Masterchef hero Bobby Geetha brings his adventurous take on Indian cuisine to Vermilion

Vermilion’s combination of spectacular design and equally lavish Asian Fusion cuisine focusing on Indian and Thai injected a peacock glamour into New East Manchester when it launched back in 2007. After which it has never looked back as a must-visit iconic destination. In 2017 Vermilion launched its banqueting division with its largest room accommodating 800 guests. So when the spacious restaurant/banqueting complex reopened on July 4 it was a true Sleeping Beauty reawakening – socially distanced, Covid-safe, every precaution taken, of
course, as the team decided to concentrate on its number one priority – the food.

2020 has been a difficult year, but it’s not like Vermilion to rest on its laurels and they are taking their food offering to the next level by hiring consultant chef Bobby Retnakumar Geetha. In 2016 he became the only South Indian chef to make the final 10 in BBC’s Masterchef: The Professionals. The marriage of cutting edge technique and authentic spicing he showed then will astonish once again in Vermilion’s 20-dish Menu, which will be unveiled on Thursday, October 22.

This new project is aptly named ‘Vermilion: Awakened’.

One thing’s for certain – Manchester will never have experienced a take on the Subcontinent’s culinary riches quite like this. In his previous role overseeing the upmarket Asha’s restaurant empire across the Middle East and Europe Bobby was given carte blanche to explore India’s regions from the the Punjab and Ladakh to Mumbai and Delhi. Result: a rich melting pot of culinary inspirations far beyond his Keralan roots and a deep understanding of delivering consistent and quality food to people all over the world.

Pair this with a determination to use the finest UK regional ingredients, using skills learnt in Michelin-starred restaurants, in dishes that range from small plates to mains and tempting desserts and you can understand the excitement during kitchen trials. We’re not talking that much-abused term, fusion. This they are calling progressive Indian cuisine. Bobby is adamant that each dish is his own creation yet definitively Indian because of his judicious use of its incomparable native spices.

Three deceptively simple recipes exemplify this. Take one of the small dishes. It is a samosa with a playful difference. From the outside it looks like a black bomb cheese but the shell is made from edible charcoal ash. The filling is a mixture of Shorrocks Lancashire black bomb, edamame and sweetcorn with ginger and spices. Elsewhere confit of duck leg has been cured in duck fat according to French tradition but that is as Gallic as it gets with Bobby finishing it in a coconut-rich South Indian korma sauce. A traditional hot-pot, topped with Cheshire potato, surprises with its with delicately curried kid mince filling.

Bobby was born in Kovalam in Kerala. Fish is a very important part of that Southern Indian state’s diet, which matches with a huge Vermilion selling point – access to some of the world’s finest seafood via its parent company, Seamark. Now 38 and relocating this year from Dubai to his new base in Leeds, Bobby has a wide-ranging global CV. Key moves were:

1. Being snapped up as a youngster for the management training scheme of India’s prestigious Taj Hotel group.

2. His inspirational internship at the legendary Noma restaurant in Copenhagen. He has also had Michelin learning stints with Heston Blumenthal at Dinner in London’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel and Raymond Blanc at the Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. Sign of his singular ambition while working for corporate hotel chains in the UK and beyond. Along the way he has been a semi-finalist in National Chef of the Year UK. In June 2015 Bobby started working as a head chef in The Podium Restaurant, London Hilton Park Lane, achieving an AA one rosette for culinary excellence with his new menu.

3. Making the quarter finals in BBC’s Professional Masterchef 2016, which lifted him back to his native Indian cuisine – in a progressive style. Judges Marcus and Greg couldn’t get their head round Bobby’s purple pancakes.

4. Co-ordinating 21 Asha’s restaurants from Dubai before going freelance to pursue his ‘Fine Dining Indian’ personal brand, publishing his own magazine and three cookbooks.

5. Now there’s this perfect platform as new consultant chef at Vermilion. “The MD Manzur Iqbal’s vision clicked with my vision and I felt there would be creative freedom. It’s not about food fusion but paying tribute to the wonderful local ingredients available and creating Indian food that is absolutely my food. Any chef can play it safe, copy. That is not my way.”

Manzur wanted to do something daring, adventurous and fun, to re-create and progress Indian cuisine in the North West, just the way Vermilion did it with interior design back in 2007. Bobby’s new dishes will form the flagship menu in the renaissance of Vermilion, accompanied by a new wine list designed to pair well with the new dishes along with an inventive cocktail list created by mixologists that will match the progress of the menu.

Vermilion hopes that this will prove to be a great platform for the industry to be creative during these difficult time. Together with Bobby, Vermilion wants to be at the forefront of progressive dining experience in the North West and feels that now is the right time.

Situated next to Sport City in Ancoats, the venue has been one of the major drivers of regeneration in New East Manchester. The complex, six minutes by taxi from Piccadilly Station and boasting a 300-capacity car park, is also home to a 1,500 capacity banqueting operation geared towards weddings, gala dinners and conferences but with facilities and flexibility to cater for almost any occasion, either in the Grand Suite, the smaller Alan Turing Suite or a combination of the two. A beautiful bar lounge and en-suite bridal room/green room completes the package.

Vermilion is owned by Seamark, a global leader in the food sector. It has operations in Manchester plus Bangladesh and New York and has been actively involved in educational and charitable work, both in the UK and on the Indian sub-continent. More recently, during the coronavirus pandemic it has provided meals on a regular basis to NHS and frontline staff in hospitals such as Manchester Children’s Hospital, Royal Oldham Hospital, Wythenshawe Hospital, Tameside Hospital, North Manchester Hospital and also to the homeless charity, Barnabus.