My favourite Facebook share this week came from Praful Chandawarkar, the owner of Malaka Spice. He posted, “Have you grown up seeing Dennis at Malaka Spice, every time you visited? He is our oldest employee; our pillar of hospitality since 1997! Wonder why you don’t see him at our Koregaon Park restaurant anymore? That’s because he is now extending his friendliness and warmth in Panjim! Do go say hi to him when in Goa, he will definitely remember you!”
It solved the mystery of the missing Dennis at my last visit to the eatery and it also made me think of how far Pune hospitality has gone as its finds new tables to serve and new clients to win over. To go from a 6 table restaurant as a tony eatery in Koregaon, Malaka Spice is now opening branches not only within Pune but also Nasik, Goa and now Hyderabad serving over a 100 covers at a time. Praful is truly taking Asian cuisine and his wife’s legacy and Chef Cheeru’s spirit to every part of the country!
He’s not alone. Arthur’s Theme – his neighbouring restaurant in the 90s – has also expanded to Baner in Pune and also Candolim in Goa. Offering Europe cuisine, this favourite date place in the 90s, has now also found favour with its new audiences from what Zomato reviews serve up. What I love is while there are new additions to the menu, the yummy Don Quixote still holds it place on it. And of course, the fact that Chef Navtej is still very much the smiling man at the door offering you a place to sit.
The trend was begun in the early 90s. Raj Mehta’s brain child Little Italy was the first Pune restaurant to expand its name to become a truly fabulous chain with 35 restaurants in three countries! From Mahabaleshwar to Kolkata to even Dubai and Thailand, there’s a Little Italy almost everywhere. Begun as a family business with Italian Chef Dario, this one made Italian food popular and how! La Pizzeria – the first restaurant – still has Puneites returning month after month to get their fix of pasta and pizzas! They are soon open in Guangzhou in China and Singapore too!
My favourite however, remains Tertulia – both in Pune and Dadar in Mumbai. To bump into Imrun Sethi, the owner, at the next table – it feels like being back in my own neighbourhood back in Pune. The fact that they have struck true to their philosophy of being the neighbourhood hangout to eat, drink and love is phenomenal and makes the one near Shivaji Park a must do – when that side of the city!
What I cannot wait for is two perennial favourites Le Plaisir and Dario’s to now spread their wings and make their way to Mumbai soon! Hope Siddharth Mahadik and Dario are listening.
Making a mark
Govind Thakker and Ishan Bhale’s Blue Frog Franchise in Pune makes its way to amongst the top 8 best venues for live performances at the INCA Bar Awards. Given the quality of performances – from Indian Ocean to Lucky Ali –and the way the two brother-in-laws roll out the red carpet, I am rooting for them to win for sure! Making a name on the list is also Pune’s super rooftop bar Paasha at the JW Marriot and the buzzing Bombay Bronx and Euriska compete for the best concept bar. These city level winners will find themselves competing for a national award over this weekend.
Make Diwali special
Has Diwali become too transactional and all about last minute festivities? Then give it your own special touch this Diwali! Start next weekend… Learn to create your own diya, puja thali or dry fruit bowls at Adipa, Pune’s well known Pottery Studio. Block 2.5 hours for this workshop only on Oct 1, 2016!
Thinking of you!
She would have turned 40 this year. It’s been 22 years since my senior 17-year-old Bharati Ramchandani was raped and murdered by her own friend Danish Kazi… As we drove past Bapdeo Ghat – the area where her body was disposed of, it gave me goosebumps to remember how she lost her life… for saying No!
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