The evening of last Saturday saw Pawan and I walking down a dimly lit cobbled pathway towards what looked like bedouin tents in an oasis, lights twinkling, white canopies dotted over lush greenery, beckoning us to come discover its mysteries. Sevilla, the Spanish-themed restaurant of Hotel Claridges, New Delhi boasts of an ambience that is magical, the garden setting, the canopied and closed generously spaced individual dining areas, the twinkling lights bringing to mind faint memories of the exotic Moors that once ruled Sevilla.
Sevilla has a new chef’s toy- the country’s first Josper Oven. A charcoal fired oven which is sealed shut while grilling at high temperatures, to retain the juices of the food being cooked, a process devised by two Spaniards and popularized globally, it claims while retaining the food’s innate flavour, to impart a distinct smoky, earthy flavour to it. And we were there to check it out.
But first, we were seated and offered a very delicious, light and fruity sparkling wine, Waldo Prosecco which hinted at the good things to come. A thin, round, flat bread much like the Indian crunchy matri but with a hole in the middle was tasty with chilli flakes and parmesan adding the right zing. The bread whose dough is made of toasted cereals called Gofio is a staple of the Canary Islands of Spain.
Sous Chef Nitin started us with the hot Leek soup a la Vichysoisse, a creamy, mildly pungent, tasty appetite whetter. The platter of Embutidos, consisting of slices of various Iberian sausages- spicy chorizo, chewy fuets, the peppery salchichon and the pride of Spain, the Spanish ham, was a perfect ensemble show. However, I found the spanish ham tad salty, which a true “pata negra” the best quality ham, should not be.
We were next set off on a culinary trail of mouth watering tapas specially crafted to bring out the best of the Josper oven. The Grilled Asparagus with romesco sauce, the pungent sweet vegetable pairing brilliantly with the red capsicum- hazelnut sauce. The Marinated Grilled vegetables– capsicum, zucchini, brinjal served cold with bread was a welcome intermission before the Goat cheese topped vegetables flavoured with fennel served hot on a piece of bread. Special mention must be made of the grilled Foie gras with red wine reduction served on crackers, sprinkled with sea salt and resting on onion confit. A buttery smooth grilled foie teased by the grainy salt and sweet confit was a true gastronomic delight.
The Pan con Tomate even though not the authentic one, with the bread served toasted with a sliver of grilled tomato, olive oil and sea salt is an example of the simple but tasty version of the original, crusty bread, cut and rubbed with a half tomato, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Executive Chef Neeraj, informed me that since the quality of the tomatoes available here were not appropriate they have refrained from serving the Catalan staple in its original form. However, my suggestion that the tomato could be grated/pureed manually in a grater and served in a sauce bowl with olive oil was enthusiastically received by the chef.
Continuing on our gastronomic journey, the Chicken wings served with Alioli was deceptively delightful. Deceptive because the dry outer crust leads you to anticipate a dry inner meat too until you bite into it. Delightful because the meat inside is tender, juicy and leaves you wanting more. The Grilled New Zealand Lamb chops is another of Sevilla’s pride, served with a dollop of sweet Quince Alioli. In my opinion the alioli should be served separately and not atop the superbly cooked meat. The grilled meat is so outstanding that it can hold its own without the alioli.
At this juncture, I was at a point of joyful satiation with the various tapas having taken on the form of a full blown meal. But I am glad I did not refuse the Grilled Chilean Sea bass that trooped in next. The fish came with crispy brown skin glazed with white buttery lemony sauce, the meat so soft, so flaky, so tender that I was afraid that it would slide past my throat into my innards before I could savour its simple but fabulous texture and taste. It was undoubtedly the crowning glory of the evening. The Angus tenderloin that followed was another masterpiece served with artichoke and an innovative potato lasagna that could qualify as a vegetarian main course by itself. The meat was done medium-rare to perfection and Chef Nitin informed us that the potato is left overnight in the Josper Oven to slow grill over charcoal fire and that lends it a flaky, crispy texture.
The Pannacotta was liked by Pawan a lot but I found its smoky taste, rendered by the charcoal grill that lifted the meats and vegetables to another sublime level, overpowering in the case of the pannacotta. On the other hand the cold Yogurt served on a bed of diced grilled pineapple was a perfect rounding-off-the-meal dish, the smoky-sweet taste of the fruit dueting playfully with the fermented cold dessert. A glass of Cava (Spanish Sparkling wine akin to champagne) not yet in the wine list would have given a perfect closure to the handsome meal. In the absence of which we were content with two Cortados, (single espresso cut with a little of milk), Spanish style.
The charcoal-grilled, sealed cooking made possible in the Josper oven does lend a smoky, earthy accent to the food that is not present in conventional cooking. The charcoal, the airtight cooking space, the high temperature at which food is cooked in the oven does add an extra dimension to the taste and texture of the final product. This perhaps explains the dry outer crust that belies a juicy, tender, flavoursome meat hiding inside whereas in a regular grill the food gets dry and browned/burnt. This process is reminiscent of the searing of meat at high temperatures on a hot iron “a la plancha” that is popular in Spain. In the case of Josper oven, the food is grilled at high temperatures at near hermetic conditions. Truly innovative process producing exceptional results!
The staff at Sevilla especially Ashwani, the restaurant’s manager was attentive and well informed of the food on offer. Both the sous chef and the Executive chef spent considerable amount of time explaining the raison d’etre of having a Spanish themed restaurant in New Delhi. Great care and attention is being paid to sourcing the right ingredients where even in something as basic as salt, the restaurant boasts of at least 7-8 varieties sourced from far-flung areas of the globe, each variety paired with a particular food. A talk with Chef Neeraj revealed the passion and effort with which this man has conceived the special Josper Steakhouse menu. It was heartening to note that the chef spent his valuable time stopping by at each table, ignoring neither the lone man at a table under a tree nor the family dining in closed spaces aptly named after the cities of Spain.
Stephen, a friendly Texan who was dining alone at the restaurant and who had earlier recommended the lamb chops and foie gras to us was pleased with the excellent ambience, attentive service and exceptional food of the restaurant. I could not agree with him more.
Food: 5.0/5 | Ambience: 5.0/5 | Service: 5.0/5 | Overall: 5.0/5
Meal for two: Rs. 6500+ with alcohol | Alcohol: Yes | Credit Card: Yes
Timings: Dinner only (7.30-11.30 pm).
Address: Sevilla, The Claridges, 12, Aurangzeb Road, New Delhi | Telephone: +91-11-39555000