagined with Malaysian spices, or the cottage cheese wich (Rs 425), a sandwich made with luscious slices of paneer instead of bread, ensconced within which is a serving of dried fruits and potato flakes.

We realise it is the vegetarian dishes that truly stand out, and it makes sense, for Bhatt is after all, vegetarian herself. Take for example the unique lotus stem roll (Rs 445), a bite-size king mushroom with black pepper and gullian chilly, rolled into sliced and glazed lotus stem.

And perhaps what wins our hearts, almost surpassing the excitement of staring in awe at a big machine encasing bottles of wine that we can finally avail of by the glass, was the classy yet grounded moong dal halwa strudel (Rs 595); a generous helping of golden-brown and ghee-laden halwa packed between layers of filo pastry, served with a side of lychee rabdi, which leaves us wanting more. But first, another glass of rosé, please.

Sommelier Nikhil Agarwal
Sommelier Nikhil Agarwal

Will it work?
"I believe Wine Villa uses Enomatic wine dispensers to serve their wines. These systems are used globally at leading wine bars and restaurants, and offer customers a chance to taste a range of wines by the glass at different pour sizes and price points. The temperature of the wine is controlled to ensure you get the wine at the right temperature every time."

Opens ON October 12, 12 pm to 1.30 am
At Hotel Horizon, Juhu Church Road, Juhu.
Call 9867334305

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