When Sid Sahrawat invites fellow top chef Giulio Sturla into his kitchen for a one-night-only dining event in September, spare a thought for the poor person in charge of the menus.
After all, the ingredients that will create the gastronomic experience will be plucked from the ground at the very last minute, setting a hasty deadline on the printers.
Sid Sahrawat's eponymous fine-dining restaurant has doubled in size. You go in the old door, to the right at the top of the stairs and, if you end up in the new part (the north wing, perhaps?), you come out another door to go to the impeccably appointed loos.
When you do so, you realise that between the two, and taking up some of the space the restaurant might otherwise have colonised, is a room labelled a yoga studio, which is barely larger than a campervan. The Professor was worried about how they held classes in there. Would participants take it in turns to do the downward dog? Do you have to be proficient enough to roll up like a hedgehog before they let you in?
Here’s your first peek inside the new-look Sidart, master chef Sid Sahrawat’s award-winning restaurant at Three Lamps Plaza, which has just undergone a lavish facelift.
Sidart ‘2.0’ adds a second dining area, which has its own marble bar with mirrored tiles — the Alhambra room, a nod to its previous incarnation — and dedicated bathroom facilities. The restaurant now seats an extra 20-plus guests, both dining rooms can be booked for private functions and, for the first time, solo diners can be catered for.
With most art, you produce it once and then people consume it. As a chef, you produce it and produce it and produce it. There is no time to sit back and appreciate your own genius, no time to watch the money and awards roll in. Sahrawat, 35, is on his feet for more than 12 hours most days, slicing carrots and cooking scallops and vacuuming the floor of the kitchen 20 times a day with his portable dustbuster.
A great restaurant is about repetition. This sounds as glamorous as it isn't. Three hundred and twenty plates go out each night at Sidart and every version of each dish has to look the same. Every day for a month you do the hard work of emulating what you've already done hundreds of times before. If you don't have a crazy love for perfection, you're not going anywhere.
Sahrawat's father was in the army and used to stress discipline and consistency. "They're things I've always taken from him," he says. "Sometimes the kitchen has to be like a small army."
He has built a solid team around him. This has been crucial to his success, he says. Three of his four chefs have been with him for more than a year, which is a reasonable amount of time in the hospitality game. His sous chef has been with him nearly three years. His restaurant manager has been with him nearly two. He's away two days a week at his second restaurant, Cassia, so he needs to be sure the restaurant runs the same way without him as with him.
"You're nothing without your team," he says. "It's a family. We spend more time together than we do with our families."
This being the luxury issue, I was challenged by my editor to find a suitably opulent way to eat. So, when flying to Waiheke Island in a black Eurocopter didn’t work out, I went for the next best thing: driving to Three Lamps in a Kia Sportage.
The chef’s table at Sidart is Auckland’s most expensive meal, and its most incredible. For $180 a person you’ll receive nine courses of food plus extras, while sitting with three friends in gallery formation at the kitchen pass of the city’s best chef. You’ll also get one glass of Champagne, along with the one you steal from your pregnant wife.
Of course, “best chef” is a bit like “best artist” — it depends what you’re into — but if I was sentenced to death and offered one last meal I would definitely ask for Sid to cook it (presuming my imaginary jailers had access to some artisan boutique earthenware and a decent induction hob).