French Revolution

In most places in the world,foreign cuisines entered the local restaurant industry in a certain order.

Written by Shantanu David | Published: June 2, 2012 3:31 am

In most places in the world,foreign cuisines entered the local restaurant industry in a certain order. That chronological order was usually headed by the food of la bonne France. However,that wasn’t the case in the Capital of India. Even though there may have been a few dishes (such as salad Nicoise,steak tartare and,of course,the ever-present crepes),but there were no dedicated French restaurants.

Till now. This year has seen the opening of a number of French restaurants all over Delhi ,with several more in the pipeline.

Of the ones opened,most are enjoying notable success.

So,how come it took so long for the French to foray into the Indian thali? According to Laurent Guiraud,co-owner of the new French restaurant in GK-II,Rara Avis,“Earlier,serving French food used to be a really expensive business model,and it was hard getting even a half-way decent French meal without spending a bomb. And so,French food developed a reputation for being overly fancy and complicated. Also,French food is very carnivorous by nature,which can be quite a problem in a largely vegetarian country like India.”

Chef Michael Schauss,who is designing the menu of the soon-to-be-opened La Riviera in Gurgaon,has another logic. “French cuisine is a far cry from Indian food,so it’s taken a while for Indians to get used to the idea of French fare. In that sense,Italian food was much more acceptable to the Indian palate because of a commonality in ingredients,” he says.

But the frequent Indian traveller,mushrooming of lifestyle channels (and yes,the internet) have put paid to many of these concerns. “I definitely think that travel,the internet and television have educated people about French cuisine,that it’s not just heavy expensive food,but can be simple and easy on the pocket. Diners are becoming adventurous and are keen on trying new things,even more than we expected,” says Guiraud.

The proof of the pudding,according to him,is in the fact that snails (or Escargot if you want to be fancy) is one of the biggest-selling items on the menu.

Another reason for the surging popularity of French food is in its new-found simplicity,which is being manifested in French restaurants around the world. Nira Singh,owner of Chez Nini in Lodhi Colony,says “Our philosophy is one of simplicity,infusion of flavours and respect for nature and our surroundings. Basing the menu on French classics as well as other cherished dishes,we use seasonal,local and,wherever possible,organic products.” Guiraud agrees,saying,“We’ve tried to make our food simple and more down to earth. Keeping in mind local sensibilities,we also have kept vegetarian options for our guests.”

One of the biggest challenges that restaurateurs faced was the regulations on importing food items such as cheese. “The toughest rules are on the importing of cheese. Given that France has about 600 varieties of cheese,people here are really missing out on that bounty,” laments Guiraud.

Luckily,France has a lot more to offer.

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