Change is the only constant thing. Change brings in excitement and growth too! We are expecting 2018 to bring in more growth and fame for The Urban Escapades. One of the biggest change of 2017 was to change our brand from Mystic Foodie Mantra to The Urban Escapades. This brings us lot of ups and downs as we try and establish ourselves as a new entity. We will share those interesting stories later in 2018 when we will complete a year of the new branding in Feb.
We had decided to change our content, our way of representation, portfolio coverage and unlike last year we decided to focus more on trends for the year and what we really liked; what inspired us and what inspired our chefs too! Prior to 2017, F&B had fantastic years. Highway liquor hit the industry hard and new openings almost came to a halt. As compared to 2016, 2017 wasn’t too exciting. There weren’t new concepts or new ideas that were floated.
We will focus on the trends of 2017 and share our understanding of the future trends that we expect in 2018. We got the opportunity to learn, explore and also at times stretched ourselves to achieve the desirable. Some of our stories have gone viral and I definitely take pride in that.
Our Sensational Chefs!
Chefs create experiences, by the way, the food tastes and also through the way it has been presented to the guests. They have also realized that besides all the marketing campaign that’s been done to draw customers, food definitely plays a major role including hospitality. These aspects keep the customers glued to a place. Hence it was also very important for chefs to lead from the front and take charge of what the guests want. Indian Accent has now moved to a more accessible location at The Lodi Hotel. I went there for lunch and as usual was highly impressed. Manish has opened the third Indian Accent at London. I still wonder why no one in the country has ever managed to reach even closer to Indian Accent. When Amitabh Bachchan was reigning as Superstar, people shared that he covers the top ten position and the next star is rated at number 11. I would say that same goes for Indian Accent. It covers the top 10 positions and anything next comes at position 11. Chef Dhruv has impressed us the most this year with his simple, bold yet flavorful dishes at Olive. Chef Megha Kohli is consistently doing a great job at Lavaash by Saby. Food is subtle, bold and yet maintains the flavors without any compromises. Chef Harangad is another chef who impressed me a lot this year with his excellent food at Prankster. Chef Noah is doing some great job at Arriba. I visited the place this year and must admit that his food is par excellence. His cocktails are not far behind too. Chef – Pawan Bisht of Junglee Billee has been doing consistently good job. Ansab Khan of Burma Burma has changed the myth that Delhi restaurant will run successfully only if they have alcohol and butter chicken. A pure vegetarian (Burmese cuisine) has broken this myth in style. J Jom Jom Malay is another impressive place serving Malaysian cuisine. Another noticeable restaurant is AnnaMaya where Chef Vipul Gupta is doing a great job. Simple, flavourful, local produce and competitive price is the USP of AnnaMaya.
Are we Going regional and using local produce?
This farm to fork concept sounds good, yet difficult to sustain. Doing celebrity lunch will never help in reaching masses. Though I would agree that promoting our own grains like millets is a great concept and helps us to remain healthy. Using seasonal produce and making dishes with whatever is available will always help restaurants, cut down their food costs. While I understand that quality is a big challenge, however, the bigger challenge is that we have still not been able to popularize our regional food. In the name of food promotions, we stick to popular products and it has become a common event that has resulted in people losing their interest.
A lot of emphases is now on procuring ingredient locally which in my opinion, is an excellent approach as not only it helps to reduce the cost but also makes a lot of difference when you use fresh ingredients.
Cocktails & Drinks– Adds the Zing!
This is my favorite section. Over the years I guess I have developed my love for cocktails and this year it was no different. The most impressive cocktails I had this year, was at Whisky Samba and I must say that it’s the best cocktail bar in the city. Olive also has excellent cocktails. The Dirty Martini Bar at Olive, in my opinion, should be promoted as an independent identity has some absolutely kick-ass cocktails and they aren’t sweet at all. The more the innovations that you are able to bring on the table and maintain great flavors – that is what makes any bar stand apart! A lot of restaurants have started doing this, which I think is much more effective and creative than making the standard cocktails. Whisky Samba has brought my faith back into cocktails and that if made well, nothing can beat Classic Cocktails. Peeyush Bhushan at Juniper Bar, Andaz has under his sleeves, almost 40 concoctions of Gin and they are fabulous. Ammy Dua at Philtre has churned out some amazing cocktails too.
New Openings and much more!
The most sensational opening would be Oberoi Delhi which will open on 1st January. Indian accent has opened at The Lodi Hotel and the next couple of weeks is all booked. Radisson MBD Noida has revamped their all-day dining and opened it as Brassiere SXVIII. The Roseate also opened Kheer (Indian Fine dine) this year.
In parallel, standalone restaurants too, are now focusing on getting into fine dining space. The opening of Artusi at One horizon center and one of my favorite places ‘Between buns’ which opened at SDA this year are excellent trendsetters. Burma Burma is definitely a welcome addition to Delhi food scene which is the second outlet after cyber hub. Jom Jom Malay is another one which opened at Ansal Plaza. ‘Too Indian’ took me by surprise and so did Shophouse by Kylin. Chor Bizzare, which has been my all-time favorite Kashmiri place, opened at Bikaner House. These definitely stand above the rest as else cafes’ are mushrooming everywhere and their focus is on serving cheap booze and loud musical nights with no focus on food.
There has been a lot of activity on the wine front. As I had shared earlier, I like masterclasses more than wine dinner simply because you get to learn and explore a lot. Food and wine pairing, without the knowledge of wine, is of no use. Most of the wine dinners are planned in advance and you do not get to know the reason behind those pairings. Also, in my opinion, our food pairing style is very much international which at times doesn’t go well with wines. Madhulika Bhattacharya of Lacave and Brindco did some fabulous launches and dinner. Penfold’s wine masterclass was great learning. The dinner at Dumpukht with Domaine Schlumberger was one such dinner which I enjoyed the most. Indian Wine Academy also hosted Indian wine day in association with ‘The Lalit’ across India, This was indeed a good initiative. These wine events are excellent; however, do reach masses. We need better plans, to hold more wine appreciating events where participation from first-timers is required to create more awareness. Else, like each year, 2017 too will be known for hosting a number of wine dinners, however, the outcome wouldn’t be great.
This year we also saw some of the finest and interesting events happening in the city. The Leela Ambiance Convention Hotel, as usual, hosted some of the finest festivals in Delhi. Dine with Royal was definitely one of the best festivals that I attended. Thankfully some out of the box festivals too happened. Garhwali food festival at Le-Meridien Gurgaon and Hilton Bani Square experiences were excellent. We do need to have not-so-common food festivals. Rajasthani food festival at Courtyard by Marriott Gurgaon and Anglo India festival at K3, JW Marriott was amongst the finest festivals that I attended. Another interesting food festival was Jammu and Ladhakh festival at Chor Bizzare.
2017, ended with a bang and 2018 is going to unfold new innings and much more!
Hope you have enjoyed reading this and stay tuned as 2018 will bring in excitement and a new saga…