A tale of spice and opportunity

How did you get into doing pop ups? 

I was always passionate about food and started my food journey a couple of years ago by leaving my Insurance city job to get trained in a professional kitchen. The idea was to run my own business/brand where I am able bring my food sensibilities to fore and a pop up seemed like the best next step.

I grew up in India in a world of spices and through my travels and life in the west over last decade, I fell in love with the simplicity of European food. I wanted to create Indian food with a modern aesthetic, sincere in its commitment to complexity of Indian flavours but experimental in its techniques, ingredients and textures. So Indian food inspired by the world!

A pop up allowed me to do just that – it let me work independently, create my own brand, test my concept successfully with proper paying customers and manage a real restaurant scenario where we were juggling both food and service. For me, it was also the most cost effective way of learning to run a restaurant without additional costs of investing thousands of pounds up front!

Tell us about your current or most recent pop up. 

Our last pop up was at a fantastic Irish gastro pub called WB Yeats in Finsbury Park which we ran from Oct – December. We offered an a la carte menu Wednesday to Saturday and a fantastic EASTern inspired Sunday roast which proved very successful! We got mentions in the TimeOut, Asian World News, LondonPopUps and were complimented by several glowing blogger reviews.

I combine ingredients from around the world to create delightful new twists on old classics such as crispy okra with balsamic reduction, vodka pani puri, coriander crusted duck breast with Bengali spiced wine jus, spinach tempura and tamarind reduction, pork belly and aam panna, saffron pear millefeuille with turmeric cream chantilly- This is to name just a few!

What has been your biggest challenge? Biggest reward? 

Biggest challenge was to create a brand which is built completely on the quality, taste and uniqueness of the food offering, making people want to come back! And then ensuring that there is consistency of perfect taste and texture in every plate that goes out. That needed sincerity, hard work, long hours and real love in the kitchen, every single day. And the fact that people did come back, sometimes several times in a week was a true reward. We had a super busy Christmas as most of our regulars ended up booking their Christmas parties with us!!

How long have you been doing pop ups?  

We are new in the game, have been in it for 8 months and have done well so far, touchwood!

What were you doing before? Why did you switch to pop ups? 

As I said, I was left my job to pursue food full time and started my food journey with Gordon Ramsay group working in Bread street kitchen. I then went onto work in magnificent Cinnamon Club under Chef Rakesh Nair & Vivek Singh. Working in two successful kitchens taught me so much about ingredients, seasonality and that food needs to look and smell as great as it tastes! After learning from the best, I had to

Will you continue doing pop ups in the future? Why or why not? 

Definitely, I plan to continue doing pop ups and experimenting with new flavours and honing the skills I already have. It is so satisfying to see your hard work appreciated and makes you want to work even harder! The dream is to have my own restaurant some day and I know that can only be achieved through lots of practice.

What has been the most unexpected or disastrous experience?

Fortunately, we didn’t really have any major disasters apart from a few supplier issues. One of the downsides of cooking fresh everyday was that you really had to count on your deliveries being on time. Our dinner service started at 6pm and one time, our meat got delivered really late at 6:15pm! We had our first table booked for 6:30 pm so it was a race against time. We must have cooked at super sonic speed that evening, meanwhile keeping customers busy with starters and a free course until mains were ready. The food obviously was its freshest best so people loved it! But I did need a glass of wine at the end of that day!

 

 Photo Credit Silaja Birks

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