Garnished with Glamour

Le Cirque opens doors in Delhi, and immediately sets a new gold standard for fine-dining in the city

Even before Le Cirque could finalise the menu for its Delhi branch, the legendary stories had begun doing the rounds of the Capital — of Hollywood stars who frequented Le Cirque, New York; of former Philippines President, Maria Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who once spent $20,000 for a dinner there, and so on. Le Cirque has only three branches in the world — and Delhi can boast of being a part of that gastronomic legacy. True to its reputation, the new French-Italian fine diner at The Leela Palace, Chanakyapuri, oozes luxury, so much that you wonder if life after dinner here would ever be the same again.

With 140 covers spread over three private dining rooms, a chef's table, a bar with a portico, show kitchen and a main seating section, we got the feeling of being the only diners at the restaurant. The silverware sparkles, the crystal glasses tinkle and even the soft white linen tablecloth seems to have a personality. But you wonder about — and miss — the famous "circus-style" interiors of the New York restaurant. The Delhi branch is a "well-behaved cousin of its American predecessor," with boardroom-style dιcor and wall panels in oakwood shades. The chinaware sports motifs of clowns and jugglers, but that's about as much fun as you can have here.

Our antipasti is an artistically created dish called Vegetable Garden (Rs 700). It lives up to its name — an assortment of beetroot, corn, asparagus, orange carrot and baked ricotta slivers, punctuated by morsels of pomegranate and pistachio. It is literally a guided tour of a garden, where you are greeted by a burst of flavour in every mouthful. There is also the classic, Le Cirque Salad (Rs 700) comprising shaved fennel, taggiasca olives, artichokes, tomatoes, candied cashews and drizzle of Italian white balsamic vinaigrette.

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