When Indian Accent launched in Delhi in 2009, it became a phenomenon. The restaurant’s visionary chef Manish Mehrotra was unstoppable— from taking Delhi’s iconic Daulat Ki Chaat to New York and introducing the iconic blue cheese naan to Indians, he overhauled the country’s fine dining scene and put India on the global culinary map. In a chat with Travel + Leisure India & South Asia, Mehrotra reminisces about the decade-long journey. By Adila Matra
Excerpts from the interview with Manish Mehrotra:
T+L India: When you created the menu for Indian Accent, it was unlike anything that the country had seen. Now there are fusion restaurants everywhere. What was your thought process?
Manish Mehrotra: I was working in London at the time we were planning for Indian Accent. At that point, most of the Indian food served in restaurants was normal. There was not much fusion. When I started Indian Accent, my plan was to serve not just fusion food but dishes with unique combinations. There were some restaurants in London who were doing this back then, but in India this concept had not been introduced yet. I wanted to serve unique and few common things like blue cheese naan because blue cheese and bread is a classic combination. I wanted the plate to look more beautiful and interesting. For instance, if I am serving lamb curry or a vegetarian curry, I don’t want oil to float on top. These are the thoughts I had when I started Indian Accent. International dishes with Indian accent and Indian dishes with international accent.
T+L India: You have had experience in running restaurants in India and abroad. What are the differences when it comes to customer behaviour?
Manish Mehrotra: It is totally different. In India, people know about Indian food. I can’t serve dosa as chapati. But if I am opening a restaurant in some region of France, I can and nobody will point out. Also, the palates in India are very diverse, it changes from Delhi to Mumbai to Chennai to Kolkata. We weren’t very adventurous with our palates 15 years ago. But we have evolved.
T+L India: What is the one dish that you envisioned during your career that you are still proud of?
Manish Mehrotra: Doda Barfi Treacle Tart! Doda barfi is a dessert from Haryana and Rajasthan. I combined it with the traditional British dessert treacle tart and a vanilla bean ice cream. Then, I introduced Daulat ki Chaat on our menu 11 years ago. Everybody talks about it on Instagram now, but back then nobody knew what it was. So, we took Daulat ki Chaat all the way to Indian Accent in New York. When Michelin launched a website in New York, they did a video story on it too. It makes me feel so proud.
T+L India: What are your favourite dishes from your childhood?
Manish Mehrotra: At home, almost everything was my favourite. I loved the variety of local vegetables. Even accompaniments like achaar and papad were made at home. So were ketchup and squash. And I loved all of it.
T+L India: Your favourite culinary destination?
Manish Mehrotra: I love China and New York but my current favourite is Mexico.
T+L India: You love India because….
Manish Mehrotra: India is like chaat—full of flavour and textures.