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Le Cirque – Circus Chic

Meaning ‘the circus’ in English, Le Cirque is anything, but that. Serving French-Italian cuisine, organised, elegant and classy, there’s hardly any blunder or chaos. Legendary as its status is, we review their new Saturday brunch concept, which wins absolute adoration from us

Meaning ‘the circus’ in English, Le Cirque is anything, but that. Serving French-Italian cuisine, organised, elegant and classy, there’s hardly any blunder or chaos. Legendary as its status is, we review their new Saturday brunch concept, which wins absolute adoration from us.

Having only heard of Le Cirque initially, I had categorized it as the Valentino of fine dining, and that, it was. Owned by Mr Sirio Maccioni, not only has Le Cirque hosted numerous celebrities and heads of states, but has also given a boost to the careers of many illustrious chefs like Daniel Boulud. The Leela Palace New Delhi can be proud of bringing this fêted concept to New Delhi, India, which is only located in New York, Las Vegas and Dominican Republic, before any other culinary capital in the world!

Embodying exclusiveness
Located on the 10th floor of the hotel, guests enter the restaurant by traversing through a bar and reaching the main dining area which also has an open kitchen. There are three more separate dining areas but what caught our attention was the one reserved for classified people having confidential meetings. With a separate entry and bullet-proof windows, one can only wonder what goes on inside..

Mr Prateek Swarup, Restaurant Manager of Le Cirque, after giving us a tour of the restaurant, seated us as he enthusiastically talked about their new brunch concept. The distinctive feature over here, in comparison to the countless other brunch concepts, is that there is no buffet spread. Be as lazy as you please, as each and every thing is bought to you, at your table. You don’t have to move a muscle except that of your hands and face to enjoy the delectable fare which comes from the kitchen. Speaking every inch like a true-blue French chef, Mickey Bhoite, Chef de Cuisine at Le Cirque, said, “For the kind of people we cater to, the food has to be fresh. In a buffet, since the food is kept lying, it doesn’t remain so. What’s the point then? And anyways, after four glasses of champagne, nobody wants to get up!”

The princely start off
Bringing attention to the meal, Mr Swarup started us off with a ‘booster’. With a twinkle in his eyes and a know-it-all smile, he placed a test tube in front of us, which had a reddish-orange liquid inside it. “If you have had a rough night or hangover, this will wake you up,” he said. And sure enough, when we popped it open and drank it in one shot as we were told to, it did succeed in shaking me up! I never knew that a humble juice made of carrots, beetroot and caviar could have such an effect.

The drinks trolley was soon rolled over to us with a range of wines and champagnes placed on it. I put my finger on the Bollinger Brut Rosé while my companion preferred a Mimosa cocktail. The Bollinger had a rich complexity, minimal acidity and a full-bodied flavour. It paired well with every dish that came thereafter. The Mimosa too was perfect. This quintessential brunch cocktail had the right amount of orange juice in it and tasted light and fresh.

Drinks done, it was time for the food. A plate of cheeses, olives and boiled ham slices followed by an antipasti platter each invigourated the senses as we looked forward to the mains. About 7-8 different appetizers plated beautifully made it almost impossible to choose a favourite but my companion raved over the Tuscan style batter fried prawns which were “simply perfect”. Fritto Misto, fritters of sliced zucchini and eggplant for the vegetarian platter, and prawns and scallops for the non-vegetarian platter, were excellent. There was no trace of greasiness. And placed on a thin spread of red chili powder, it didn’t seem too bland.

The Potato Gougere (oven-baked like a profiterole and stuffed with creamy potato and truffle fondue) was smooth, absolutely soft and melted in the mouth. But what impressed us more was the Mini Caprese, which Chef Mickey calls his signature dish. The novelty here was, that the imported buffalo mozzarella was re-cooked sous vide (partial cooking followed by vacuum-sealing and chilling), and flavoured with extra virgin olive oil and basil. The ball of mozzarella was served atop a tomato tartar flavoured with garlic infused olive oil and basil chiffonade. The mozzarella was soft and had a “pudding” feel as Mr Swarup defined it. Indeed, we never thought that the usually simple caprese could get such a reinvention! Très bien!

Another one that had us in raptures was the cauliflower soup. Made with a discernible onion base, it was thick, rich and creamy. Indeed, as we sipped on it, we were reminded of and went into a discussion of France’s famed onion soup. The antipasti platter had a variety of flavours with nothing overlapping the other. Each small dish was unique. You may be overwhelmed by seeing it all, like I was, but the platter will come as it is. You can’t order only a few of them. But in case you like any certain antipasti, Chef Mickey can whip up more portions for you.

Hail the guest!
The tables were soon cleared and set for the main and entrée course which we had chosen from the menu. While the staff was always around, they were never intrusive. There was no hurry to kick us out, nor was there any sluggishness in serving us. Le Cirque has perfected the fine balance. And Mr Swarup, we were happy to see, was giving equal attention to all guests.

I was soon served with French toast ‘in carrozza’ on Mr Swarup’s recommendation. Not being a devotee of bananas, I was a little apprehensive of ordering it. But Mr Swarup’s persuasive powers won me over. And was I glad about it! Stuffed with caramelized bananas, nutella and dry fruits, it was warm, baked perfectly and not too heavy. The balance of flavours was perfect – making it not too sweet. And to my surprise, I noticed I had completely finished it, down to the last small piece. My companion’s buttermilk pancakes with cherry composte and maple ice cream had him swooning over. Not only did it look picture perfect, but was also absolutely well-cooked. Fluffy and sweet, the duo of ice cream and maple balanced the dish flawlessly.

After this came the Maccheroni with basil pesto genova style and black truffle. Absolutely fresh, the dish marred the experience a bit since the pasta was maybe a trifle bit too hard. But the pesto sauce was perfect, giving a ‘grassy’ feel, if you know what we mean, with the black truffles adding an earthy flavour.

My companion’s corn-fed grilled chicken Tagliata with gruyere fondue (a classic sauce made with melted Gruyère cheese and dry white wine) and garnished with rocket leaves, was a through and through winner. Soft and succulent, you could actually ‘taste’ the grill. “They have redefined the word ‘lazy’,” my companion said, when he discovered that the chicken has already come cut in small pieces. Post that, he was speechless, and engrossed in having the dish. With an excellent quality of meat served at the table, it comes as no surprise, that Le Cirque takes pride in using only the choicest ingredients flown in from world over.

Even though we were bursting at the seams, we were looking forward to the desserts. We had, quickly, learned to expect creativity from Le Cirque. The baked chocolate tart was wonderful. So well-made, it could be cut in a smooth stroke, without making a mess. You’ll hardly see any crumbs in fact – so neat it was. The custard tart was exactly like custard! We were wondering how they managed to encase the exact taste in a tart! The mini pistachio cupcake was good, while the ingenious fruit jelly had pieces of watermelon in it. And the chilling mint sorbet was a lovely end to the brunch.

Though there is an option of having the cheese trolley wheeled to your table, we refused it. There is just that much a person can have! “All they need to add is a bell near the table and a spa next door,” my companion said. And I agree with him whole-heartedly. Even the minutest of details were taken care of. From the freshness, originality and simple but elegant presentation of homemade jams to the placement of appropriate cutlery – you couldn’t pin point any blunder. With the live band playing, a champagne flute swirling in your hand, and excellent food placed on your table, your Saturday is taken care of at Le Cirque.

Coordinates: Le Cirque, 10th floor, The Leela Palace New Delhi, Chanakyapuri, Diplomatic Enclave, New Delhi, India
For reservations, call: +91-11-39331390