Champagne Lombard and Indian cuisine at Varq in Delhi


varq2.jpgI had occasion to meet Mr. Thierry Lombard, third generation winemaker and current President of the House of Lombard on a previous occasion at a dinner at The Taj Mahal Chambers. This time it was the visit of Mr. Paul Henri Perrot, winemaker from the prestigious champagne House which coincided with the 4th anniversary of Varq, (pictured, left) the modern Indian restaurant at The Taj Mahal Hotel, Mansingh Road, New Delhi, writes Reva K. Singh

The Champagne house Lombard and Co, was founded in 1925 and is situated in Epernay, the capital of Champagne. All the grapes for Champagne Lombard are carefully selected from their vineyards in Montagne de Reims Ouest and Epernay, in order to give the three varieties of grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier) their best expression in style and specificity.
Champagne Lombard combines the latest in technology and equipment with authentic aromas, taste and tradition handed down through generations, and has risen in ranking from Premier Cru, to Grand Cru.
The evening got off to a dramatic start with a Champagne Sabrage by resident sommelier, Marketa Sitarova who severed the top of a bottle of Lombard Champagne with one clean sweep, expertly wielding a kirpan instead of the traditional sabre à champagne or champagne sword, which is actually a close cousin, except for the fact that the sabre blade is blunt. A sharpened edge is unnecessary because in sabrage, the impact is important not the sharpness, in order to break the glass and separate the collar from the neck of the bottle. Apparently champagne bottles can even be opened with a spoon using the same method!
The Emperor Napoleon is credited with initiating sabrage for opening champagne bottles. The sabre was the weapon used by the Hussars, Napoleon’s light infantry and his numerous campaigns provided many occasions to celebrate. “Champagne!
In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it,” he said, never missing an opportunity to crack a bottle of his favourite bubbly. The practice subsequently caught the imagination of the world. Sabrage requires a measure of skill, which Marketa displayed with great aplomb to mark Varq’s 4th anniversary dinner.
The restaurant’s special menu that night included Varqui Crab (an absolute favourite of mine) with layers of crab meat and tandoori shrimp interleaved with crisp filo sheets as a starter. The vegetarian option was Varqui Khumb or spiced morel mushrooms. This was paired with the fresh and elegant vanilla flavours and toasty overtones of Champagne Lombard Brut.
My main course choice was Pan seared Chilean Sea Bass with spinach and mushrooms, but the dish that really had my mouth watering and I will pick the next time round, was “Stone Cooked Kofti with Masala Berry Pulao” which was a pulao with Parsi-style meat balls with a delicious dal and vegetable as a side dish. There’s a vegetarian variation which I’m sure is equally appetising. Champagne Lombard Brut Rosé with an abundance of fine persistent bubbles, made a pleasing pairing, elevating the dish to a new plane.
“Limchi Brûlée” or crème brûlée of baby gulab jamun was the unlikely dessert that turned out to be surprisingly good.
Lombard & Cie House of Champagne was founded in 1925 and is situated in Epernay the capital of Champagne. The Lombard family owned vineyards in the early part of the last century in Hautvillers but have now located their vines mainly in Montagne de Reims West. All the grapes come from selected areas of the highest quality of soil and exposure.

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