I've had the pleasure of knowing many a Spaniard and treasuring memories of drinking Spanish port wine poured out of a goat skin flask. As I headed out to Vinoteca by Sula, the latest restaurant in Mumbai, images of Don Quixote, Spanish villas, risotto and Spanish sausage floated through my mind as well.Vinoteca, the first wine bar created by Sula Wines had opened its doors to the public a month ago. The young chef Silvia who has flown in from Spain has been greatly influential in the creation of what will be a fast growing brand of Sula's hospitality sector. It is run by Ashish Lone. The wine bar has opened at the right season too, the cool sangria being a fine way of chilling down during the hot summer.

Root of the matter

Spanish cuisine has its origins in Celtic, Jewish and Moorish traditions, thrown in with all the spices from their conquering sprees centuries ago. Set slightly apart from Mediterranean styles of cooking, the Spaniards love pork and seafood. Olives, butter and saffron also play a vital role in the food, seen in the paella to fish baked in salt or roast lamb with potatoes and plenty of tomatoes. An amazing array of cheeses and salads go into the making of Spanish cuisine as well. Still, the cuisine of the Spaniards is primarily all about meat. Plenty of wines to match the food also make their presence felt. They have a great love for fresh produce, and the meats and fish are locally purchased and prepared with seasonal hints of chili, lemon juice and garlic.Sausages and chorizos were some of the authentic foods brought in from Spain. During the time of this review, the restaurant served pinchos and tapas which are both typical bar food in Spain. The word pinchos comes from the Basque area of Spain. The large toothpick called a pincho or pintxo, the Spanish word for thorn is used to keep all the ingredients which are piled on a slice of bread, in place. These snacky dishes are meant to help you socialize in the bar area. The same concept is present here too, and is a novelty in a way, as you don't order food but get charged by the number of sticks you accumulate. The bar counter is filled with pinchos and you help yourself to it. Try the thin slices of Parma ham topped with cheese or my favourite, smoked salmon wrapped around cream cheese. The combination of these flavours is so classical and yet unique that you just have to take another piece.

Tasty tapas

Chef Silvia has introduced tapas on the menu here which are served upon large wooden boards or platters. The concept is unique and the variety available on the platter more than often constitutes a whole meal. With a fine selection of Sula wines, bought either by the glass or the bottle, you feel like you can settle down for a siesta shortly after, and that's exactly what the sofas are designed to feel like. They are meant for you to sit back and relax. And as we sit down, Chef Silvia shows me this large leg of very expensive ham that needs to be sliced down fine.

One of the classics served here is the Tabla Española, a combination of chili pork sausages commonly called chorizo served along with fine rashers of Serrano ham and Manchego cheese. This is accompanied by classic tomato, garlic, olives and freshly baked bread. The Tabla Mediterranea is a fine herb blend of eggplant topped with rashers of Milano salami along with Kalamata olives, tomato, garlic, figs and fresh bread. Both these choices are bursting with flavours and go well with a Chenin Blanc or red wine.There is also shellfish on the menu along with dishes made with cheese, cherry tomatoes and asparagus, stuffed eggplant and fried potatoes with a saffron sauce. The warm summery feel of the Mediterranean produce comes to the fore on this menu created by Silvia and diners can truly enjoy the delicious benefits of pairing food with wine.

Delicate desserts

Sweet Spanish delicacies like sorbet and ice cream have been created using wine as a base. The smoothness of the champagne sorbet and the red wine ice-cream makes them a must-try for all diners. Along with the wine, try the chocolate created by Zeba Kohli of Fantasie Chocolates especially for Vinoteca by Sula. The chili chocolate was the ‘awesomest'.

You must try the two types of sangrias that have been created which are served by the pitcher or glass. The mix of wine with orange and fruit make it a light, flavourful drink. I love the style of the place and the colours used on the walls along with black and white images taken from the Sula vineyards. The use of ochre, maroon and cream colours blend well. The bar counter is lit and bottles that have been cut are placed in a manner to depict the curve of a wine bottle or the undulating waves of a vineyard. Along one wall all the Sula wines are showcased in a distinctive way with some delicate lighting.It's a treat to go here and drink sensibly.

What: Vinoteca by Sula

Where: Worli, Mumbai

How much: Rs1,500 per person (average cost with wine)

(The author is a Cordon Bleu chef and food stylist)

(This article was published on May 22, 2012)
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