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How the country’s leading chefs and restaurateurs are planning for a busy 2022

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Local luxe bars and pop ups in unexpected places — with Goa and international locations such as Seattle and Monaco as favourites

From exclusive dinners in offbeat locations to a couple of big-ticket launches in foreign destinations such as Seattle and Monaco, Indian restaurants and the food industry has plans for 2022 — if Covid does not play spoil sport yet again! “I hear that 40-50 new restaurants are opening in Goa itself,” says a bemused top chef as we discuss what to expect this year.

Most restaurateurs seem headed to the sunshine state, even as some of us bemoan the fact that it has become a mini ‘Delhi-Mumbai-Bengaluru’! “It is going to be like Bangalore of a few years ago, with experimental and creative projects but with prices in restaurants and bars lower than in Mumbai and Delhi,” says the chef, known for his foraging and farm to table experiments.

Restaurateur Ashish Kapur
 

First up, bar-friendly Goa

India’s most creative bartenders, distillers and the bar community in general seem to have shifted en masse to Goa, not just because of an easier lifestyle but for its easier bar and bottling policies. 2021 saw Bar Tesouro come up in Colva, very international but also rooted in its tightly-knit south Goa community. By two of India’s leading bar experts — Pankaj Balachandran and Arijit Bose — it quickly zipped up the World’s 50 Best Bars list at no 65. Now “Bose”, as he is popularly called, and “I Say Negroni” (his Instagram handle) Balachandran plan to set up another bar in Goa in 2022. But not Tesouro “as we don’t want to dilute it”, says Balachandran. “It will be very international while still being a local bar. You can call it a five-star local bar,” he chuckles.

Ashish Kapur, the restaurateur known for his chic bar-meets-dining concepts such as The Wine Company (Delhi) and Antares (Goa), now spends half the year in Goa. He is ready to open a beach club-restaurant Morjim in 2022, plus a boutique hotel in Assagao. Meanwhile, Mumbai’s successful Izumi is looking to sprout a second outlet in Goa. What many are eagerly awaiting, however, is the local Goan bar and tapas brand Antonio in Fontainhas opening a “Japanese small bites sort of a place, post April,” according to an older Goa settler.

Chef Prateek Sadhu of Masque

Chef Prateek Sadhu of Masque
 

Pop ups and supper clubs

If Goa is the OG destination, the OG trend for 2022 is luxe pop-ups in non-restaurant locales. Chef Prateek Sadhu of Masque, who has just come up with a concept called “Pravas” (or “journey”), is set to travel to different regions in India, beginning with the northeast. He plans to research local ingredients and traditions, develop dishes around these, and then go back to these locations with full-fledged pop-up dinners. “I did two dinners in Gwalior recently at the Jai Vilas Palace with food inspired by Gwalior. We sold tickets and diners flew in from Delhi, Mumbai and elsewhere,” he says. He aspires to create “bespoke journeys” and pop ups in other parts of the country every few months — at around ₹10,000 per head.

Glass - Kitchen & Bar at the Holiday Inn, Racecourse Road, Bengaluru

Glass – Kitchen & Bar at the Holiday Inn, Racecourse Road, Bengaluru
 

Storytelling in London around India’s lesser-known culinary cultures is set to gain ground in London too, where chef and restaurateur Asma Khan will focus on her supper clubs. Her restaurant Darjeeling Express (now at Covent Garden) did relatively well through the pandemic with its biryani and thali lunches — actor Paul Rudd aka Marvel’s Antman posted pictures on Instagram last year. “Through the pandemic, I realised I want to tell stories more, about the women who cook food in Indian homes, so I want to do more of the supper club thing,” says Khan.

In Kolkata with her family after two years, Khan got to hear some stories herself over a new year meal with a Malda zamindari family. Oiendrila Ray Kapur, who comes from Harishchandrapur in Malda, served up ancestral recipes in her central Kolkata home near Ballygunje as a specially curated offering. We will see more such experiences coming into their own now.

How the country’s leading chefs and restaurateurs are planning for a busy 2022

Bengaluru for the global young Indian

In Bengaluru, one of the hottest under-the radar ‘non-restaurants’ of 2021 has been Farmlore. Helmed by three chefs with work experience at Michelin-starred and the World’s 50 Best restaurants, it is set within a 37-acre farm, offers freestyle, degustation-only menus to just 18 diners thrice a week, and tells stories about local produce and customs.

Nirupa Shankar of the Brigade Group, who spent New Year’s Eve there, says this exclusivity married to farm-to-table gastronomy will be in demand once the market opens up. Shankar, whose company owns several hotels in Bengaluru, is in the process of rejigging her own restaurants to cater to a younger, more global customer. Their Glass – Kitchen & Bar at the Holiday Inn on the Racecourse Road, has opened recently in collaboration with Chef Abhijit Saha. Offering modern Indian regional food, with several offbeat dishes like hemp protein-enhanced idli and ajwain leaf fritters, it uses cleanly sourced ingredients, and is all instagrammable, as Shankar says. This may be a way forward for younger diners, marrying international trends with local flavours.

Avartana at ITC Grand Chola

When brands like Avartana travel

Avartana, the modern south Indian restaurant brand at ITC Grand Chola, is set to go national with an offshoot in Kolkata to begin with. There has been buzz that Indian Accent is set to open in Mumbai, while restaurateur AD Singh of the Olive group is bringing a new brand to Gurugram later in the year. “It is something that I have seen internationally but not in India,” he says mysteriously.

Zorawar Kalra, MD - Massive Restaurants

Zorawar Kalra, MD – Massive Restaurants
 

Zorawar Kalra is opening his first restaurant in the US, in Seattle — Farzi Cafe, tailored for North America — “at an epic location” (he is still tight-lipped about it) by mid year, while one of India’s largest and most profitable restaurant companies, the Amit Burman-Rohit Aggarwal promoted Lite Bite Food will focus on the UAE (besides smaller Indian cities like Pune, Kochi, Lucknow and Bhubaneshwar) with Punjab Grill restaurants. This market is being looked upon as a sort of modern-day Casablanca for those seeking to escape pandemic hardships. Finally, in what is one of the most unusual locations, The Wine Company’s Ashish Kapur is zeroing in on Monaco for a fully Indian experiment.

Anoothi Vishal writes on dining trends and food cultures. She is the author of Mrs LC’s Table: Stories about Kayasth Food and Culture.



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