There’s so much more to fine dining than the food itself, as The Black Tie, a gourmet club now in its 15th year, demonstrates. When Stanley Pinto – jazz aficionado, bon vivant and purist, with a partiality for all things French – along with his good friends Shawqi Sultan and Saleh Talib, (pictured, left) founded The Black Tie in Muscat, Oman, he was pursuing his own ideals of connoisseurship in fine dining, writes Kaveri Ponnapa.
– formal dressing, personalised menus created by outstanding chefs, a selection of the best wines, cigars and the company of like-minded gourmets, passionate about good food. Passionate enough to set aside the last Saturday of each month to meet over an excellent meal, and match the tone of the evening by dressing formally in tuxedo and black tie or, more recently, the elegant Indian bandhgala for the men, the ladies in their formal best. The club quickly attracted a membership of various nationalities, of highly placed, well-travelled professionals, and enriched the fine-dining scene in Muscat.
The sadly neglected custom of dressing for dinner implies a certain seriousness about the art of dining and, more subtly, a respect for one’s fellow diners. It confers additional status on the Chef who has prepared the meal and quite simply, elevates an occasion to something out of the ordinary. Formal dressing, one of the ground rules of this club brings a grace and elegance to every event, transforming it from a dinner to an epicurean experience in every sense of the word.
When Stanley Pinto returned to Bangalore, he set up a local chapter of the club, named The Bangalore Black Tie, and continues to meticulously curate every Black Tie experience. The menus are event specific, and not part of the regular selection offered by a restaurant. Chefs often find themselves called upon to raise the bar and give free rein to their imaginations, creating extraordinary, one-off dishes. Wine lists are carefully scanned, and suitable pairings created. Menus feature not just foie gras, scallops and New Zealand lamb, but every now and then, Stanley throws down a culinary challenge, and the Chefs respond – the all cheese menu created by Abhijit Saha, for instance, featured unusual cheeses, incorporated into every single dish, from starters to dessert, with great élan.
Over the years, Stanley has maintained the original ‘by invitation only’ policy of adding new members, bringing to The Bangalore Black Tie those that are genuinely inspired by good food and wine, a shared interest that is reflected in the quality of the conversations and interactions. This also means that the members make good travelling companions, journeying to Bangkok, Muscat or other Indian destinations in pursuit of rare gastronomic experiences. If there were any questions about the relevance of such a club, in today’s ultra casual world, the response would lie in the records of 15 years of memberships in Muscat, seven in Bangalore – full to capacity, with a waiting list.
Taken from Sommelier India Wine Magazine, Issue 2, April-May 2014