A visit to this exotic Italian restaurant at The Imperial in Delhi can transport you right over to Tuscany
There are hotels and there are hotels. Grand hotels, modern hotels, matchbox hotels, resort hotels, boutique hotels. And then there are institutions, edifices or national treasures. The Imperial hotel in New Delhi is one such hotel that captures a genteel slice of history and preserves it for posterity. Every time I visit The Imperial, I feel I have walked onto the sets of an epic period drama. Right from the time you drive onto the cobbled pathway, a dulcet chimera sets in.
I straighten my back, hold my chin up and start behaving like a prim n propah lady. It’s almost like communicating to people from a bygone era, courting forgotten centuries. The unhurried charm, the decadent decor, the superlative service harks back to a time when hotels were not driven by cost cutting or principles of cheaper alternatives. You cannot help but stare away at the aesthetic feast in every corner, every artefact, every painting.
This time I discovered yet another gem of the hotel, the Italian restaurant, San Gimignano, awarded ‘The Best Italian by Times Food awards 2014’. The restaurant boasts of a quiet, understated elegance, impeccable Italian cuisine and great service.
Tuscany, in the heart of Italy, is known the world over for its art, history, cuisines and beautiful landscapes. Cradled in the bosom of Tuscany lies a hilltop town, one of the best – preserved medieval towns, called San Gimignano or ‘the city of beautiful towers’. San Gimignano at The Imperial takes inspiration from this lovely city where vineyards and olive groves flourish.
The interiors of the restaurant are sparkling with fine Italian marble floor in a dull green, wooden walls and engaging black and white sketches on the walls. There’s something about the crisp white linen that spells class and finesse. There is a fabulous dining out area under a beautiful patio with white antique iron grills, fountains and white wicker chairs.
Some of the regular guests here include Rahul Gandhi, John Abraham and Kareena Kapoor amongst others. It is a restaurant for the discerning diner for sure.
Chef Rakesh Rana, the Chef de Cuisine here comes with a rich experience of conceptualising and running fine Italian restaurants in premier hotels such as The Oberoi and the Hyatt. Proficient at creating seafood and meat Grill, Chef Rana has excelled at menu engineering and plated presentations. In the last four years at San Gimignano, Chef Rana has catapulted the restaurant to a gastronomic pinnacle with his adaptation of classic recipes to contemporary tastes.
I am quite an adventurous person when it comes to food and almost have no dislikes or taboos (Isn’t that obvious by now?!). After knowing his credentials, I leave it to the Chef to create for me a meal of his choice.
For starters I get a stunning platter of three stellar antipasti that includes: ‘Carpaccio Di Manzo Ai Olio Tartufo’, a classical tenderloin dish of raw meat, pounded thin and seasoned with white truffle oil and shaved Grana Padano Parmesan Cheese; ‘Carciofi Ripieni Di Granchi’, Roman Style Artichokes stuffed with blue crab; and ‘Terrina Di Fegato Di Anatra saltata’, pan seared duck liver served with home made fresh fig marmalade. All three are simply delicious and it is difficult to decide which one is the best although my personal favourite is foie gras.
My friend who prefers vegetarian goes for the ‘Insalata Mista Organica Con Miele E Limone’ which is a salad of tender organic leaves tossed with a mild honey and lime vinaigrette.
Up next we try the ‘Crema Di Parmigiano Olio di Tartufo Bianco’ which I am told is the signature soup of San Gimignano. After taking one spoon I can say that if heaven had a welcome drink, it would probably be this light parmesan soup infused with white truffle oil. Softer than a lover’s whisper and soul satisfying like a classic symphony, this soup can transport you into epicurean heaven.
Next for the entrée, I try the San Gimignano Chilean Sea Bass called the ‘Filetto Di Merluzzo Nero Selvatico E Oregano Ai Capperi’, fish braised in white wine, caper, cherry tomatoes, vegetables, and kalamata olives which is also John Abraham’s favourite dish here. All I can say is John has great taste and I have something in common with him now. It is healthy, wholesome and light, just the way I like my food to be.
But a diehard Kareena Kapoor fan could perhaps try her favourite dish here, which is Spaghetti Pomodoro, a home–style pasta typically prepared with olive oil, fresh tomatoes, basil, and other fresh ingredients that may vary. It is intended to be a quick light preparation, rather than a dish in a heavy sauce.
But of course Chef Rana is in a mood to indulge. He decides it would be sacrilege to leave San Gimignano without sampling some of the more elaborate pastas of San Gimignano. So he presents two pasta preparations of astonishing depth and heartiness.
‘Papardelle Al Sugo Di Agnello’, is a dish that belongs to Tuscan region, a home-made Papardelle pasta, in braised lamb and fresh porcini mushroom sauce.
The second one is ‘Linguini Alla Aragosta’, a creamy lobster sauce flavoured with garlic, onion, tomatoes, and oregano tossed with linguini pasta for a decadent meal. This is a great way to stretch your lobster investment.
I end the meal with a stunning dessert called ‘Almond Panacotta’, almost like an angel’s kiss. There is no way I am going back to work from here. I feel pampered and cossetted, if not a trifle bit spoilt. I can visualise a four poster bed with Pavarotti playing in the background, doing beautiful things to me with his voice. Such is the effect of San Gimignano! In a world fast moving to quick fix measures and quicksilver attitudes, there are few things as reassuring and redeeming as a meal at San Gimignano.
Seek out those special moments you deserve. Come to think of it, you work hard, you go through the daily grind, you struggle and you slave all your life. Now take a much deserved breather, take a break, do yourself a huge favour, have a soul enriching meal at San Gimignano!
Meal for 2: Approx Rs 5000
Lunch: 12:30PM to 02:45PM
Dinner: 07:00PM to 11:45PM
For reservations call: The Imperial, Janpath, New Delhi
Phone: 011 41116608