Indians are no longer settling for clichéd restaurant set-ups for their meal and are looking for unusual and adventurous spaces to dine in.
Up in the air, deep in the hinterlands, at a celebrity’s home, or at a cozy backyard — no, we’re not talking innuendo, but are referring to the spaces new-age Indians are fleeing to, just to enjoy a meal. It is no more about going to a crowded restaurant, which has perhaps kept its décor same ever since the 1980s, and placing an order from the menu that is economical on choices, forcing you to be abstemious, and hurriedly finishing your meal as the waiter anxiously pacifies other waiting customers. As the millennials say, going to a restaurant is almost an outmoded concept now, as they are taking a step ahead to reinvent ways to make dine-outs all the more delectable.
Renowned chef, consultant and food historian Osama Jalali says we’re heading towards a re-invention of the concept of dining, with the number of pop-up eateries and out-of-the-ordinaire eating spots mushrooming across the country. “Indians are starting to think that it’s passé to go to restaurants now. If they want to eat biryani, they would prefer it at someone’s household, known to create some of the best biryanis, than have it at a restaurant. These ways of allowing pop-ups and households in a city hosting food-lovers to share a meal with them is also making way to highlight regional cuisines in our country. People now prefer to enjoy food in the comforts of a home, than at a traditional restaurant set-up, which has such little space for experimentation,” Delhi-based Jalali asserts.
Taking the idea of pop-ups a notch higher, British chef James Sharman is pushing the boundaries of where Indians eat, by hosting a pop-up at Amitabh Bachchan’s Pratiksha Bungalow in Mumbai, on 17th of this month, where one can buy a ticket and be a part of the dinner.
Chef Sharman, who has worked in the kitchens of Noma in Copenhagen (ranked as the world’s best for many years), has included India as one of the locations to set up a pop-up as a part of his ‘One Star House Party’ project, to set up 20 restaurants across 20 countries in 20 months. He has been setting up these pop-ups across the world in some of the most unusual places — from the base camp of Mount Everest, to an abandoned printing house in Hong Kong. “The pop-ups help create a very raw and honest experience. It’s about serving food we’re excited about, rather than just displaying our ability with the food we have been making for years. Never before has there been a restaurant where quite often the diners have a stronger general knowledge of that cuisine than the chefs. What makes it so spatial is when we take the food and experiences we’ve come to love, and create a menu with our techniques. We have been blown away by the vivid identity of food in Mumbai. We’re working on a menu that combines the flavours and ingredients we feel have defined the food here, with the techniques we’ve learnt and developed through our careers,” elaborates Sharman.
Allowing space for flavours to come together with eclectic, informal settings, pop-ups and dinners at unconventional spaces seem to be striking a chord strongly with Indians, with seats to pop-up dinners selling out like hotcakes!
Indians are also looking at eating their fare in style, and interestingly, altitude is coming into play. With the global concept of ‘Dinner In The Sky’ catching up fast and wide, platters are being lifted up scores of metres above ground level, giving diners an out-of-the-world experience, literally! Chandigarh-based CCPL Hospitality is allowing many across the northern parts of India to take this unique dining experience, where a platform which can seat up to 22 guests, along with six crew members, who can whip up food mid-air, while you enjoy the adrenaline kicking in!
“These platforms allow an experience that is beyond imagination for diners and can be lifted and transported to any location we wish to — by the sea, amidst the mountains, by the river, anywhere at all. The crew members can create menu from any cuisine, using induction methods. The concept is becoming increasingly popular as many people are taking to it at events. We’re also planning to take it across other regions in the country,” says Gursimran Singh Walia, the director-advisor of CCPL Hospitality.
Technology also seems to be playing a big role in helping find extraordinary dining ways. ‘With Locals’, a global platform, is allowing people to find home-dining opportunities and has been growing big in our country too. Health-conscious Indians are no longer risking it by eating at restaurants when they travel within the country, but are reaching out to other households through this website, and are enjoying home-cooked meals from different cultures, wherever they go.
Mumbai-based Kushala K., an IT professional, has been welcoming many families to the taste of Karnataka cuisine at her home in Mumbai through With Locals.
“It is amazing to see the kind of cultural exchange that informal platforms like these allow, which a restaurant doesn’t have space for, to converse and share life experiences. One can never imagine how enriching a simple meal sharing can be,” says Kushala.
There have also been instances when Indians have been driving all the way into the hinterlands, to get their hands on a particular cuisine. People aren’t settling in for quick takeaways, or home-deliveries, as distance really doesn’t seem to hinder the hunger Indians have for good food.
The Bangala is a stay, based in the interiors of Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu which has entirely dedicated and structured itself around food. Through numerous cooking demos and master classes by chefs who have been passed on cooking mastery over generations, this place has become synonymous to the most authentic Chettinad food in the country, making people traverse miles together from across the world to this quaint location. Meenakshi Meyappan, owner of The Bangala and author of The Bangala Table: Flavours and Recipes from Chettinad, says, “People from within the country and across the world come here for the food, and hence food has become a very important part of The Bangala. People passing by districts around drive here for a meal.”
All in all, go wherever you are lead towards food; this seems to be the new-age mantra. So, where are you planning your next big feast?
If opera and food are two of your loves, why not bring them together? Head to Budapest, where you can dine at the centre-stage of the iconic Hungarian State Opera House — enjoy your fillet-meal with private opera concerts and the entire theatre can be yours till the length of your meal, if you wish for!
For all those who like your food piping hot, this is the place you need to have a meal at. El Diablo in the Canary Islands of Spain, is an eatery that is placed atop a volcano and the chefs make use of the heat generated from the volcano to grill your favourite meat. Be it poultry or a veal-fillet, there’s no way your meat cannot be well done in this place, with the temperatures reportedly reaching as high as 450 degrees Fahrenheit here!
If you like to devour your meal with a view, this is one of the highest spots to have a meal. Enjoy some of the most magnificent views of Singapore, as you sit down for a dinner in a capsule atop Asia’s largest observation wheel! The elaborate four-course dinner gives you all the time to catch the best glimpses of the ever-bustling city.
To serve you a meal amidst glaciers, the culinary team at Four Seasons Whistler, British Columbia, has been making all the effort to fly you in a helicopter, all the way! Enjoy an open-air buffet with a menu of sausages, cocktails and much more.
Take your dining experience to the most unusual it can get, through this Steam Plant dining in Washington. Sit down next to a massive steam boiler, while you savour your platter of clams or meats. This is the smokiest your dinner can perhaps get!