It’s been four months since chef Lesley Chandra took over the reins of Sidart from its founding owners, Sid and Chand Sahrawat, whom he has worked with since 2014. His first few months as owner and executive chef were not exactly what he had planned, having to relaunch during Auckland’s longest lockdown and pivot to a ‘Sidart at Home’ takeaway offering.
“I was given the keys to my dream restaurant during Alert Level 3, so this was a true exercise in patience, waiting to reopen the doors,” says Chandra.
The experience at Sidart very much remains the same, four to seven course menus that bring together Indian-inspired flavours with contemporary cooking techniques, with the added twist of Chandra’s Fijian Indian heritage.
“We incorporate Indian Fijian flavours through techniques and methods that I have seen growing up in Fiji. For example, our kingfish course is a version of a cured fish dish called Kokoda, marinated in coconut and lime juice; we have taken the same method and turned it into our version with finger lime fermented chilli and yuzu.”
As he looks ahead to the autumn season, Chandra says there’s an abundance of fresh local produce to showcase. “I think sometimes people associate autumn as boring, damp, cold, but I think truffles, Jerusalem artichoke, mushroom, so our guests will see these ingredients and more feature on the autumn menu at Sidart.”
As you would expect, along with the food, the service remains exceptional, the wine match is well thought out and the cocktail selection is fantastic. Plus, those unbeatable views of the Auckland city skyline.
Chandra says the entire team are involved in driving Sidart’s creative vision and the spirit of collaboration is alive and well in the kitchen. “When I was doing my training in the kitchen as a young chef we were always told not to speak our mind and had no input, but that is a thing of the past and I’m glad because at Sidart we all collaborate as a team front and back, if we feel something is not right food wise or service wise we talk about it and try to fix or change it to make it better for our clients and for us as a team that is what we always aim for.”
Want to remake a Sidart dish at home? Get the recipe for Lesley Chandra’s Cured Kingfish with Coconut & Chilli.