Turning over a new tea leaf
Once an iconic adda for Mumbai's intellectuals, Churchgate's Tea Centre gets resurrected into a luxury tea lounge and restaurant
Heritage spaces are like friendly spectres springing up without notice and making their presence felt in strange ways. But if it were a tea cake, there's a slice of it for Mumbaikars to tuck into with an iconic adda making a comeback. In its new avatar, the erstwhile Tea Centre — once a haven for the city's mavericks and bluestockings in its time — will be called the Queen's Deck, a luxury tea room and restaurant that's opening its doors to patrons today.
Resurrected by Goodricke Teapot, the tea company's hospitality vertical, the 3,600 -sq ft space will house a tea room, a diner and will retain the tea shop that was part of the establishment once. "It will be located in the same spot, and will continue to have a separate entry, with another passage through the restaurant," PT Krishnan, vice president for the consumer division of the brand, tells us, as they gear up to unveil the space this evening.
Tea Centre in its earlier avatar
"We forayed into tea lounges in 2014, as a way to reach consumers directly with various tea offerings. Mumbai, with its tea-drinking culture, was always on our mind. So, we got on board when the opportunity came," Krishnan shares, adding that they have two similar lounges in Kolkata and Darjeeling.
Tea Centre, as Mumbaikars knew it, shut in 2016, after serving luminaries from the city's cultural, corporate and bureaucratic circuits. Labourers in the area had suggested that it was under renovation, but the official document for the Expression of Interest in operating the space was only issued on the Tea Board of India (TBI) website on June 19, 2018. Krishnan and team were roped in after, and they will now be handling the management as consultants for TBI. Queen's Deck, which has been under renovation for the last six months, promises to offer a swish ambience with the look and feel of a ship deck. "We had to start from scratch because we were keen on offering a distinct look," Krishnan explains.
Tea and scones at the erstwhile Tea Centre
Along with retaining Tea Centre's much-loved gymkhana-like menu, this kitchen will be dishing out Continental fare, too, but with a modern twist. The menu, curated by an in-house team, will feature dishes like eggplant canaloni, grilled cottage cheese, herb roast chicken and lamb steak. "The idea was to have a widespread menu that would work for all meals, starting from breakfast to dinner. It has been designed in a way such that the dishes complement the premium tea that will be served along side," he informs.
But much of the affection towards this haunt emerged from the fact that it replicated and conveyed the essence of this city — a world with all sorts of people, with a foot in the past and an eye on the future. What remains of that legacy today is tell-tales and anecdotes around its special omelettes, and particularly, the tinker bells that would be used to summon waiters. Along with the teahouse, the restored space will retain this tradition, too. "It was a very interesting tradition in the erstwhile Tea Centre. So, we will continue with that. The retail tea shop will be fully functional and will have a wide array of specialty and authentic tea directly sourced from our gardens in Darjeeling, Assam and the Dooars in West Bengal. Also, to help patrons make an informed decision, the store will house a tea tasting section," the company official says.
P T Krishnan
Incidentally, tea tasting was a hallmark of the space in its old avatar and it is important to mention here that this isn't the tearoom's first facelift. Back in the late 1990s, TBI had joined hands with famed adman Prahlad Kakar, a tea enthusiast who had played a pivotal role in making the establishment famous, and his far sight and trailblazing innovations had contributed considerably to that end. Tea tasting inside the Art Deco building's lounge was introduced for the first time by him.
"My wife's father was a tea planter and she grew up surrounded by tea gardens. It was a huge tradition, which is why we were so particular about pairing the teas we served with the right food, and also why we started tea-tasting sessions," Kakar reminisces. He adds that it is interesting that a tea company will now run the space. "They are sure to be passionate about it because they have a deep understanding of it."
We echo Kakar's views when he says, "I am excited that Tea Centre is coming back and I am surely going to pay a visit."
At Queen's Deck, Resham Bhavan, 78, Veer Nariman Road, Churchgate.
Opens Today, 7 am to 11 pm
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