Auckland’s finest French Cafe acquired by Sid and Chand Sahwarat
There’s a changing of the guard at one of New Zealand’s most iconic restaurants The French Cafe. Leading New Zealand restaurateurs Sid and Chand Sahrawat are about to add the famous Auckland restaurant to their already impressive stable of eateries.
The Sahrawats will take over The French Café from current owners Simon Wright and Creghan Molloy-Wright in September, when it will be renamed Sid at The French Café.
Their procurement of this Auckland dining institution comes hot on the heels of the couple sweeping the board at the 2018 Metro Restaurant of the Year Awards, where their restaurants Sidart and Cassia won the Supreme Award and runner-up for Restaurant of the Year, respectively. The pair are spectacularly talented, and work incredibly hard, as I discovered when I caught up with them last year at Cassia for an exclusive interview to discover what really goes on behind the scenes at this popular Kiwi/Indian eatery.
Sid and Chand say they’re thrilled to be taking over The French Café legacy, adding that the restaurant holds a particularly special place in their hearts. “Chand and I had our very first formal dining date at The French Café more than 15 years ago,” Sid says.
“The meal we had on that occasion was spectacular – so much so, it inspired me to create the style of food I produce today.
“We’ve long had a deep love of The French Café, so to now be taking over its reins is a really exciting step for our business.”
Chand says she and her husband are aware they’re about to become the caretakers of a legacy that Simon and Creghan have created through their passion, attention to detail and hard work. “With our previous restaurants, Sidart and Cassia, we’ve always started from scratch,” Chand says.
“In taking over The French Café, we have inherited a beautiful restaurant with a rich history and we’re going to work really hard to continue the amazing legacy.”
Meanwhile, Simon and Creghan say they have been considering a lifestyle change, to focus on their family and start planning their next exciting venture. But first the couple wanted to ensure they found the right people to take over their labour of love at The French Café. And they believe they’ve found those people.
“When Sid and Chand expressed their interest to take over The French Café, it made us wonder if in fact it was time to try something new. It’s been the biggest decision of our lives – there are very few people that would put in as much love as we have, but we feel confident that they will,” says Creghan. “Most of all,” adds Simon, “Sid and Chand share so many of the same philosophies as us, with regards to the care and respect for customers, staff and suppliers. They are brilliant restaurant professionals who have done the hard yards.
“I know the transition will be seamless, and we look forward to coming to dinner in years to come.”
From September, Sid will be at the helm of all three of his restaurants – Sidart, Cassia and Sid at The French Café – with support from Chand and their award-winning team of chefs, kitchen and front of house staff. Sid will initially focus on the transition of Sid at The French Café, before eventually splitting
his time between the trio of restaurants. Lesley Chandra, currently research and development chef for Sidart will assume the role of head chef at Sid at The French Café.
But the acquisition of The French Café isn’t the only big change the Sahrawats are undertaking this year – they’re also reinventing their fine dining establishment, Sidart, with a new direction for its menu.
With Sidart’s current style of cooking similar to that already found at The French Café, Sidart will soon transition their existing discovery degustation menu into a formal Indian cuisine offering.
The menu will still showcase the best of New Zealand’s produce, but in a contemporary Indian format that will be a more elevated and precise execution of the cuisine offered at popular sister restaurant, Cassia.
“Chand and I are constantly developing our restaurants and this latest evolution of Sidart is in response to feedback from customers who love what we do over at Cassia, but want to experience modern Indian cuisine in a more refined and elegant setting,” Sid says.
“We’re very excited about the opportunities ahead and are confident that this new menu offering will continue to deliver the innovative fine dining our customers have come to expect at Sidart.”
Sidart’s new menu will be available from July 31.
About Sidart (Est 2009):
Sidart restaurant in Three Lamps, Ponsonby, represents an inventive fine dining degustation
experience devised by multi-award-winning chef and owner Sid Sahrawat. Renowned for his
innovative and inspirational cooking, Sid remains one of the country’s most exciting talents.
At Sidart, Sid combines his famous innovation and precision to create art on a plate with the
menu changing with the seasons and availability of all New Zealand sourced produce.
Cutting-edge flavour combinations, textural contrasts and inspired visual composition make
his cooking both thought-provoking and intensely satisfying. Sid is passionate in his kitchen
to the point of obsession – from oven to table, his motto is ‘inspirational dining’. Sidart offers
dining for 60 guests, with two areas which can be booked for private functions. Sidart is open
for dinner Tuesday – Saturday and for lunch on Friday. Sidart has 3 hats awarded by the
Cuisine Good Food Guide and in April was awarded supreme winner and best fine dining
restaurant in Metro Peugeot Restaurant of the Year awards. Also in the awards presentation
Sid was awarded Best Chef and Best Restaurateur to Sid and Chand Sahrawat (joint
winners). In 2014 Sid opened his second restaurant Cassia, offering contemporary Indian