Anise: Star chef Sid Sahrawat on his latest pan-Asian offering
Opening a new restaurant is nothing new to iconic Auckland hospitality duo Sid and Chand Sahrawat.
On 3 February, the couple threw open the doors to Anise, a modern Asian eatery - their fourth Auckland offering.
"No matter how many times you open a restaurant, if you always go through the same kind of nervous energy and you're just not sure how things are going to pan out on the day until you get those first couple of days behind you," Sid Sahrawat says. "I'm excited and nervous."
The Sahrawats own and operate four restaurants in Auckland, including KOL, Cassia and The French Café.
Sahrawat is quick to praise his partner for making it all happen.
"I can create a restaurant, but there are so many other things behind the scenes that I could never do without Chand," Sahrawat says.
Sahrawat grew up in India.
"My father wanted me to be in the army like him and I was not excited by that," he says.
His family moved around a lot in India because of his father's job, which helped Sahrawat gain experience in a variety of different kitchen spaces.
He would eventually go on to work in kitchens in the Middle East, with Sahrawat completing a three-year apprenticeship at the Grand Hyatt in Muscat before moving to New Zealand.
"I got to work with many outlets [in the Middle East], but the majority of that was in the Italian fine dining called Tuscany," he says.
He says the experience he gained in kitchens in the Middle East laid the foundation for his Italian cooking, which helped him when he moved to Non-Solo Pizza in Parnell.
Moving into fine dining
Sahrawat initially found the work environment in New Zealand to be a little challenging after moving from the Middle East.
"The working style in New Zealand and Muscat was very different, and the transition from working in a big hotel to a standalone restaurant wasn't easy," he says. "It just takes a little bit of time to take it all in."
After going on a date with Chand at The French Café in the early 2000s, he realized that fine dining was what he wanted to pursue in his culinary career.
"It was our first date, and that's where I decided to get into fine dining and started working in restaurants, developing my own style," he says.
Taking over The French Café in 2018, Sahrawat says the restaurant holds a special place in his heart.
In 2023, it was included among the eight New Zealand restaurants listed on La Liste, an international ranking of the top 1000 restaurants worldwide, drawing data from prestigious publications and review sites.
"It's been the pinnacle of formal dining in Auckland," Sahrawat says.
Anise shares the same address as The French Café in Eden Terrace, though they're strictly separate dining spaces.
Sahrawat says diners can expect punchy flavours at Anise.
"We want people to be eating things and be like, 'Wow, that reminds me of something I would have had in Thailand or Singapore or Bali, but not in that form," he says.
It's the second restaurant Seharwat has opened within a year.
In May 2023, he reopened Cassia at SkyCity after it was closed due to flood damage.
"One of the reasons we opened Cassia was that I loved Indian food and I wanted to do something for our heritage," he says. "Also, I wanted to showcase how complex Indian food is - it's not just curry.
"There's so many layers to it and it can be so much fun."
He is eager to expand Cassia overseas.
"I feel like it's something that could be quite cool in Singapore or Dubai to show a little bit of our style to another part of the world," he says.
When asked about his interest in opening a restaurant in India, Sahrawat expressed an openness to the idea.
"If the right person came to us and said, 'Why don't you open Cassia in India?', I would definitely consider it," Sahrawat says.
For now, however, he wants to make sure all his attention is focused on Anise.
"I really want to make sure Anise is off to a flyer," he says.
"We really want to be proud of the restaurant and the experience we want to create for our diners, because a lot of people have come to the other restaurants, they're going to come with certain expectations, and we want to make sure that is perfect in our opinion."