Chef Sarah Todd©

Sarah Todd On Her Indian Connection And Her New Goan Offering

Sarah Todd believes that she has a connection to India from a past life. The Australian chef has steadily established herself on the Indian culinary scene as a celebrity chef. And now, she has her eyes set on Goa. Her newest offering, The Sanctuary Bar and Kitchen, opened doors in Vagator earlier this month and it’s should be on your list of places to check out the next time you’re in the Sunshine state.

The Sanctuary Bar and Kitchen

Nestled amidst the captivating beauty of 250-year-old Portugese villa, the Sanctuary Bar and Kitchen is a unique blend of history, luxury and gastronomy. After successfully establishing the first outlet in Hyderabad, founders Gokul Krishna, Rohan Gutta, Trilok Potluri and Mithun Yalamarthi are confident that their new culinary oasis will be a dining experience that transcends the ordinary. After acquiring the beautiful property, the restauranteurs connect with Sarah Todd to design a menu which boasts of dishes that are unique to The Sanctuary, ranging from Chicken Kiev Cafreal Bites, Fenni Pickled Zucchini and Jaggery Glazed Carrots.

Drawing inspiration from the culture and beauty of Goa, The Sanctuary Bar and Kitchen seamlessly blends global comfort food with a touch of the local culinary heritage. The interiors will also encourage patrons to embark on a journey of discovery and indulgence, wit details that make the venue both enchanting and luxurious.

The Sanctuary Bar and Kitchen, Goa

Spread across an acre, the restuarant can comfortably accomodate over 350 guests. No plants were taken down during the cleaning and renovation process, instead 8000 were added to create a lush green atmosphere. The restaurant’s architecture and interior pays homage to its historic surroundings, where the 250-year-old ruin invites you in and the 150-year-old restored villa you, and another 150-year-old villa on the ground has been renovated and the space is sectioned into rooms that each have an atmosphere of their own. With a kids room, a intimate dining room, a room that houses a grand piano and a vinyl recorder and a cocktail room.

However, if you prefer something outdoors and airy, there are many options to choose from. Our favourite was the Ruin Bar, which is built using natural materials like bamboo and located behind the 250-year old ruins. It serves delicious cocktails curated by a team of renowned mixologists, Agnieszka Rozenska and Louness Ducos.

The Sanctuary Bar and Kitchen

At the media launch of The Sanctuary Bar and Kitchen, we caught up with Sarah and spoke to her about her new project, her connection to India and more specifically, Goa, and her culinary journey.

In Conversation With Sarah Todd

HELLO!: How would you describe your connection to India?

Sarah Todd: “Oh gosh, I think my connection (to India) is definitely from a past life because I am from a very small town in Queensland in Australia of 2000 people. I come to India and I feel at home, which is the craziest thing because it’s so different to what I’m used to and I know. But, I love it and I love the people and all my experiences in India, so I think there’s definitely a past life connection of some sort that brings me home.”

H!: When did you first hear about The Sanctuary?

ST: “So, I first started connecting with the team in Goa before I knew about The Sanctuary (Hyderabad) at all, to be honest. And when they contacted me, I did a lot of research on the brand and I was just so pleased to hear their philosophy and how they were able to connect with me. And I think that’s what I’m most proud of. It’s just so great to have such a good team and I can’t wait to see how they bring everything together. I also loved how they maintained the historical element of the place and brought forth the Portuguese influence by restoring, you know, this beautiful 250-year-old house. And, I have also started exploring a lot more interior design… I mean, in the past, I have designed restaurants, but I feel like I’ve come a long way. So yeah, this place just feels like a perfect fit because I think the team has just done such an incredible job with the venue and bringing a touch of Goa.

Each room has its own unique feel, every room has a story, has different artworks… so yeah, I love the place!”

The Sanctuary Bar and Kitchen

H!: Did you have a chance to visit The Sanctuary in Hyderabad?

ST: “No, but my team did and I had heard that they’re a great team to work with. And I think that’s really important… to surround yourself with good and honest people. It’s been a really great experience to work with them and I’m really excited about our new place in Goa.”

H!: Can you describe what you felt when you first walked into this place when it was not renovated yet?

