Ardbeg brings Mumbai’s epicures together in The Pursuit of Smoke
Priya Pathiyan attended the multi-sensory meal hosted by Ardbeg at Hakkasan recently to get a sense of the sensational smoke.
Single malt enthusiasts in Mumbai were treated to an exceptional experience by Ardbeg. It was a ‘six-hands dinner’ at Hakkasan — featuring the famous Chef Andrew Yeo, Corporate Executive Chef Cantonese Brands, Tao Group Hospitality, Executive Chef Andrew Lee, Hakkasan Abu Dhabi, and Head Chef Gopi Thokra, Hakkasan Mumbai — crafted to complement the notes of what is often hailed as the ‘Ultimate Islay Malt Whisky’.
Each of the three seatings had diners enjoying eight elaborate courses of modern Cantonese cuisine, complemented by a host of Ardbeg cocktails that were specially curated for the occasion. Dark & Smoky gave us a warm and intense welcome, blending Ardbeg Ten Years Old with ginger and peach. I later continued the voyage with the Islay Spritz, which pitted the Ardbeg against vibrant notes of a grapefruit and thyme fizz, a tasty confrontation in which the tastebuds were the winners!
The Smokey Bloody Mary infused Ardbeg with a zesty Bloody Mary mix, while The Promontory brought a different sort of heat setting the Ardbeg on fire with a hit of Thai chilli, along with yuzu and lime. The New Era was a sweeter expression using green apple and elderflower, which emphasised the sweetness of the Ardbeg along with its smoky appeal.
The Ardbeg tale unfolds at the table
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The evening officially began with Khushnaz Raghina, Brand Ambassador, Moët Hennessy India, voicing an exhilarating fantasy journey of Ardbeg’s creation, accompanied by some ingenious projection mapping of surreal visuals onto our table. Curated by Art and Found Co and Studio Moebius, the artwork by Amitabh Kumar (@PapiNevla) and music by Radhapriya Gupta (@Noni-Mouse) was simply stunning.
The swirling storyboard accompanied by sips of the light golden elixir of Ardbeg Ten Years Old served in an elegant dram glass gave the diners a deeper understanding of the single malt’s ‘peaty paradox’, which is a remarkable balance between its peatiness and delicious sweetness. First created in 1815, Ardbeg became part of the Glenmorangie Company fold in 1997 and has since acquired cult status.
Setting course on an ocean of taste
With an ABV of 46% and hinting at sea spray and tarry rope on the tongue while it made me close my eyes to enjoy its smoky intensity, it made perfect sense that the chefs followed it up a trio of Treasures of the Sea dim sum. These included a perfectly done Shanghai scallop dumpling, lobster and mango indulging in a merry dance, and a gingery John Dory nestled inside a taro puff. The vegetarians enjoyed a Foraging in the Forest dim sum, that showcased a Shanghai carrot dumpling, an innovative vegetarian duck roll, and an Edamame and asparagus taro puff.
The bright beetroot salad that came next worked as a palate cleanser and a pick me up, thanks to the crispness of the beetroot sago crackers and the sweetness of the toasted walnuts it was served with.
Next up was a heart-warming saffron-rich Supreme urchin and king crab dumpling soup topped with dried scallop for the non-vegetarians, and a similar one that heroed chive flower and mushroom for those who had opted for the plant-based version.
I was blown away by the way the traditional Peking duck was modernised by the chefs, one part of the duet crowned with caviar, and the other presented as a black truffle roasted duck puff. The vegetarian duet created the same magic with mock duck.
The fifth course was a luxurious wok-fried Chilean sea bass, on a bed of spring onions, confit carrots, and sweet basil. Jackfruit took centre stage in a delicate cheung fun on the vegetarian plates.
Next was a picturesque plate of seasonal autumn mushrooms and golden squash, with a velvety porcini mushroom sauce, sprinkled with shiitake mushroom dust.
Their ‘lamb two ways’ had some that was charcoal-grilled and more that was pepped up in a Szechuan stir-fry, made even more memorable by a garlic-forward herb sauce. Mock chicken with sugar snaps in black pepper sauce was an exciting variant for the vegetarians. Served with a spicy wild rice rich in shiitake mushrooms and shaved black truffle, this was an elevated Chinese main course.
Dessert was the eye-catching Spiky Lemon orb, filled with a tart yuzu curd and calamansi gel, balanced on a base of almond cake.
The entire experience was a fantastic way to bring the mystique of the Islay single malt alive for diners and create a very memorable evening.