Owners of popular Mumbai bar Gokul open a new vegetarian restaurant in the city
Owners of Colaba's popular dive bar, Gokul, on opening a new vegetarian restaurant in the vicinity
Dimly-lit as always, Gokul has not changed much is what we realise when we visit the iconic dive bar for an interview with the owners. The tipplers are the same mix of college-goers, foreigners and off-duty navymen, all seated in their usual corners. There are a few decor changes in terms of coloured LED lights and wall murals. Dinesh, with his older brother Harish, has now been running the iconic dive bar since the sudden passing away of their father Jaya Pujary in 1998.
Gokul9 special pav bhaji. Pics/Bipin Kokate
Their sister Vandana, an MBA in marketing and finance who works with an MNC, joined the business three years back and helped re-launch their rolls joint Gokul Bite. Encouraged by the response, Dinesh and Vandana have now opened Gokul9, a no-frills restaurant that serves vegetarian fast food.
"I was always fascinated by the hotel industry. In school, I had a lot of fun on my morning trips to buy fish and vegetables with my father. Later in college, he started taking me to different BMC offices, and in the evenings, I would interact with customers. I even packed beer boxes in our wine shop. This was nothing compared to what my father had to do," recalls Dinesh.
Vandana and Dinesh Pujary at Gokul
Before his foray into the hotel industry, Pujary did odd jobs like boot polishing, selling milk, and also cigarettes outside IIT (which he had to eventually stop as students didn't pay him regularly) when he came to the city from Mangalore. He stayed in a slum in Vikhroli and attended a night school. Pujary later moved into a single room above Gokul with his entire family. They eventually shifted to a bigger house behind the Taj Mahal Hotel. Today, his children distribute books and other essentials at the same night school.
Vandana is the youngest of the three. "I wanted to take baby steps. So I reworked the menu of Gokul Bite. Eventually, we felt that this area really needs a vegetarian restaurant with a good ambience. The concept of running a vegetarian restaurant is very new to us, but it's in our blood and I know we can do it," affirms Vandana. "Plus there is good money in it," admits Dinesh.
As we tuck into the pav bhaji and medu wada, the mind jogs back to several occasions when we wished for a no-fuss fast food joint to chill at post a hectic shopping session in Colaba. Gokul9 fits the bill.
"My father wanted to run a haven for everyone. Women tell me that they feel safe in Gokul; they can smoke or walk in wearing short dresses without anyone bothering them," shares Dinesh. "We want to recreate this pull of Gokul with Gokul9. That's why the menu has been designed to serve comfort food that anyone can have on a daily basis," adds Vandana. The exhaustive menu covers everything from sheera for breakfast to Indian-style pizza and Chinese favourites, and thali too.
They eventually want to open a hip bar in Colaba. The most important business lesson that Dinesh has learnt from his father is patience. "It helps in this line and regular life. My father had a deadly personality with his moustache. Had he been alive today, Gokul would have been a multi-storeyed three-star hotel," he says proudly.
What is it like working with a sibling we ask, "Most of the time, it's irritating. But the best thing is that you can express yourself, in spite of wanting to pull each other's hair," laughs off Vandana. "If a big fight happens between us partners, the cop is our mother who will make us hug and make up," signs off Dinesh with a smile.
Time: 7 am to 12.30 pm
At: Nawroji Furdunji Street, Apollo Bundar, Colaba.
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