Few people have been more influential in transforming
contemporary Indian dining in London than the Sethis. An
increasingly prolific family of restaurateurs behind the
Michelin-starred Trishna, Gymkhana,
and the backers of several other top addresses in the capital and
beyond, the Sethi family has changed the way that Londoners view
Indian food. We sat down with sommelier Sunaina Sethi who, while
still in her late 20s, has pioneered the groundbreaking wine
programmes across the group's restaurants. Read on for her
favourite bottles, thoughts on how London's dining scene is
continuing to evolve, and why wine is in fact the perfect pairing
for Indian cuisine.
Sommelier Sunaina Sethi, still
just in her 20s, is a key voice in the London dining scene ©
How would you describe the current state of Indian
dining in London?
"London is probably one of the only cities in the world with so
many cuisines of high quality. Although we offer great Indian
cuisine in London, I think there is still some room to grow.
Compared to Chinese, European and Japanese, it has not yet been
How have you tailored Trishna and Gymkhana's offerings
to the city's dining culture?
"By offering a format which is more accessible. We want to
remove the excessive formality and have many menus that offer
different options, such as express lunch, a la carte or a full
tasting menu experience. We also offer private dining and can
create a bespoke menu upon request."
Gymkhana's menu focuses on game,
tandoori dishes, and sharing plates © Trishna Group
Gymkhana and Trishna present two very different visions
of contemporary Indian fine dining. What are you striving to
accomplish at both venues, and how do their aims
"I wouldn't describe the restaurants as fine dining, merely high
quality, but with none of the formality associated with the term.
Obviously they have different regional focuses: at Trishna we want
to offer the best coastal cuisine of South-West India and at
Gymkhana the menu focuses on game, dishes from our tandoori oven
and sharing style plates."
What are your thoughts on India's burgeoning wine scene?
Any favourite homegrown vintages?
"Wine production in India has been around for a while now, with
pioneers such as Grover and Sula still going strong. I think there is a lot
of potential, and often you will find similarities with wines from
the Loire and parts of South Africa. It is great to see a new wave
of producers putting themselves on the map. Personally, I am a big
fan of Fratelli, who I discovered a few years ago.
They are owned by two Indian families and an Italian family, and
have an Italian winemaker. They're doing some very exciting
Michelin-starred Trishna turns a
creative eye to southwestern, coastal cuisine © Trishna
Has it been difficult, transitioning from the world of
banking to hospitality? What inspired you to make that
"It was surprisingly one of the easiest decisions I have had to
make. I stepped into my first role at Trishna, and I was only
supposed to be there for a few months. Within a couple of days I
knew that there was no going back. I almost got into it by
accident, but I will never think twice about the decision. It is
such a dynamic and exhilarating industry, and if you have a passion
for it, you get sucked in very quickly."
Any good rules of thumb when it comes to pairing Indian
cooking (or other fragrant, highly spiced dishes) with wine? Any
particularly inspired pairings of late that you feel proud
"Indian food is so vast and varied and my main rule when it
comes to pairing is just to keep tasting. There are some general
guidelines you can follow; try to avoid dry tannins in red wines,
which often clash with spice and smokiness. High amounts of
unbalanced alcohol and acidity can also be tricky, but generally
speaking, aromatic wines and those with a little residual sugar are
safe bets. My latest discoveries include a Croatian blend from
Ivica Matosevic (50% Chardonnay, 25% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Malvasija
Istriana) matched with our Ajwaini Salmon Tikka and the Pinot Noir,
Villa Wolf from Germany, with Tandoori Chicken Chops."
A delectable dosa at Gymkhana ©
What are the advantages (and challenges) of working
alongside your siblings in the management of the Trishna
"There is no holding back, which is great for the development of
the business. It does mean that work never stops though, and all
family dinners are usually rife with business related debates and
discussions. But when you are all so passionate about the same
areas, it is inevitable."
Can you recommend any favourite bottles that you're
drinking right now?
"I had a wonderful Cote-Rotie, de l'Hospice, Guigal 2001,
recently, which I am still dreaming about. Generally I am keen to
try new and interesting things whenever I can."
Flavoursome scallops at Trishna
© Trishna Group
Now that Gymkhana has joined Trishna with its Michelin
accolades, what's next? Has Michelin changed anything in the
running - or goals - of either restaurant?
"Michelin hasn't led us to change anything in the running of the
restaurant or our goals but in the acknowledgement that the
expectations of quality restaurants have changed. Affordable luxury
is now something that Michelin recognises. We are always striving
to improve, though, to offer up the best in both restaurants."
For diners who are familiar with London's dining scene
and are now planning to travel to India for the first time, what
should they expect?
"India is a food-obsessed nation, and the best food can often be
found in homes and street-side restaurants. I would recommend
visiting Kerala, which has a lot of high-quality seafood