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Food is theatre. Sirio Maccioni, still conducting his lavish orchestra with the same brio with which he launched Le Cirque into the culinary stratosphere over thirty years ago, is perhaps the haute cuisine impresario most responsible for this fact of life in the breathtaking world of modern fine dining.

Having worked his way from his Italian birthplace of Montecatini Terme, across first Post-War Europe, taking in Paris and Hamburg, and then the Atlantic, Maccioni threw himself into New York’s melting pot and before long found himself maitre d’ at the Colony Club. His mastery of the art of elegant yet efficient hospitality at that gilded institution won him a legion of admirers and contacts from the cream of New York society. What he did next was nothing short of revolutionary.

It is hard to imagine now the rigid orthodoxy ne of French classicism that gripped the restaurant world in the late 1960s and early 1970s - a conservative junta of the delicious, which used form and tradition to stifle experimentation.

Le Cirque opened in 1974 in Manhattan’s Mayfair Hotel, draped with the cloistered fantasy of the big top and its signature monkeys dangling at all turns like impish lucky charms amongst the circus balls and tent shades. Maccioni’s brainchild took its sense of dazzling exotic anarchy and elaborate artistry directly from the circus after which it was named, and set about re-defining what it was to experience a luxury restaurant and what one could expect to eat there.

“Controlled confusion” was not merely an empty aphorism on which to best peg the extravagant interiors - it was, and indeed still is, the radical mantra on which the Le Cirque legend has been founded. Maccioni’s was one of the first grandiloquent marquee names in New York nightlife that openly and actively engaged with the haute cuisine revolution that was firing exciting new dishes onto the tables of the bright young things during one of New York’s most decadently sophisticated eras.

In the glorious decades that followed, Le Cirque and its groundbreaking and continually evolving take on modern French and Italian cooking cemented its place as the preeminent purveyor of groundbreaking haute cuisine. Dishes that have now become classic staples of modern cuisine, such as Pasta Primavera and the iconic reinvention of the traditional Crème Brulee, were convention defying innovations invented and premiered to an avidly awaiting public at Le Cirque.

Almost immediately, Le Cirque established a reputation for creating cutting edge experimental cuisine from the finest quality seasonal ingredients in one of the most desirable venues in New York’s dazzling nightlife - drawing ever since the cream of culinary talent from around the world.

A litany of some of the most gifted young chefs of the modern era have been marched into Le Cirque’s big top by Maccioni like some ageless ringmaster and, after having dazzled the awestruck audience, have gone on to create critically acclaimed, often Michelin-starred, restaurants of their own. This incredible list of elite chefs includes Daniel Boulud, David Bouley, Terrance Brennan, Alain Allegretti, Pierre Schaedelin and Geoffrey Zakarian. Craig Hopson, already a hot property following his work running a series of high profile contemporary New York kitchens, is the latest culinary star to explode into life under Sirio’s wise guidance.

The heady mix of unrestrained glamour and unfettered creative freedom has long since proved a prospect too seductive to ignore for both chefs and clientele alike. For thirty years, on any given day of the week, the wealthiest and most powerful people in New York and beyond - including Frank Sinatra, Ivana Trump, Pope John Paul II and King Juan Carlos of Spain - have been found at Le Cirque, fanatics for the its unique brand of culinary showmanship.

As the marquee name in New York fine dining - Maccioni was named “Best Restaurateur in the US” by Gayot and Le Cirque named a “Living Landmark” by the New York Landmarks Conservancy - demand finally outstripped the Mayfair Hotel’s capacity. Relocated in 1997 to the New York Palace Hotel, Le Cirque 2000 proved every bit as successful, paving the way for the next step - the move to the iconic Bloomberg Building and a vast lavish venue designed by interiors guru Adam D. Tihany, which opened to great fanfare in 2006.

Such was the phenomenal success of his luxurious revolution that Maccioni, with the close involvement of his wife Ediginia and their three sons Mario, Marco and Mauro, diversified and expanded his unique brand. The family now operates a global empire of seven top tier venues comprising Le Cirque and Osteria del Circo in New York, three restaurants in Las Vegas - headed by the Bellagio’s own Michelin-starred Le Cirque, Osteria del Circo and Sirio Ristorante. Two sumptuous outposts in the exclusive Dominican resort Casa de Campo have also been added - Le Caña Restaurant & Lounge by Il Circo and Beach Club by Le Cirque

This month,
Sirio Maccioni took another giant stride across cultures and traditions as he announces his first Eastern adventure, with the unveiling of Le Cirque at The Leela Palace New Delhi.

