Saturday, 7 September 2013

Sudha Kuckreja-Manav Sharma's Fresh Meat Company. Plus: Nehru’s Favourite Dal

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

WHEN YOU’RE having lunch with restaurateur Sudha Kuckreja, the better half of the Bernardo’s couple, Crescentia Scolt Fernandes, and seasoned journalist Mudita Chauhan-Mubayi, there’s bound to be great food and delightful conversation.
The occasion this afternoon was the must-dig Goan food fest that Crescentia is presenting with Sudha at The Kitchen, Khan Market, and the chatter was about the food business. The Kitchen, incidentally, is a restaurant that’s been conceived and run by Sudha for over a decade, and it serves the best khao suey in the city. After launching her first restaurant, Red Hot Café in Gurgaon in 1995, at a time when today’s Millennium City was regarded as the wilderness and Thai food was somewhat of a mystery, Sudha has launched several successful chow digs around the city — Chilli Seasonss (it’s not a spelling error!), Ploof, Blanco and Ignis — but now she’s slowly winding down and diversifying into the food business.
Sudha and her business partner, the enterprising chef Manav Sharma, have launched The Fresh Meat Company with a spiffy new outlet at the Shankar Road Market, New Rajinder Nagar, with the promise that this is the first of a chain of meat shops that will be odour-free. Its offerings will be eclectic — from fresh fish fillets to choice cuts of mutton and chicken to cold cuts (including chicken bokwurst) and ready-to-eat satays and kebabs (such as Lahori chappali kebabs and fish Amritsari). The Fresh Meat Company will also have goodies for vegetarians, such as rajma galauti and lentil cheese kebabs, though I don’t see much traction there.
With Sudha’s stamp of quality, The Fresh Meat Company may just elevate the shopping experience in the city and turn around Shankar Road Market, at present the favourite venue of those who love chicken tikka and car-o-bar! Chances are that good old Shankar Road may go upscale like the Mehar Chand and Lodi Colony markets.

Nehru (seen here in Homai Vyarawalla's famous picture)
loved the dal of Grover Restaurant, which used thrive in
the 1950s at the same place where Guppy by Ai has
opened at the Lodi Colony Market
The Dal Pandit Nehru Loved: Guppy by Ai has become the new conversation point of the city’s swish set, so my ears cocked up when Sudha Kuckreja said the address (28, Lodi Colony Market) had come full circle. In the 1950s, it was home to Grover Restaurant, whose dal used to be Jawaharlal Nehru’s favourite (it used to be sent regularly to Teen Murti House). The Gover family, which still owns the place, continues to be prominent in the area. The present head of the family, Jaswant Rai Grover, is the president of the Lodhi Colony Market Traders Association, and it is his initials you find on the Guppy by Ai signboard, which says the restaurant is a unit of JRG Hospitality. Grover Senior’s sons, Gaurav and Yash, preside over the company with which AD Singh has tied up.
Crescentia’s Unique Heritage: Have you ever wondered why Crescentia Scolt Fernandes is not ‘Scott Fernandes’? Well, she belongs to that minority that rarely gets talked about — her family is of mixed Portuguese-Dutch descent (Scolt is Dutch and the other half of her family’s original name, Da Costa, is Portuguese) and they’ve for centuries been residents of Vypin Island, adjoining Kochi, whose Chinese fishing nets are every photographer’s favourite.
Vypin has what is believed to be the oldest surviving European fort in India — a Portuguese hexagonal construction named Pallipuram built in 1503. The Dutch captured the fort in 1661 and sold it to the State of Travancore in 1789 after some hard bargaining by the dewan, Raja Keshavadas. The undiscovered cuisine of Vypin’s Portuguese-Dutch families is closer to Goa’s than to Kerala’s — they still have vindaloo, for instance, made only with vinegar (vin) and garlic (alho), as their Portuguese forbears would make it in the early days of European settlement in India.