Excel at providing a fine dining experience, and your customers will have no choice but to come back to you," says actor-restaurateur Addite Malik at the newly opened Que Sera Sera in Andheri. It's her seventh restaurant in the city, and aims to embody the soul of Italy with a cobblestone section that harks back to the picturesque homes of Sicily. The large painting of Monica Bellucci that hangs over the bar was her husband Mohit's idea, and the menu has a line-up of Italian and Mediterranean dishes such as lemon basil ricotta pasta, Spanish paella, fish burgers, avocado hummus, and her personal favourite, Margherita pizza.
TV actress Addite Malik believes that running restaurants is about capturing an experience that will linger on long after the taste of the food is forgotten; Malik's favourite
Known for playing Meeta in the TV series Shararat (2003-2007), the actress has starred in several shows since her debut in the early 2000s, including Ekta Kapoor's Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki and Dekho Magar Pyaar Se. Malik, who started acting when she was 16, says that her roots in the F&B industry stem from her love for interior decoration. "I love doing up spaces - I'd change my home interiors every six months," she laughs, while sipping on an almond milk latte. "Hosting people is also something I'm fond of and so, the two add up in creating a dining experience at a restaurant that you want to keep coming back to."
Avocado hummus with pita bread
On a trip to Milan 13 years ago, she came across family restaurants where the owners interact with patrons and catch up with tourists over coffee and wine. "That was my inspiration for Homemade CafÃ© in Juhu which we started in October 2015. As my interest and knowledge of running a cafe grew, I started six more restaurants," she adds. Homemade Cafe has an outlet in Oshiwara; next was 1BHK Brew House Kitchen in Oshiwara, Vashi and Bengaluru; and Baoji Asian Home, Oshiwara, known for its open-face baos.
Mediterranean staple also features on the menu
During COVID, as the world around us came to a standstill, Doris Day's Que Sera Sera became Malik's therapy. "I sang it like a lullaby to my son and it immediately put him, and me, at ease. The song transports me to Italy, a place where I want to spend my retirement days, enjoying a simple life and the importance given to living, as opposed to chasing careers."
So what's the secret to running a successful chain of restaurants? "It's about delving into the experience," she replies, adding, "You can't have good food with a bad ambience, and vice-versa. Today's generation doesn't want just good food, they want a vibe. As for food, while it is fun to experiment, too many fusions can spoil the dish, I bear that in mind while curating a menu. For instance, at home, I eat hot dosas with aamras - it works. As a foodie, I know what ingredient goes well with another. Running a restaurant is a collaborative process, much like running a home... a space that one comes back to. The operations and kitchen need to be in-sync - if they aren't, the wait time increases and that's never a good thing. Food arriving in time at the table is the most important thing for any restaurant - for customers and business both. We take negative reviews very seriously."
(From left) Business partners Suraj Shetty, Addite Malik, and Sumit Govind Sharma
Co-founder Sumit Sharma, director of Monarch Liberty Hospitality Pvt Ltd, is a fairly new entrant into the F&B space. "When we started," says Sharma, who also owns cafe Eve in Powai, "we'd come down four or five times a week only to talk to customers and take their feedback; and also to get to know our staff and their strengths well. In this industry, patience is key - a lot of things never go as planned." Malik interjects, "That's why I never plan and only go with the flow. I also believe in accepting mistakes." For business partner Suraj Shetty, a restaurant will succeed as long as the owners consider it a passion and not just a business. "As a restaurateur, it gives me satisfaction to see guests enjoy the food - you must aim for a happy customer. Understanding finance is a big plus," he adds.
A pure-bred Goan, Malik's a fish curry-and-rice girl: "I can have fish fry and prawns rawa fry for breakfast too. The best thing about Goa is that the curries change as you travel from North to South. The masalas have variations. You could place five curries in front of me and I'd know where they're from."
Quiz her about her favourite dish in the city and she responds instantly, "Mahesh Lunch Home's butter garlic crab. There was also Flora at Worli," she says, "a Chinese eatery where my father used to take me every weekend, as a child. Juhu Chowpatty and Haji Ali [Juice Centre] spells nostalgia, particularly the latter. Chowpatty I go to when I need to disconnect from anything. It is the essence of Mumbai." Haji Ali is special because it's there that Mohit proposed to her. "We still go there for the strawberry cream."