ST: “I just saw the ruin at the front with a tree just grown around it and the roots going through the brick, and I was like, ‘Oh my god… it’s so powerful to see that’. I think that often in modern day we we wipe out all of that and we build these cold structures where there’s no heart and soul and that’s not me at all. I love nature, I love that element of the real world coming into our spaces and the outside is the inside and that’s how we should be living. So, I think that was definitely the most magical spot for me.”

The Sanctuary Bar and Kitchen

H!: What convinced you to take on this project?

ST: “For the last four years, I’ve been working on multiple projects and I think I’ve gone through a lot of cycles in my emotional state. Covid was also a difficult time, and I took a bit of a break because the restaurant industry faced a setback and it was really difficult. I knew I needed a break, but after some time, I was ready to get back into it and that’s when the conversation started to happen. I think, the stars aligned and it was more like a culmination of a lot of different things coming together at the right time. You know what they say… when the timing is right, it’s right!”

H!: What was your thought process when it came to curating the menu for this place?

ST: “My thought process was definitely to celebrate Goa and bring in my history with the state from all the years that I’ve spent here — exploring, getting to experience the cuisine from locals and lots of different places and just to celebrate the local ingredients. There are a lot of dishes on the menu that incorporate a lot of these ingredients and this style is definitely me, given that there is a bit of influence from all of my travels and experiences. Every dish is unique and specifically made for here. There’s nothing that I’ve taken from any other restaurant or event or anything. Everything is brand new and specifically made for this place.”

The Sanctuary Bar and Kitchen

H!: You spoke about your history with Goa. Can you tell us more…

ST: “It’s been 10 years since I first came to goa and I just fell in love with it. I’m from Queensland, which is also very tropical, has beaches, great fruits and a lot of seafood. So, Goa was really different but it still has a familiar energy to it. So, I felt at home when I was here. For me, Goa is always going to be a special place and its somewhere I would like to continue spending a lot of time until I grow old. Every year, we fly all of my family to India—from my son to my mom and my nephews. They love it here and I can’t wait for them to see this place. Also, I think Goa is the kind of destination which is not only beautiful, but has something for everyone!”

H!: Going back to your roots for a second, what made you want to become a Chef?

ST: “The thing that drew me to the culinary world was the way it connects people and it doesn’t matter what language you speak, what country you’re from, who you are, what class system — food connects us all and it’s a real common ground. It not only fuels us but there’s so much nostalgia attached to food as well. When anybody, whether they’re a foodie or not, tastes a dish that they had as a kid or something their grandma used to make, there’s so much emotion that food can draw out of them. I think that’s when I stopped looking at food as fuel and started looking at it as an emotion. That’s when I realised, this is the industry I wanted to be in.”

Chef Sarah Todd

H!: What are some of your favourite places to eat in India?

ST: “I love going to a state or a city and just going to someone’s home and ask them, ‘can your family cook for me?’ Because I feel like eating in someone’s home is where the true magic happens — those are the authentic stories and dishes. And I think that’s really special and what I prefer, something really raw and not fancy.”

H!: What is your son’s favourite dish that you cook up?

ST: “Oh, he loves keema. But he goes through phases… right now it’s great because he’s experimenting and eating a lot of different dishes. But that’s not always the case. Usually, I’m always saying ‘dude, I’m making so many dishes… you need to at least try them or something.’ And he went through a phase of not eating anything, but now he’s back to eating and trying everything, so I’m happy.”

H!: As a chef, what’s the achievement you’re the proudest of?

ST: “The thing I’m the most proud of would be moving into the restaurant industry. But I think, also last year, when the Prime Minister asked to meet me. We got an email and my brother saw it because at the time, we were in the middle of establishing our hot sauce company, Hot Toddy. He read it and it looked like this official document that read Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to meet Sarah Todd. He calls me and we’re sort of sure it’s some kind of scam… why would the Prime Minister want to meet?! But my mom was the one who said, it could be real and that we should at least reply. Sure enough, I did respond and then went on to meet him one-on-one when he came to Sydney. In fact, I was among the only three or four people he met one-on-one.

The thing that was really special about this was that it happened when I was at a kind of crossroad in life, where I’d been in Australia a lot but had also done a lot of work in India. But, I was in two minds about whether I wanted to come back to the country and do more work there? But when he met me, he just congratulated me on the success and all the work I’d done and appreciated the way I spoke about Indian cuisine. At that moment, I felt like maybe I was doing the right thing. It made me take that leap of faith and come back to India and start over again, only to find more success!”