Vineet Bhatia (back) in Dubai

The Michelin star chef swoops back into Dubai

Interview, General

Ever the regular visitor to Dubai, the Michelin star chef tells Penelope Walsh about new menus, restaurants and a sweet-sounding cookbook.

Welcome back, what brings you to Dubai this time?
There are going to be some major changes on the menu at Indego by Vineet [in the Grosvenor House] just after Valentine’s Day. It will be very different, a notch or two higher than previously, taking Indego to the same level as Rasoi, London and Geneva. But the thali tower will stay put, that’s our little Burj Khalifa!

Why make the changes now?
It was always in our minds to go to that level. There was a drop during the recession, but it has really been bouncing back in the past 12 months. The Middle East is a major area of growth for us, and Dubai is the hub for that.

Any new growth in 2014?
Yes, there is one more restaurant opening in Riyadh in April 2014 and also in Bahrain in May. When I first came here in 2004 people laughed and said, ‘What will you do if there’s no growth in the Middle East?’ And I said, it will come.

And it did! Are you anticipating more growth thanks to Dubai Expo 2020?
Yes, definitely.

Could it be the time to open a second restaurant in Dubai?
[Laughs] There’s more growth in Dubai. For sure.

You’re working on a second cookbook as well?
Yes, Rasoi Dessert Cookbook. It will be available in Dubai through the restaurant (or Amazon) in June. It won’t be for big commercial sale. It’s a very niche market.

Are the recipes difficult?
No, they are easy. My home economist in the UK was an 84-year-old lady, testing out the recipes in the first book. If she managed it, anyone can cook them, honestly. All the ingredients are very simple, it’s how we take those ingredients and combine them.

Tell us about the recipes.
We’ve created a chai pannacotta, served like a cup of tea, with little cookies, a violet-flavoured jalebi, with a very floral flavour (but not too sweet), and a vibrant green avocado and lime kulfi. We tell you how to make a good kulfi. Hopefully it will open up people’s minds to thinking, why can’t it be a dark chocolate kulfi, for example. Recently in Saudi Arabia, we made a kulfi with caramelised popcorn. Once you get the basic kulfi recipe right, you can add any flavour you like.

Do you have a favourite recipe from the book?
There are many, many, many. I have such a sweet tooth. We have used dates in some recipes – a milkshake and seekh kebab, made with dates. No lamb! [Laughs] That’s our nod to the Middle East.

You’re a huge aviation fan. Tried any favourite air plane menus recently?
Mine, probably [created for Qatar Airways], but I can’t say that! The Middle East carriers are far superior. The days of European carriers being number one is long gone.
Indego by Vineet, Grosvenor House Dubai, Dubai Marina (04 399 8888).

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