August 18: Gulati Spice Market behind the Select City Mall Delhi, a highly successful restaurant known for its excellent Indian cuisine and the first one in town to try making it a wine destination for Indian food lovers, shut down 4 months ago and has just re-opened as Spice Market, shrunk in size but with 70% new, innovating dishes and a bar offering not seen in restaurants of this size, writes Subhash Arora who feels that wine has taken a back seat with liquor taking the honours for the time being
Why would a successful restaurant like Gulati Spice Market suddenly decide to close its shutters? The husband-wine team of Sumit and Chiquita Gulati who studied and met at the top hospitality school in Switzerland, Les Roches and opened the restaurant at an enviable location on a corner plot behind the busy Saket Mall complex with Chef Chiquita regaling the clients with her innovative cooking of Indian cuisine and Sumit as the face of the restaurant, managed the clients extremely well-even making a moderate success of selling wines-both Indian and imported. In fact, the restaurant had twice won the delWine Excellence Award as the Best Indian Restaurant in Delhi NCR with the best wine list. So what made them shut the restaurant 4 months ago?
‘Very simple,’ says Sumit in a matter-of-fact tone. ‘We had 2200 square feet space on the ground and first floor. We even had seating upstairs and at times both were really full. But the lease had been signed with 3 different landlords. When the lease came up for renewal, two of them balked and refused to renew the lease. So we were left with just a small portion of 800 sq feet-much smaller and the 30- seat capacity could be a big constraint but we have managed to make it a bistro-kind of restaurant with emphasis on whiskeys, gins and cocktails as well and shifting the bar to the front. We will be able to attract many more new customers-the bar is open and more beautiful now with dozens of liquor bottles showcased along with one wine fridge full of wines.’
‘But we have also improvised in other ways’, he adds. ‘We were doing a roaring business in catering and delivery service; we have now shifted to a building in Greater Kailash. We have also divided our kitchen in 2 parts with a majority of cooking done in GK and using only a part of the old kitchen as a finishing kitchen. So when the customer calls us here, preparation and delivery is executed in GK,’ says Gulati.
They have shrunk from 2200 sq ft to 800 sq ft, also shrinking the name by removing Gulati, the Spice Market focuses on what I would call ‘Creative Modern’ Indian cuisine. The soft spoken and a generally quiet Chiquita’s forte and passion is cooking. She must have been working at crafting new dishes, I ask Sumit. ‘We had been trying to look for another place and negotiate with the landlords. When it did not look feasible, she started creating new dishes for a possible new concept for this place only,’ he says.
And what concept! Keeping only 30% of the items from the previous Menu, 70% have been new, thanks to her creative juices flowing within for Chef Chiquita. Edamame Chaat welcomes you to the place after the falsa shikanjwi is served in a miniature bottle. Crunchy asparagus with achari dip is a delectable dish and a party starter. Kaaju Karela is one of the several innovative, delicious savouries that are unique to the restaurant. The melting in your mouth Avocado galouti is a delicious option for vegetarians. Chicken tikka and Mutton barra are innovative take on the popular north Indian snacks-tender and juicy -and of course, perfect accompaniments with wines which though limited in choice offer match for most dishes.
The wine list has been curtailed-at least not expanded from the earlier list but the prices are still reasonable compared to other restaurants. Always a big supporter of smaller sized bottles, Sumit has explored the possibility of half or quarter bottles to the hilt. This way, there is no need to serve by the glass, which might not be feasible for a restaurant this size, says Sumit. One hopes that in future there is enough demand from a group of 2-3 for at least a half bottle so that the airline bottles may be shunted out one day. Anything less than half a bottle, reflects the quality of liquid and is like scrapping through the bottom of the barrel.
With the addition of a big bar and several finger foods, the restaurant has the potential of becoming an all-day dining place, what with the three back to back malls and a stream of cinema-goers, stopping for a drink or some finger licking delicious snacks. It is also more suitable now for customers in twos and threes instead of big families. For the similar reason, Gulatis have not tied up with any of the discount service companies like Zomato or Swiggy. ‘We are also rolling out different concepts like ‘Yours Truly Butter Chicken’ and ‘Big on Biryani’ where deliveries can be made through our central kitchen in Grater Kailash,’ says Sumit.
An interesting aspect of the Menu is that it is going to be on a tablet only. Not only does it save paper, customer can punch in the dietary restrictions right in the beginning and will be taken to the area of his choice. Need a glutton free diet or are you on a Keto diet? No problem at Spice Market-they have got you covered.
Spice Market has shrunk in size but not in innovation and brilliant ideas, resulting in even a better experience for its clients at more affordable prices.
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