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INTERVIEW

“Ingredients’ moisture and slow heat used to cook; It’s very healthy”
Monday, 19 February, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]

It is said that Indian cuisines are best cooked at home, and there aren’t many places to visit to relish the same taste. And particularly when the millennials are open to international taste and recipes, the scope of such places shrinks further.

However, the solution to that comes from the same millennials who want to revisit old recipes, keeping them authentic, providing patrons an opportunity to taste the original flavours. Spellbound is a fine diner restaurant that offers a great environment to pamper those craving the best Indian fare.

Ramneek Pantal and Sagar Sharma, the restaurant’s directors, were consultant, who quit their jobs a year ago to make a mark as restaurateurs. They first sought a place where Indian cuisines would be relished and admired.

Then they met chef Izzat Hussain, who has decades of experience under his belt and is well-known for making dishes using less water, and sometimes none at all. Spellbound, a 260-seat restaurant, is on the second floor of Noida’s Garden Galleria Mall.

Among the most popular items on the menu are the Izzati Galauti kebabs and the Kalapasi kebabs. Sharma spoke to FnB News about the journey and the prospects for fine-dining restaurants.

You were a successful professional. How did the idea to open a restaurant come to mind? How has the journey from conception to manifestation been? What investment has been made in the venture and what is the revenue target that you are aiming at?
The idea came from understanding the opportunity Noida, as a market, holds for the food and entertainment industry, with so many industries and corporates having their bases here. We always thought of having a place that the residents of Noida and nearby areas can visit. They also should get a place to enjoy their evenings with food and entertainment. Whenever someone thinks about a good place for fine dining, he/she heads towards Delhi because of the plethora of options available there. We wanted to open a place which fulfills everyone’s needs, be it those of families or the young crowd in Noida. To attract more and more youngsters, we even have a rooftop area for sunny afternoons and breezy evenings. While the investments are made by our parent company, we are eyeing an annual revenue of Rs 10-12 crore in the first year.

Why did you opt for Indian fine dining, as India is a country of millennials, and at least theoretically, people pick Continental food when they go out?
As an Indian, at least one meal in a day has to be Indian, so that is how big a market it is. We promote medicated and digestive Indian food for the world to follow us and apply the same. There may be dozens of cuisines to choose from, but still Indians prefer their cuisine and talk about it. In fact, even foreigners prefer Indian cuisines when they visit India. Indian food is what we Indians like and prefer to others. With Indian cuisine, there is a chance of experimenting as well, by adding different spices or by cooking it in a different way.

How did you meet Chef Hussain? What role does he plays in the restaurant?
When we thought of an Indian fine dining restaurant, the first name that entered our minds was that of masterchef Izzat Hussain, whose work I had been following since he was introduced to me by his son Hamid Hussain, who is a dear friend of mine. I was 100 per cent convinced that Izzat Hussain, with his knowledge of Indian cuisine and  long list of fans, was the right torchbearer for Spellbound.

You say that the preparation of Mughlai and Awadhi cuisines without water is a unique method. How does your chef do that?
The chef uses the moisture of the ingredients to cook and cooks on slow heat. This technique of cooking is a bit difficult and needs experience, but it is very healthy and retains the original taste of the ingredients. Spellbound is a gastronomical journey for those exploring the ageless Mughlai or Awadhi cuisines, which were feasts for royals. The menu boasts of 42 starters and an exotic main course inspired by ancient royal kitchens. They have all been eloquently curated and brought together by Izzat Hussain, whose passion for this style of cooking has made him a global name. His style of cooking, which is without the use of water or curd, is one of its kind. Even for those who prefer Continental fare, there are numerous dishes to choose from.

You have also said that you intend to expand the business. How are you planning to do so, and what is the timeline you have set? Are you looking for investors? If yes, what are the opportunities investors that can see in your venture?
We intend to expand to other parts of the country, promoting our unique concept, because we are giving our brand time to prove its strength and value before taking the next step. We are here to stay with the model we are promoting. We have multiple revenue streams, a solid team and the background to expand with the unique selling propositions (USPs) we hold. The investors can find this a very steady and lucrative venture with a lot of brand value attached to it.

Finally, please describe Spellbound’s fine dining concept.
Fine dining, as a segment, is here to stay. Forays by new concepts into the market have never taken a toll on the market shares of fine dining restaurants. A luxurious place with good food and music has its own charm, and that is what we have created. There is a market for everyone. It is just about how you transform the place to suit today’s diners. So we have brought entertainment and food together for people of all generations to enjoy. Everyone wishes to have their dinner or lunch in a place which has good food, ambiance and decor, and a place which fulfills all three needs is a good fine dining place. That is why fine dining restaurants have been increasing at such a speed of late.
 
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