Mumbai to have the first-ever wine-on-tap restaurant in India
By Jane Borges for Mid-Day on July 1, 2018
In three weeks, Mumbai will launch the country’s first wine-on-tap restaurant with a menu designed by MasterChef Australia winner Diana Chan
Free flowing beers-on-tap has now become commonplace at gastro pubs across Mumbai. But what Roopanshi Bhatt, co-owner of the Tea Villa café chain, found missing was something for wine lovers like her. Back in 2016, in an attempt to fill this vacuum, Bhatt and her tea house partner, Micky Panjwani, thought of launching a wine restaurant that would run along the lines of beer pubs in the city.
Two years on, the duo is just three weeks away from launching the country’s first-ever wine-on-tap restaurant, Wine Villa. “In our travels across the globe, we realised the heart-breaking fact that consuming wine in India is highly underrated, a concept which is considered normal abroad. It’s a common misconception here that wine is a drink of the affluent and we are here to challenge that,” says Bhatt.
Situated inside the newly refurbished Hotel Horizon in Juhu, Wine Villa will not only be home to over 100 varieties of wine, but will also showcase signature dishes by Diana Chan, winner of MasterChef Australia, last year. Starting a first-of-its-kind wine-on-tap chain wasn’t an easy task, admits Bhatt. “We’ve been on a constant travelling spree across the world to understand and improve our knowledge-base on wines. From the top-three major wine-regions (France, Spain and Italy) to the lesser-known places, we’ve spent the better part of the past two-and-a-half years to ensure we are abreast with everything about wine,” she says, adding, “We also used word-of-mouth and surveys, keeping an eye out on forums and Facebook pages concerning wine(s).”
hile work on the interiors of the restaurant is still on, Bhatt reveals that the space will boast of an automated wine machinery, dubbed wine ATM, where you can punch in the card available on your table and choose your favourite wines. Famous wines from Tuscany (Italy), Mapio Valley (Chile), Mendoza (Argentina), Rhone Valley (France) have made it into the final menu.
Bringing Chan on board was a natural choice, says the founder. “Given the European-Indian touch to our restaurant, we were on the lookout for a chef who’s not just an expert in pairing food with wine, but also someone who could connect with the soulful Indian comfort food. Diana fitted the bill perfectly. Coming from a country, which is ranked third in the world for supply and consumption of wine and brought up in the humble surroundings of Malaysia, a country boasting of a melting culture pot like India, we were looking at a chef, who ticks all the right boxes,” says Bhatt.
Chan, who is currently in Mumbai, to put the finishing touches to the menu, says she is fascinated about being a “torch-bearer of such a path-breaking idea”. “Besides, I love my wines and pairing beautiful food with wines is something I’m fond of, which is exactly what I’m doing here with Wine Villa,” says Chan. “My first plan was to curate a menu that would appeal to both, the expats and the local Indian crowd. So, my signature menu is primarily produce-driven based on the local ingredients. Additionally, I’ve added a tinge of my Malaysian roots in the European cuisine with a touch of Indian chatka, which makes it intriguing and fantastic at the same time,” says Chan.
The chef took around six weeks to come up with the signature dishes. Her favourite dish, she says, is the custard apple, rice and milk foam dessert. “The fact that this is complex, but at the same time, it’s so seemingly simple makes it my personal favourite,” she says. After its launch, Bhatt and Panjwani hope to take Wine Villa to other cities, as well. In Mumbai, however, Juhu is likely to be the only address.