During one of his recent visits to Dubai, Penelope Walsh talks airplanes and India with the Michelin-starred chef behind Indego by Vineet restaurant
As the first Michelin-starred Indian chef, what is your award-winning cooking style?
My cooking style is from my heart and my mind. We don’t look outside India’s boundaries, because there is so much to offer within. It is not a fusion of cuisines, but a fusion of food from within India. It is like a glorified thali, with six or seven elements, but plated up in the style of a Western chef. Indego by Vineet has been open since 2005. What first brought you to Dubai? I first came to Dubai in 1993 for a one-day stopover and I didn’t like it at all. It was too hot and there was nothing to see, just a few buildings in Old Dubai and that was it.
What changed your mind?
In 2004 I opened Rasoi in London. On the first night, three gentlemen asked me to open a restaurant in Dubai. They had been there all night, for a seven-course pairing menu, so I laughed it off. I said, ‘if you’re serious, come back tomorrow at 7.30am’ and they did. I came to Dubai again to take a look, and I was shocked!
The city had changed. Firstly the airport; in 1993 the airport was a dump! The whole city had mushroomed.
And the Indian food scene?
It’s better now. But Dubai has a long heritage with India. Dubai’s local currency used to be Indian rupees. Indian food is derived from Arabic food – the kebab come from Persia, not India.
You cut your teeth training at Oberoi Delhi, will you open the new Oberoi in Dubai?
No, I’m very happy with what I have [at Indego by Vineet]. We’ve done extremely well here – except for [not winning this year’s] Time Out Dubai Restaurant Award!
Will Dubai see a second Vineet Bhatia restaurant?
If so, I’d do something completely different; not fine dining, but more tapas bar style. For now though, I would be more likely to open in Abu Dhabi. But Dubai has been booming in the last nine months. It is an international hub and will soon be the biggest airport after Heathrow.
You wanted to become a pilot and are still very interested in airports. Is that why you agreed to develop menus for British Airways and Qatar Airways?
I would have agreed to work with BA and Qatar for a packet of crisps and a cola. I moved to London because of Heathrow airport, so I could see the planes. I used to live under the flight path of the Concorde, and every evening I would watch the Concorde fly pass. On the last flight of the Concorde, they served my chocolate dessert. When I fly with Qatar, many of the staff know I wanted to be a pilot, and ask if I want to see the cockpit. I always do and love it.
Indego by Vineet, Grosvenor House Dubai, Dubai Marina (04 399 8888).