The Leela Palace is found at the centre of the Diplomatic Enclave area of Lutyens’ Delhi district. A vast section of the city constructed in the early-to-mid Twentieth Century by renowned English architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, this was both splendid example of grand contemporary English architecture and symbol of colonial power. It boasts the impressive India Gate and what is now the Official Residence of the President of India, the magnificent Rashtrapati Bhavan, and plays host to the Prime Minister’s Office and a number of embassies.

The Leela Palace is owned and run by former freedom fighter Capt. C. P. Krishnan Nair’s Hotel Leelaventure Ltd, the modern luxury hotel group behind seven ventures in India since its first in Mumbai
, and promises 260 expansive rooms and suites of premium quality, a spa by ESPA, and unparalleled service. Le Cirque, joins a panoply of first class wining and dining options - ranging from royal Indian dining at Jamavar to contemporary world cuisine at the The Qube, sumptuous Japanese cuisine at Megu and the old-school class of wines and liqueurs at The Library.

With its 144 seats spread across the restaurant, three private dining rooms, a memorable Chef’s Table tasting experience, a show kitchen, alfresco seating, and intimate bar area,
Le Cirque at The Leela Palace New Delhi revels in its chic candlelit ambience, featuring exquisite vegetarian cuisine for the first time. This is a fittingly plush setting in which to savour the gastronomic delights winging their way from Chef Abhay Singh Bhoite’s kitchen. Chef Mickey, as he is known, continues Le Cirque’s venerable lineage of world-class and experimental chefs, serving a range of delectable cuisine that includes all-time Le Cirque classics, such as Tuna in Pistachio crust and Floating Island dessert, and creations of his own like Masala Tea Tiramisu.

The Le Cirque experience has been rewritten as legend by Design Spin Studio of Japan, the walls lined with prints of the Maccioni clan and the army of celebrities, business and political leaders and royalty that have tasted Sirio’s controlled confusion over the years.

In Le Cirque at The Leela Palace New Delhi, India’s richest and most powerful can experience the same intoxicating mix, served on Bernardaud porcelain and Riedel stemware, taking in the breathtaking tenth floor views of the colonial architecture that India reclaimed as its seat of power.

Here, at the opulent nexus of wealth and power where old traditions are rewritten and reclaimed in this truly modern theatre of luxury and creative freedom, Le Cirque at The Leela Palace New Delhi exemplifies Maccioni’s enticing brand of elegant chaos.

     - Benjamin Stewart

Le Cirque at The Leela Palace
Address:  Diplomatic Enclave, Chanakyapuri
New Delhi, 110 023
Tel:  11 3933 1390
Website:  www.theleela.com
Photo Credit:  The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts

Le Cirque New York
Address:  150 East 58th Street
New York, 10022
Tel:  212 644 0202    Reserve Online
Website:  www.lecirque.com

Osteria del Circo New York
Address:  120 West 55th Street
New York, 10019
Tel:  212 265 3636    Reserve Online
Website:  www.osteriadelcirco.com

Le Cirque at The Bellagio Las Vegas
Address:  3600 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, 89109
Tel:  702 693 8100
Website:  www.bellagio.com

Osteria del Circo at The Bellagio Las Vegas
Address:  3600 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, 89109
Tel:  702 693 8150
Website:  www.bellagio.com

Sirio Ristorante at Aria Resort and Casino Las Vegas
Address:  3730 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, 89158
Tel:  866 359 7111
Website:  www.arialasvegas.com

Beach Club by Le Cirque Casa de Campo Resort, Dominican Republic
Address:  La Romana
Dominican Republic
Tel:  809 523 3333
Website:  www.casadecampo.com.do

La Caña Restaurant & Lounge by Il Circo
Address:  La Romana
Dominican Republic
Tel:  809 523 3333
Website:  www.casadecampo.com.do

Sirio Ristorante New York
Address:  795 5th Avenue
New York, 10065
Tel:  212 940 8195
Website:  www.siriony.com
Le Cirque at The Leela Palace