Lancashire cheese, Manchester honey and an Indian take on Betty's favourite...
Vermilion is in an unlikely spot for a top drawer restaurant, over the road from Man City’s Etihad stadium. Its nearest food and drink neighbours are a Bargain Booze and a humble butty shop. But head upstairs to the first floor restaurant and it’s a far chant from terrace burgers. You could be in Dubai or Mumbai. Flame-coloured lighting and tables lacquered to look like heat-cracked earth, towers of neon buddhas and floral flourishes- it feels like a special occasion place.
I just want to cook amazing food for people to enjoy
When Vermilion opened in 2007 with an ‘Asian fusion’ menu, footballers and celebs rubbed shoulders with us mere mortals - remember when you could rub shoulders with a stranger?
But this year, it was time for a shake up. Rather than a lick of paint and a handful of new dishes, Vermilion has gone large and enlisted India’s Bobby Geetha to create an entirely new menu. With Masterchef, Noma and the Asha’s Middle Eastern empire on his CV, you know you can expect great things from this revamp. Manchester loves Indian food, from rice and three to Dishoom, our appetite is insatiable. So what is Geetha bringing to the table?
We got a sneak preview of the menu, ‘Vermilion: Awakened’ and can confirm it’s edgy, creative Indian food with plenty of local produce: Manchester honey, Lancashire cheese, locally grown leeks. There's even a nod to Corrie with a spiced incarnation of Betty's hot pot made with kid mince (main image). Other highlights were a tapas style dish of scallops and Merguez sausage and a duck biryani with duck egg but there's lots to explore with twenty new dishes on the menu.
Chef Bobby introduced the dishes with palpable enthusiasm. He says, “I just want to cook amazing food for people to enjoy. But essentially all the dishes I make are for myself. I write recipes on paper, gauging the flavour combinations and then try to achieve it in the kitchen. I want to follow my own direction.”
The South Indian chef says Masterchef was a game changer and a challenge he embraced,
“I welcome the pressure. You can really feel it. The competition gave me the chance to try dishes I wasn’t normally getting the chance to create. Masterchef was a turning point. I’d wanted to learn European techniques and that’s why I’d gone down the road I did, but the show turned me back towards my Indian roots, showed the potential to use those techniques in a different direction. It was a breakthrough moment for me.”
And on working at Noma;
“It was an amazing experience. I’d applied several times but was held back by not having a passport. It was worth the persistence. You feel part of something much bigger.”
These days, authenticity is important, diners no longer want an Anglicised version of things. We want the real deal. But Indian food comes in a kalaidoscope of styles, Bobby takes influence from the lot, saying,
“What is the definition of authentic Indian? The Sub-continent itself is divided into many regions, all with their own culinary identities. Kerala in the south is where I come from. I learned from my mother, a brilliant cook. But in India my chef training was based on northern food.
The original Indian food was Dravidian, using no onion or garlic. It was the Portuguese who brought us chillies and tomatoes. As for the food I cook in the UK today, it is Indian because I use freshly ground Indian spices. The spicing is subtle. Take turmeric – it can be used at various stages of cooking to quite different effect. It’s a mistake to believe Indian food is fierily hot. It’s all about balance.”
In his 38 years, he’s achieved a lot but he is forever striving for more,
“Any chef can play it safe, copy. That is not my way. In my career I’ve found that if a door doesn’t open I’ve had to build my own doors: publishing my own books, creating my Fine Dining India magazine. Vermillion is an important next step on my journey.”
A six minute cab ride from Piccadilly, or Vermilion also has a 300 space car park, it’s well worth a jaunt out of the city for this exciting new menu. It launches to the public this Thursday, 22nd October. Booking is advised.
Vermilion, Lord N St, Hulme Hall Ln, Manchester M40 8AD