India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Wine & Dine
July 18, 2008

Chef’s Table

Text by Madhu Jain. Photographs by Saurabh Dua

Ramola Bachchan, best known for her coveted socialite evenings in London where she lived for two decades, combines her twin passions for entertaining and interior design in Manré, her newly opened restaurant in Delhi

MANRE, DELHI
Sentimental Flavours

The name might not ring a bell. But, it resonates. There is an air of mystery about the name of Ramola Bachchan’s modern European restaurant – Manré — that just opened in the elegant MGF Mall in Delhi. Apparently Bachchan fell in love with Manré, which is located in the Champagne Region of France. She says she has a ‘sentimental connection’ to it: “It has a place in my heart.”

No wonder, nothing seems to have been spared to make this elegant, clean-lined, glass-fronted restaurant and bar lounge, which is spread over 10,000 square feet. Sculpting spaces, whether it is for living areas, leisure or fine dining, is rapidly becoming the order of the day. It is no longer about just décor and ambience. Here, private spaces coexist with the public ones, hived off discreetly.

Manré has been ingeniously divided into a rather large bar lounge with its beautiful white leather sofas and chairs and the main restaurant, its understated elegance reflected in unfussy white linen table covers and white and black chairs with impeccably finished eloquent lines. Both have been divided even further. The bar lounge has a few private areas carved by mesh curtains with the odd row of Swarovski crystal that add a bit of sparkle. The main restaurant has a chef’s table at one end of the room, cordoned off from the other diners by a carved door that, while it turns the space into a private dining room, allows the guests to a discreet view of the others.

There are three private dining rooms in a row situated on one side of the restaurant. The partitions that separate them can be removed to transform the space into a large dining area that can seat 20. Here, too, the guests are in semi-purdah: they can see the others but they can also be seen if they wish to be.

While Manré is the name of the lounge-bar-restaurant, there are two very different spaces leading off it: Meze and Maza. The pièce de résistance of the entire complex is Meze, a Lebanese restaurant located on the terrace. But here’s the surprise: it is comprised of four air-conditioned designer tents, one of them large. Maza is located on another terrace. Currently being given out for private parties, it will be made into a daytime outdoor café, with street food.

The juxtaposition of such diverse elements as steel, white leather, mesh, East European chandeliers and Venetian mirrors (in the private dining restaurants) serves a purpose. Bachchan obviously wants to combine both the old world charm of refined dining and décor and the minimalist aesthetic of our times.

Ramola Bachchan is best known for her coveted socialite evenings in London — where she lived for nearly two decades before she returned to India — and her charity work. Entertaining has always been a passion, as has interior designing. Manré, she reiterates, enables her to do both. “I enjoy the process of entertaining. It is a form of self-expression… I was always doing up my home and this is a natural progression…. Everything put in has to be classy and aesthetic. I would like Manré to have a feel of my home, on a larger scale.” Helping her translate her ideas was a young contractor, Ankush Seth and designer Saiba Singh. The other passion she can indulge in is cooking but only theoretically. “I do cook but in my head… I conceptualise and then get my chefs to experiment.”

The proof is in the eating. I have to admit that the soufflé with a delicately seasoned Thai sauce was utterly delicious.

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