By Sourish Bhattacharyya
A PATCH of land across the road from the Capital’s Hyatt Regency hotel, skirting a busy road that’s called Africa Avenue, overlooking an old colony of government officials (where yours truly grew up, is transforming into a retail and entertainment zone where Rahul Akerkar’s celebrated Colaba restaurant, Indigo, will have its first outpost in Delhi.
Heritage real estate developer and chartered accountant Sanjeev Batra, who gave the cowlands of Mehrauli a new chic identity by turning around the stables of an old haveli into a restaurant space where Delhi’s first Olive Bar & Kitchen opened about a decade ago (and blueFrog more recently), acquired the patch of land from the Delhi Government about four years ago. Overlooking the busy Ring Road and Bhikaji Cama Place business district, it was a meeting point of anti-socials, with an open drain on one side, a sleepy Coffee Home run by the Government of Delhi-NCT not far from it and a beehive of car workshops behind it. It took Batra months to clear the area, but with the firm back of the Delhi Government and civic agencies, he was able to turn it around.
That was the project’s first phase. Batra had envisaged it as a recreated heritage zone, but then came his son, Samegh, after his higher studies abroad (University of Essex, UK) and turned the idea around to make it a contemporary space for young people to hang out. Apart from Indigo, the space will have fashion retail and handicrafts outlets, a performance area for art, fashion, theatre and music, and a park where families will be encouraged to have Sunday picnics with food hampers provided by Indigo and carts operated by the restaurant will sell hot dogs. There will also be a 200ft blackboard on the boundary wall for children to doodle on.
|Rahul Akerkar makes his first foray outside Mumbai since |
he opened his Colaba restaurant in 1999.
Image: Courtesy of www.foodindigo.com
“We want to create a space for citizens to savour the open-air pleasures that we enjoyed as children before the mall culture overtook the city,” says Sanjeev Batra. “The project will set the pace for the proper use of public spaces and the government has really backed us on it.” Samegh, his son, is the Managing Director of the House of Sunrydge, the company steering this urban renewal project.
Sharing his vision for Indigo Delhi, Rahul Akerkar, the man who opened the widely acclaimed restaurant in Mumbai in 1999, says in a media release: “Just as in Mumbai, Indigo in New Delhi will be a ‘back-to-basics’ address that will serve up eclectic modern European fare, coupled with an expansive bar and a private dining section.”
|Sanjeev Batra at his first development,|
One Style Mile, Mehrauli, where Olive
Bar & Kitchen opened a decade ago
On his food, says the self-taught chef and entrepreneur, who got bitten by the restaurateur’s bug when he was dishwashing at a French bistro to pay his way through college in the U.S.: “The food is fundamentally ingredient-driven and contemporary in construction with strong and distinct flavours, with Indian and Asian influences.” Olive Bar and Kitchen loosened up the city’s stuffy dining culture when it opened at One Style Mile, Mehrauli. Indigo will complete this process of transformation.
Significantly, Indigo’s Rahul Akerkar and Olive’s AD Singh were once working together, running Just Desserts many moons ago in Mumbai, where Akerkar met his wife Malini. They have since gone their own ways, but now, they are in one city, so look out for the wheels of change working overtime.