Q&A with Halliday

In conversation with Jessi Singh

By Amelia Ball

16 Dec, 2021

Renowned for his vibrant food, lively venues and international success, restaurateur Jessi Singh shares his love for wine and lets us in on the styles that pair best with his Indian-inspired food.

Jessi Singh behind the bar

H. Was there a particular moment that made you fall in love with wine?
JS. When I took my first trip to Barolo in Italy, the topography, wine styles and food just made me rethink everything.

H. How important is wine for you when it comes to dining?
JS. It’s as important as the food because they both have a synergy and make each other look pretty! Having wine with food is more of a cultural and lifestyle aspect that I have adopted.

H. What wines or styles are you loving right now?
JS. I love so many, but it depends on the weather, food, atmosphere and company. Most times I am into pure varietal expressions with less oak influence. I love rieslings any time of the day – including breakfast!

H. What are your favourite wine regions?
JS. There are so many across Australia, as well as California, Bordeaux and Barolo. They’re what my palate is trained on.

H. Do you collect wine?
JS. Our sommelier does for my venues, but I have a reputation for cracking bottles any time of the day for my loved ones and patrons. At home, though, you will always find a riesling in my Vintec. 

H. What’s one of your most memorable wine and food experiences?
JS. I have many, but most recently it was at Penfolds Magill Estate. They go to the next level in making the food work with the wine.

H. What are your best tips for pairing wine or other drinks with Indian-inspired food?
JS. I always look to balance and match the weight of the food with the wine without overpowering either one. At our venues, we focus on aromatic varietals such as viognier, marsanne, roussanne, riesling, pinot noir, and slightly chilled gamay and grenache as they work wonders with our food.

H. What are some of your favourite food and wine matches?
JS. Cheese and white wine, sea urchin and champagne, and lamb vindaloo with orange wines. 

H. Through running your venues in the US, have you picked up any food or drink traditions?
JS. Farm to table has always been a very strong trend. I also loved cooking with scallops and lobster in New York City due to their availability, and the local artichoke, Dungeness crab and Marin oysters. I love creating and cooking Indian-Mexican-Californian dishes in my venues as I grew up eating that style of food in the Mission District of San Francisco, Santa Barbara, LA and San Diego. My other home is in Houston, where I fell in love with Tex Mex.

H. What’s the oldest wine you’ve tried?
JS. Bordeaux’s 1982 Château Cos d’Estournel stands out, as well as the 1978 Penfolds Bin 128 and 1986 Penfolds Bin 707.

H. What’s been your best-ever bargain wine?

JS. Champage Krug at The Exeter Hotel in Adelaide. It’s the most reasonably priced Krug I’ve come across.

H. Are there any wines you never used to like, but now love?
JS. Skin-contact wines. There is so much delicious stuff out there.

H. Which wine regions are still on your bucket list to visit one day?
JS. Greece and Georgia.

H. What’s your favourite piece of wine advice?
JS. Keep it simple, and balance is the key.

H. What would you serve to drink at your ultimate meal?
JS. Champagne. It’s about celebrating life at all times. 

This is an extract from a story first appearing in issue #61 of Halliday magazine
Become a member and get digital access to the magazine.