Get your picnic basket and soak in the sun

Updated: Apr 14, 2019, 16:10 IST | Prutha Bhosle

Former adman and passionate cook's new al-fresco snacking society will stir memories from your childhood

Get your picnic basket and soak in the sun
Mendhi curates the menu keeping a theme, such as Picnics Past, in mind

Like most people who grew up in the pre-cell phone era, when outdoor get-togethers were as common as uploading pictures on Instagram, Rajat Mendhi, too, had treacle childhood memories. "In my hometown Jamshedpur, my mama [uncle] would pile all of us into his Matador van and head to Jubilee Gardens for a Sunday outing. As soon as we reached the park, we would put out a floral bedsheet on the grass and gorge on freshly-made aloo puris. This was followed by oranges that kept us hydrated," he tells us, recalling a scene that inspired Bombay Picnics, the city's all-new al-fresco snacking society.

Guests at the first edition of Bombay Picnics
Guests at the first edition of Bombay Picnics

Mendhi was an adman for almost 13 years. When he recently got a chance to revisit his childhood passion for cooking, he instantly pulled the plug on his full-time job. "When I was about 11 or 12 years old, I baked a cake for the first time. It was absolutely magical to see how a few ingredients could turn into something so beautiful. I am a '90s kid and back in the day, we didn't have people to look up to, to choose cooking as a viable profession. So, I did my BSc and MBA, after which my fantastic career in advertising began." A Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, he knew he had to get back to his first love. "In January 2018, I put down my papers and ever since, my journey has been one of self-discovery. I have cooked and experimented, trying to find where my heart is. I even started the Tight Slap [a food booth that served only egg dishes] last year."

The first edition included dishes such as Parle-G ice cream
The first edition included dishes such as Parle-G ice cream

Bombay Picnics, which launched last month, stemmed from Mendhi's desire to do something more concrete than a pop-up. "But, it gradually evolved into being a whole new initiative altogether." The idea of Bombay Picnics "is to get outside with all the trappings and cosiness of the inside, along with a bunch of fun, interesting people, lots of good food and, of course, music".

Mendhi organised the first outdoor picnic on March 31 in a compound of a quaint cottage called Lifafa in Bandra. "The first edition was set under the canopy of a jackfruit tree in a small garden behind the bungalow. Since it was the first time, I invited some old and new friends. I had a couple of friends playing host and facilitating conversations between strangers. By the end of it, I thought to myself that Bombay Picnics is not just about the food, people and the place, but also about being a happy place. When people go back home happy, it makes me happy."

Rajat Mendhi. Pic/Shadab Khan
Rajat Mendhi. Pic/Shadab Khan

The next picnic is being held today (Rs 2,400 per person), amidst frangipanis, bougainvilleas, ficus and palms on the first-floor terrace in his Khar abode. Like the last time, the group is small and only 10 people are invited. He will be serving a six-course fun, contemporary take on picnic treats, along with coffee, tea and refreshing sangria. "We have Taboo and Uno for when people feel like playing a couple of rounds. But, alcohol always helps breaks the ice. This is why we serve a glass of sangria, so that people don't split up into groups, but enjoy every bit of this experience together." Just like families did, squished in a Matador van, sprawled on a floral blanket, enjoying the summer sun.

FOR MORE DETAILS: email rajat@theincurablecook.com

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