A new 'Bombay style' bistro in Paris by entrepreneur Stephanie de Saint Simon, MG Road, is creating a buzz in the city’s culinary circles. In an email interview with Fiona Fernandez, the owner speaks about the ideas and aromas that make it a delightful ode to all things Indian
Q. What made you think of opening a bistro that would serve Indian food?
A. It’s been 10 years. I travel three times a year to India for my furniture productions, and I always felt that we deserved a creative Indian restaurant as this was missing in Paris.
Pic courtesy/Felix Vigne Castalie
Q.The name MG Road is a curious one for your bistro? What was the inspiration behind it?
A. Well, it took me six months before I could find a name. I found it perfect for few reasons; first there is an MG Road everywhere in India so it doesn’t limit my menu to a specific zone. I also like that Mahatma Gandhi is in the name — as a Godfather. And MG Road with the world ‘road’ is giving a European twist to reflect what we offer.
India-themed curios dot MG Road’s walls
Q. Why did you decide to add the term, ‘Bombay style’, to it?
A. I am just using a myth of Bombay for the décor with the Irani cafés. The idea came because of the shop look: grey marble, big windows with stainless steel frames. It’s the 1940s style so the look was perfect for an Irani café. I also wanted to show people different Indias, apart from the Taj Mahal or Bollywood that we see here too often.
Golgappas are on the menu
It is on the eastern Marais district of Paris
Q. Have you visited Bombay (Mumbai) ever?
A. Yes, I did, may be 10 times. I love that beautiful, crazy city.
A portrait of a young Mahatma Gandhi
Q. How did you conceptualise the menu?
A. I wanted a short menu with fresh and great quality products that will change every two months. I wanted a colourful and crunchy cuisine, more modern. Also I like to stay democratic so we offer good prices to the neighbourhood with the tiffin boxes you can pick every working day from noon.
The signage. Pics Courtesy/ yann deret, felix vigne castalie
Q. Could you tell us a bit about your head chef, Manoj Sharma?
A. Manoj was working for a great Indian restaurant when I met him, the Cinnamon Club. He also worked with the acclaimed Chef Vineet Bhatia (Rasoi) for several years. He was born in Delhi (Chandni Chowk), and came to London eight years ago after his studies and has an experience of three years at Saffron Oberoi, Gurgaon. He is a citizen of the world and did not hesitate to travel to put his name on that project, knowing Paris needed at last a new style of Indian cuisine. He understood what I wanted very well, and I must add, is a very gifted partner.
Stephanie de Saint Simon Restaurateur
Q. Your menu offers a tiffin box — where did this come from? This, as well as the deposit and return of it later, sounds novel. How did this emerge?
A. I felt that if I were having a restaurant like this near my place I would have loved to pick my lunch from there, with my tiffin box. Clients buy the box at first, and they return it to us clean, and can request for as much as they wish for, with a vegetarian/non vegetarian refill. I also like the idea that we don’t have throwable containers.
(The customer pays a deposit for the tiffin box and either brings the box back later, or holds on to them to re-fill later).
Q. So far, what has been the response from your customers?
A. We’ve just opened so I have to communicate about it but all the ‘aware’ ones love it; and some have come back, already on a few occasions.
At: MG Road Restaurant, 205 Rue Saint-Martin, Paris.