Event Italian Uncategorized

Dining with Strangers – La Compagnia

October 6, 2014

I think one of the most difficult things to do is make friends. Especially if you are an ambivert like me. When I came to Mumbai in 2003, I joined my hostel, and talking to someone upfront was one of my biggest challenges. I would wonder how I had so many school friends up till then; only later did I realise that they were the people I knew since I was 5 or 6; there were no walls put up, no ice to break, no pretences.

Since then, in every new phase of life, I would be one step closer to being comfortable with strangers around me. One of the most daring things, in my opinion, that I did was go on a college trip to Rajasthan with complete strangers, in 2005. None of my friends at college were going to come; but I wanted to go real bad, so I signed up for it irrespective and I had the time of my life. I started making new friends and the trip was one of the best I have had since.

Then, I became a food blogger and meeting total strangers became part of the job description. Probably that became one of the reasons why I signed up for La Compagnia. So, La Compagnia is a concept thought up by Times City for its Gourmet Week, where they bring together people from different avenues of life around one dinner table talking, chatting and mingling over food and drink. I got the invite one day, and it did take me some time to decide, well because it was going to be a meeting of complete strangers. But, I finally accepted and all decked up set off to meet a complete group of strangers at Taj Land’s End in Bandra and had the time of my life.

I was greeted by Ushoshi Sengupta (the host of the evening and Miss India Universe 2010) at Maritime by San Lorenzo, where she was already with a few people – Aneesh Bhasin, Photographer and Founder of Hipcask; Niharika Tandon, a luxury travel planner and PR manager; Anand, Chef and Owner of Andheri diner BrewBot. We were soon joined by Harsh Jhaveri, Founder of Mumbai Food Lovers); Reshmy Kurian, blogger, home chef and writer at Bombay Chowparty (and someone I’d been wanting to meet since a while); Roma Narsinghani, Fashion Designer (and fellow Gulfie); Varun Bubber, writer and businessman; and Rishabh, the brainchild behind the concept. Later on, we were joined by one of India’s first and most acclaimed food writers – Rashmi Uday Singh. An ex-IAS officer, she ventured into food writing almost 20 years ago. Yet, her humble nature, friendly countenance is what makes you want to speak to her more! Such an experience!

The dinner table set with flowers, candles and cutlery
We were seated around this beautiful table set with cutlery and lilies in a private dining room. I was seated next to Aneesh and opposite Niharika and Roma, where we conversed about various topics from drinks, writing, travel, food, recipes and Thanksgiving! The table was full of chatter and laughter and cutlery clinking as we went through our courses.

The food was simple Italian. The menu included three courses with a palate cleanser in the middle.

My favourite dish was the appetiser – a foccacia with arugula, parmesan shavings and truffle oil. It was an earthy, yet zingy combination of flavours on flat, crispy bread.

Foccacia with arugula, parmesan and truffle oil

For the starters, I preferred the Salmon Tartare, which I really liked, though it was a bit olive oily for my palate.


Salmon Tartare
For the mains, I ordered the lamb cutlets in with rosemary and potatoes. The cutlets were not as succulent as I wanted them to be, but that’s probably because I asked for medium-well. The spinach was a bit salty but the jus and potatoes were spot on!
Rosemary lamb and potatoes on a bed of spinach
The palate cleanser was a zingy lemon sorbet, and we were then served an array of some lovely desserts.

Lemon sorbet
My favourite was the dark chocolate mousse. The canoli was served with candied orange zest, and the final dessert was tiramisu. The latter was unfortunately, more like a pastry and less about the coffee and liquer.
Dark chocolate mousse
Canoli with candied orange zest and a dusting of sugar
The experience of meeting new people, sharing a meal and getting to know them is unsurpassed. For me, the experience was less about the food and more about the people, and I think that while at the beginning, I was a little jittery and nervous, this is a concept I’d love to attend again and again. Here’s to dining more and more with strangers!

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  • Perzen Patel October 7, 2014 at 01:22

    Sounds amazing! How can we sign up to be a part of these dinners Shanti?

  • Chandralekha Pande October 7, 2014 at 07:50

    awesome shanti!!!!!!

  • Anonymous October 7, 2014 at 11:05

    @Perzen you can drop a mail on lacompagnia@timescity.com

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