In 2004 Vineet Bhatia realised his ultimate dream – a restaurant that he and his wife could call their own. He says: ‘This has been the best decision in my life. It has not only given me a chance to be my own boss, but also work in close association with my wife and life partner to realise our dream together.’
Cooking modern, progressive Indian cuisine, he says of his food: ‘The menu is very seasonal. We try and play by the seasons. My cooking is from my heart and from my mind. You can’t pigeonhole and say that it’s from south India or north India, it’s a blend of cuisine from within India, but we use local British products and we give them a new dimension.’
Taking ingredients, techniques and ideas from wherever he finds them – but still retaining an immense respect for regional Indian cuisines – Vineet Bhatia’s menus offer dishes such as Spice seared foie gras with wild mushroom naan and fennel-mango chutney salad(described as ‘a revelation’ in the Good Food Guide), and Grilled sea bass with crisp okra fingers, coconut rice and dhal sauce. Stilton cheese even makes it into one dish, Home-smoked lamb rack with lamb jus, apricot-walnut couscous and blue cheese-lamb tikki – evidence of his extraordinary ability to balance atypical flavours.
Subtle, delicate spicing is one of the characteristics of Vineet Bhatia’s dishes, eschewing the multiple strong flavours common in Anglicised Indian food. Modernist techniques also make an appearance, though used with a light hand, such as this Rosemary chicken tikka, chilli pipette and black olive khichdi.
Desserts, traditionally sidelined by British diners in Indian restaurants, are rendered magnificent in the hands of Vineet Bhatia. His Whisky truffle, dark chocolate-chikki delice, orange mousse and cranberry kulfi is a decadent end to a remarkable meal, or for something a little lighter, Grilled peaches, white chocolate rabdi and cardamom panna cotta.
Egon Ronay, the legendary food critic and long-time champion of foreign cuisine in Britain included Rasoi in his top 25 restaurants in the UK. Michael Winner, writing in the Sunday Times said: ‘Everything was so sensational, I just kept eating – This meal was, without doubt, one of the great food experiences, even though I was so stuffed I could hardly walk.’
Vineet Bhatia has now expanded his empire with executive consultancies and further branches in Moscow, Mauritius, Dubai and Geneva. In 2009, Rasoi by Vineet at the Mandarin Oriental, the Geneva outpost, was bestowed its own Michelin star. With this award, he became only the second British chef (after Gordon Ramsay) to hold Michelin stars in more than one country.
In 2010, he returned to the location of his first executive chef position, the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai, which he had left in the early nineties to make his name in Britain. Reopening the restaurant he once worked in, this time with his reputation as a world-class chef very much established, here he produces exquisite, modern Indian food which explores the subcontinent’s outstanding regional cuisines.
Matthew Fort, writing in The Guardian, encapsulates well the stature of this ground-breaking chef: ‘It is better to judge Bhatia’s cooking against that of Gordon Ramsay, Tom Aikens and Richard Corrigan than against that of conventional Indian restaurants, and by the standards of those masters, Vineet Bhatia must be seen to be at least their equal.’