Get your picnic basket and soak in the sun
Former adman and passionate cook's new al-fresco snacking society will stir memories from your childhood
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
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
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
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.
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