Brewing up a new storm

Updated: Jul 29, 2018, 13:43 IST | Phorum Dala | Mumbai

What can you expect when the power couple behind The Table teams up with the boys behind The Woodside Inn? Meet Miss T and a podcast documenting team spirit

Peanut Butter washed Jim Beam Bourbon with in-house saffron essence, homemade cumin tincture and orange bitters
Peanut Butter washed Jim Beam Bourbon with in-house saffron essence, homemade cumin tincture and orange bitters

Standing on Mandlik Road, on the left is a colonial style bungalow, where Indigo once occupied the space of the city’s finest restaurants. On the right, the dome of Taj Mahal Palace Hotel adds a charming backdrop. Through a glass panel on a grey facade, one can see the mirrored bar wall at the far end glisten. A marbled bar juts out perpendicularly. Blue-cushioned booths covered in plastic and saw dust, await finishing touches.

Gauri Devidayal and Jay Yousuf, the couple behind The Table and Magazine Street Kitchen, drive up. After pleasantries, we turn to walk in. Yousuf opens the door and says, “Why is this door jammed? It should slide smoothly.” He has checked into work mode. Gauri walks to the bar where they are experimenting with an ice block stamp. Excited, she points her phone camera to it.

Burmese pickled tealeaf salad
Burmese pickled tealeaf salad

Sumit Gambhir, one-third of the Neighbourhood Hospitality trio that gave the city Woodside Inn, The Pantry and Bombay Vintage, enter, soaking in the ambiance. He offers to show us around upstairs. Shah is behind the bar speaking to mixologist Jeremy Buck about a cocktail trial. Abhishek Honawar, the common link who introduced the couple to the boys is absent. There’s excitement in the air, conversation swings from carpet colour, to delivery of cutlery to tastings — all in one breath. With the lease signed on March 1, this team of five is ready to dish out Miss T, a gastro Asian cocktail bar and restaurant by August 1.

“We signed the lease in 15 minutes and it took five months to turn this space around,” says Devidayal. It takes a few minutes to get all of them together, because each one is juggling urgent last-minute detailing that needs ironing out in real time. While Shah mans the bar and accounts, Devidayal handles PR, marketing along with looking into legal and financials with Shah. Honawar and Yousuf handle the design and dealings with contractors. “Sumit lives with the BMC, and is also in-charge of entertainment,” Shah says, adding, “Don’t worry, we won’t have him dancing on tables.”

The vegetarian pho. Pics/Bipin Kokate
The vegetarian pho. Pics/Bipin Kokate

The coming together of the two teams has been exhilarating, and everyone here hopes what they have attempted sets a positive example. They have taken notes of the process, in a podcast with IVM, aptly called The Colaba Cartel. The eight-series podcast touches upon the building a team, demands of a restaurant, food and beverage, finding investor, design and branding. We catch up with three-fourths of the team. Excerpts:

On going from neighbours to partners
Devidayal: Having our restaurants in the same neighbourhood, we were introduced to Pankil and Sumit through Abhishek, who is my sounding board in the industry.
Yousuf: International companies like Google or Apple will compete for a product but share an underlying alliance for good causes and intellectual dialogues. In the restaurant industry in India, there is not much exchange happening and everyone is safeguarding their own interests. So, when we came across this great young team that’s running very successful gastro bar in Colaba, I felt we needed to bring those synergies together. For Gauri and I, many times we compromise as work partners because “we have to go home”.
Devidayal: Our restaurants are different, but the mindset, value system and the philosophy is very similar. The place sort of fell in our laps, and we decided to team up.

Are we nervous ahead of the launch?
Yousuf: Everything makes me nervous, especially food trials. In our head, we know what a dish should taste like. Running a restaurant is like appearing for an exam, every day. You are marked by so many people!
Shah: If you don’t have butterflies it is not fun. But the sense of confidence increases in a team. For example, at this space, I don’t have to worry about interiors. It allows me to dive into my department 100 per cent.

What’s the story behind Miss T?
Devidayal: While conceptualising the restaurant, we were trying to visualise our ideal guest – we thought of this well-travelled young lady who drops by to have lunch by her own, or with her girlfriends or on a date night. We wanted to appeal to her sensibility and the kind of food and décor she will like. Basically, we named the restaurant after her.

Gauri Devidayal, Pankil Shah, Jay Yousuf and Sumit Gambhir
Gauri Devidayal, Pankil Shah, Jay Yousuf and Sumit Gambhir

What’s bogging the Mumbai restaurant scene?
Gambhir: A lot of restaurants that we have seen in the last few years — from delivery kitchens to low-cost drinking experience — resemble each other. Everything is theme driven with frills, with no focus on food and drinks.
Shah: Restaurants open with a bang, but lose the touch within a year. There is not a investment in the top rung of people, and investors are eager to move on to the next restaurant project. While passion is a requisite, you need logic to sustain the business too. You can’t get in for the glamour. The restaurant runs itself.
Devidayal: People make massive miscalculations with rentals
Yousuf: It is not about opening, it is about sustaining it once you open it. Attracting the customer to walk in the second time is what restaurateur should be looking at.

What keeps you all together?
Devidayal: Why are more people not collaborating? The synergy you get from collaborating, saving more cost, more minds working, expertise, it is a no brainer.
Yousuf: I want to set an example for others in the industry. So far, at this juncture, I would say, please join together; come together as likeminded people, work. Don’t worry about competition and having differences.
Shah: This exercise is so refreshing for all of us; to have two more great thought processes, the opportunity to re-examine decisions from a different perspective is the biggest take away from this project

The podcast is available on IVM Podcasts app, website, YouTube, Saavn

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